Skip to main content

Dr. Turcotte’s Story

I began asking myself why kidney cancer is so difficult to treat.
When I was working on my biochemistry PhD I began asking myself why kidney cancer is so difficult to treat. The eighth most common cancer diagnosis in Canada is also the deadliest of all urological cancers.
And almost 17 years later, I’m still in the lab trying to solve this mystery.

When diagnosed at an early stage, the kidney cancer survival rate after five years is 85%. But so often this type of cancer is not detected early because patients experience no symptoms. It’s a silent killer.

A third of patients only get the diagnosis once the cancer has spread. The primary cancer located in the kidney is discovered in its advanced stage—often too late for surgery.

Rates for survival then are terrifyingly low—just 15%.

That’s why we’re focused on a newer type of cancer treatment called targeted therapy that uses drugs or other substances to more precisely identify and attack cancer cells, while limiting the harm done to normal, healthy cells. While doing my post-doc in research at Stanford University, I identified a small molecule called STF-62247 that targets and kills kidney cancer cells.

We still have a lot to figure out about how it works, but we believe a research breakthrough could be on the horizon!

I’ve been able to push this research forward because of the New Investigator Award I received through a special program called KRESCENT (Kidney Research Scientist Core Education and National Training), founded by The Kidney Foundation, the Canadian Society of Nephrology and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

The award provided me with 3 years of funding and just as important, access to a network of researchers in Canada who are working on kidney disease. Finding the answer to new and better treatment options for those living with kidney cancer is what keeps me motivated. 

Research funding is absolutely critical.  Without the funding, you can’t have new discoveries.
We believe that within a few years, patients will have another option besides chemotherapy and its harmful effects. We know that supporting the best research will lead us towards the prevention of end-stage kidney disease and the treatment of kidney cancer.