Personal loss fuels quest to find treatment for deadly cancer
At 57 years of age, Powel Crosley returned to university as an undergraduate student and began slogging his way through introductory courses in biology and biochemistry.
He had already worked towards a PhD in geography and enjoyed a successful career in information technology, but he was ready to start at the bottom again in order to learn everything he could about cancer. He was specifically interested in a rare and deadly form of ovarian cancer called Granulosa Cell Tumor (GCT). Eighty per cent of the women — and young girls — who suffer a recurrence of GCT die from it. The grim statistic has a particular resonance for Crosley who lost his beloved wife Sladjana to the disease six years ago.
While battling her cancer, his wife had pored over all the scientific literature related to GCT and established the Granulosa Cell Tumour Research Foundation. After her death, Crosley felt impelled to carry on her work. The mature student with an endless stream of questions caught the attention of oncology professor Dr. Mary Hitt, who invited him to work in her lab alongside her postgraduate and doctoral students.
Crosley became intrigued by a drug developed at the University of Illinois that has shown promise in the treatment of other cancers. The drug activates the protein that signals abnormal cells to self-destruct. In cancer, inhibitor and activator proteins can mutate, causing uncontrolled cell growth.
With the encouragement of his mentor who helped him pull together a research team, Crosley applied for a two-year $50,000 Innovation Grant from WCHRI (supported by generous supporters of the Lois Hole Hospital for Women) to study the drug. He is looking at the drug’s effectiveness in targeting the protein that signals cell destruction. He is also testing the drug in conjunction with embelin, a Japanese herb extract that can slow tumour growth, to see if it increases the drug’s effectiveness.
“I feel that I have a personal responsibility to move this work forward to give hope to women who are suffering from this disease,” Crosley says. The research has been integral to his personal healing as well.