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  • Study by TFRI-funded team underscores importance of accurate diagnosis for rare ovarian and other cancers

    by User Not Found | Jun 14, 2016

    David Huntsman Melissa McConechy Dr. David Huntsman with Dr. Melissa McConechy, first author of the published JNCI paper

    Terry Fox-funded cancer researchers in BC led an international study to develop a new method to improve diagnosis of a rare sub-type of ovarian cancer that has been notoriously difficult to accurately identify. The team has created an algorithm to diagnose and predict the clinical course of granulosa cell cancers of the ovary.

    “Effective cancer treatments rely on having an accurate diagnosis in the first place, and the results of our research underline the importance of this,” says lead investigator Dr. David Huntsman, the Dr. Chew Wei Memorial Professor of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of British Columbia and scientific leader of OVCARE, British Columbia’s multidisciplinary ovarian cancer research program.

    Outcomes for adult-type granulosa cell tumours (AGCTs), which make up 3-5% of ovarian cancers, seemed to be all over the place. While standard diagnosis of AGCT is based on how tumour tissue appears under a microscope, recent research found that many AGCTs had a mutation in the FOXL2 gene. The Vancouver-based team wanted to study this genetic aspect in more detail to see if FOXL2 could be used as a robust marker for the disease.

    For their study, the group used historical cases of tumours categorized as AGCT of the ovary from three major European centres.  “While the cases we examined had the most accurate diagnosis possible at the time, our team found that about 20 per cent were actually of different sub-types of ovarian cancer. By assessing only the true cases of AGCT, a clearer picture emerged: the survival rates were very high for those with true AGCT and more than 95 per cent of those cases had a mutation in the FOXL2 gene, making it a disease defining marker to use in diagnosis,” explains Dr. Huntsman.

    The majority of deaths attributed to AGCT in the study were actually caused by aggressive forms of other types of ovarian cancer, says Dr. Huntsman, head of TFRI’s New Frontiers Program Project Grant in the Genomics of Forme Fruste Tumours. The project studies rare tumours; historically, research on these kinds of tumours has yielded knowledge on our understanding of common cancers.

    Dr. Huntsman says their research produced other important information for patients and doctors.  “For those with true AGCT we realize that the prognosis is actually very good, removing a great deal of stress for patients and their families. For those who might have previously been diagnosed with AGCT, but who actually have a different form of ovarian cancer, this method will prompt clinicians to follow-up with further tests for an accurate diagnosis and ensure a more appropriate treatment plan. We wrote the paper with future patients in mind and hope it will be used by health care providers to help explain the implications of this diagnosis and in many cases mitigate the fear that comes with a cancer diagnosis.”

    The research paper was published online in June 2016 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

    More information

    The Terry Fox New Frontiers Program Project Grant in the Genomics of Forme Fruste Tumours has been funded by the Terry Fox Research Institute since 2010. Forme Fruste tumours are rare and unusual tumours that can pose a huge challenge to clinicians due to the low prevalence of each individual disease. Historically, research on rare cancers has directly impacted the way more common cancers have been studied and understood.

    About TFRI
    Launched in October 2007, The Terry Fox Research Institute is the brainchild of The Terry Fox Foundation and today functions as its research arm. TFRI seeks to improve significantly the outcomes of cancer research for the patient through a highly collaborative, team-oriented, milestone-based approach to research that will enable discoveries to translate quickly into practical solutions for cancer patients worldwide. TFRI collaborates with over 70 cancer hospitals and research organizations across Canada. TFRI headquarters are in Vancouver, BC. www.tfri.ca

    About OVCARE
    OVCARE (www.ovcare.ca) is British Columbia’s multidisciplinary and  multi-institutional ovarian cancer research team. OVCARE operations including the work described in this manuscript are performed at the BC Cancer Agency and the Vancouver General Hospital. In addition to peer reviewed funding from TFRI and other agencies, OVCARE is generously supported by the BC Cancer Foundation, the Vancouver General Hospital and UBC Hospital Foundation and UBC Faculty of Medicine. 

  • Terry Fox researcher leads international conference on ‘devastating’ cancer predisposition syndrome

    by User Not Found | Jun 03, 2016

    Terry Fox-funded researcher Dr. David Malkin, The Hospital for Sick Kids, Toronto, Ontario, was in Columbus, Ohio this week to co-lead the 2016 International Li-Fraumeni Syndrome (LFS) Conference. TFRI funds two projects led by Dr. Malkin, including one focusing solely on LFS.

    LFS is caused by inherited mutations in a gene called TP53, one of the most frequently mutated genes in human cancers, affecting around one in 1,000 to 5,000 people. The TP53 gene plays a significant role in suppressing tumour growth, which is compromised in people with LFS, thus increasing their risk of developing many cancers at an early age.

    Patients have an almost 100 per cent chance of developing cancer in their lifetime – in any body part and at any age – and treatment options are limited.

    “The challenges faced by these children and [their] families are devastating,” said Dr. Malkin. “It’s like a ticking time bomb waiting for the next cancer to develop, and we don’t clearly have any effective ways to treat LFS any different than how we treat any other cancer.”

    More than 200 people attended the conference, which was hosted by the Li-Fraumeni Syndrome Association (LFSA). Around half of the participants were leading researchers, clinicians, and genetic counsellors from around the world; the remainder were families affected by the devastating disease – with some coming from as far away as Brazil and New Zealand.

    “This is an amazing opportunity to collaborate and combine worlds to try and figure this disease out,” said Dr. Malkin at the conference’s opening. “We will get the answers by blending the two worlds and working together – and only by working together.”

    Other conference partners included Soccer for Hope, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and The Ohio State University.

  • ASM photos now online

    by User Not Found | May 13, 2016
    More than 200 Terry Fox researchers attended the 7th Annual Scientific Meeting in Vancouver last week. Under the theme "Understanding Cancer Over Time and Space", the plenary sessions triggered some engaging discussion among attendees and the rapid fire poster talks introduced many trainees to the Terry Fox research family. Photos from the event are now online.
  • TFRI is now smartphone friendly

    by User Not Found | Apr 28, 2016

    Visitors to our site who use mobile or tablet devices will see some welcome updates today as tfri.ca has had a mobile-friendly upgrade. When you visit our website on a mobile device you will find a menu and navigation modified for smaller screens, helping you find the information you need quickly and easily. We hope you continue to enjoy TFRI content no matter what device you use.

    A screenshot showing tfri.ca as seen on a smartphone

  • Dr. Victor Ling receives lifetime achievement award

    by User Not Found | Apr 22, 2016

    Victor Ling BC LifeSciences AwardCongratulations to Dr. Victor Ling, TFRI's President and Scientific Director, who has been honoured with the LifeSciences BC Dr. Don Rix Award for Lifetime Achievement. The award celebrates Dr. Ling's many contributions to cancer research during his long career. Dr. Ling is an authority on multi-drug resistance in cancer, and is well-known for his discovery of P-glycoprotein, the first molecule identified to be responsible for drug resistance. Congratulations to Dr. Ling as he continues to move cancer research forward through his leadership at TFRI.

  • Women more likely to survive cancer than men

    by User Not Found | Apr 21, 2016
    A report by Statistics Canada suggests that women have significantly better survival outcomes than men for a majority of cancers in Canada. While the reasons are not yet understood, hormonal influences are thought to be an important factor. The full report, "Differences in cancer survival in Canada by sex" can be read on the Statistics Canada website.
  • 2017 TFRI research competitions now open

    by User Not Found | Apr 21, 2016
    TFRI is now accepting submissions from researchers and research teams for our 2017 funding cycle. For more information see the competition pages for Terry Fox New Frontiers Program Project Grants, TFRI Translational Programs and Terry Fox New Investigator Awards.
  • Terry Fox International Pediatric Cancer Award

    by User Not Found | Apr 21, 2016
    Are you a pediatric cancer researcher from a developing country, currently training in Canada? If so, you are are invited to apply for a Terry Fox International Pediatric Cancer Award. This is a new research award, made possible with funds from international Terry Fox runs. Deadline for applications: June 1, 2016. See the competition page for more information.
  • Rolland (Rolly) Murray Fox: 1935-2016

    by User Not Found | Mar 15, 2016

    Rolly Fox

    Rolland (Rolly) Murray Fox was born March 22, 1935 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  Rolly was the third of nine children born to Rodney Fox and Bertha (Shale) Fox.  The early years were difficult financially for the large Fox family resulting in Rolly, at the youthful age of 9, calling Saint Michael and All Angels Church his home for 2 years.

    He would get a taste of the west coast when he attended a cadet camp in Abbotsford, B.C. Rolly would meet Betty Lou Wark on Winnipeg’s busiest and coldest intersection, Portage and Main, and they would marry in 1956. The following year their first child Fred was born, Terry would arrive in 1958, Darrell would follow 4 years later and finally Judith, the daughter Betty wanted, completed the Fox family in 1965.  Rolly would begin a 36 year career with CN Rail in 1954.   Working outside in the harsh Manitoba winters prompted Rolly to consider raising his family in a warmer climate. The Fox family would make the move to Surrey, B.C. in 1966 where they rented a house. With the move Rolly would lose 12 years seniority at CN and would have to start fresh in his new role as switchman on Vancouver’s north shore. 

    In 1968 they would purchase 3337 Morrill St in Port Coquitlam which would be the family home for the next 16 years.   Rolly and Betty insisted on good behaviour, good manners, that their children should respect their elders and to speak only when spoken to.  Rolly was a competitor, he despised losing, whether it was a simple card game or rough wrestling in the living room – he was determined to win at all costs a trait successfully passed on to his children.  In early 1977 son Terry would be diagnosed with osteosarcoma.  Rolly was devastated and bitter thinking that life had delivered an unfair and cruel turn – Rolly would say he wished he could change places with his son and he meant it. It is well known that Betty reacted negatively when Terry delivered the news that he was going to run across the country – knowing the will of his son Rolly simply said “when?”.

    When Terry died in 1981, Rolly and Betty were forced into roles neither were expecting or educated for but they had an endless passion for their son and inherently understood his values and vision.  Betty was the public figure sharing Terry’s story – Rolly was the pillar of strength and support who was always close behind.  He had a serious side but place him in front of a room full of friends and family and get ready to be entertained by an unscripted performance.   He would evolve over the years from someone who was scrupulous with his money to a man who wanted to give to others regardless of the financial implications. 

    Loneliness arrived in Rolly’s life with the passing of his wife Betty in 2011 after 54 years of marriage. Rolly went almost overnight from a homebody to a man never at home. He would meet Janet Shields during this time who was also experiencing loss with the passing of her husband. They would marry in the spring of 2013 – there was no denying Rolly’s happiness the last few years.

    Rolly was diagnosed with lung cancer, stage 4, in January.  He was not devastated or bitter, accepted it quickly, fulfilling a promise to Terry of being strong and positive. It may have been his plan to give those around him these last few weeks a legion of memories to last a lifetime.

    Rolly is survived by his lovely wife Janet, three children Fred(Theresa), Darrell(Bonnie), and Judith, step children Gary, Stephen and Joanne, nine grandchildren, Terrance(Melissa), Kirsten, Erin(Matthew), Jessica, Sarah, DJ, Tianna, Alexandra, and Connor, brothers, Rod, Terry and Doug, sisters, Nancy, Barbara and Jeanine.

    A “Farewell Party” will be held at 11:00 am, Saturday, March 19th at Terry Fox Theatre 1260 Riverwood Gate, Port Coquitlam. Please email your interest in attending the service to rollyfoxservice@gmail.com. In lieu of flowers donations can be made to The Terry Fox Foundation Online at: terryfox.org. Mail to: The Terry Fox Foundation, #150-8960 University Street, Port Coquitlam, V5A 4Y6: Call 1-888-836-9786.

  • New Investigator hopes oxygen-enhanced cancer tumours will improve treatment outcomes

    by User Not Found | Feb 10, 2016


    TFRI investigator hopes oxygen-enhanced cancer tumours will increase effectiveness of radiation for pancreatic and other cancers.

    While survival rates for many cancers have improved over the last decade, cure rates for some forms of the disease – such as pancreatic cancer – remain as low as just two to three per cent.

    “The survival rate for pancreatic cancer is abysmal,” says Dr. Ralph DaCosta, a molecular imaging scientist, noting that around 5,000 Canadians are affected by the disease each year. “One of the main reasons that I picked this particular cancer to study was because I thought we could bring a real level of innovation and new knowledge to understanding this complex tumor microenvironment.”

    He’ll use a $450,000 New Investigator award from TFRI to try to find new and innovative ways to study the complex tumor microenvironment to develop new treatment strategies for pancreatic cancer and prevent deadly tumour recurrences in patients from his laboratory at Toronto’s Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, UHN.

    Radiation and chemotherapy can be a very effective treatment for many cancers, but are often unsuccessful in treating pancreatic cancer. DaCosta’s research team has learned that advanced pancreatic tumours are often very “hypoxic”. This means they are low in oxygen, which decreases the efficacy of treatment, and increases the likelihood tumours will grow and spread aggressively.

    Further, the team discovered in animal models of pancreatic cancer that high-dose radiation therapy can actually increase tumour hypoxia, change the invasive behaviour of tumour cells, and modify the tumour microvasculature and microenvironment. The result? It’s harder to kill cancer cells.

    But there’s hope: Dr. DaCosta and collaborators in the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy (University of Toronto) have developed a new injectable nanoparticle formulation comprised of manganese dioxide that generates oxygen in vivo, and makes a tumour less hypoxic. When used in conjunction with traditional radiation, early results suggest cancer cells can be killed more easily using a much lower treatment dosage.

    “The clinical impact is pretty profound if we can get this right. If you give a patient the nanoparticles, and make the tumour more oxygenated, you could be just as effective at killing tumour cells with a much lower radiation dose, and also reduce unwanted toxicity of the therapy to the patient,” Dr. DaCosta explained.

    Drs. Bradley Wouters and Rob Bristow, co-principal investigators of TFRI’s Hypoxia Program and senior scientists at UHN, will mentor Dr. DaCosta for the duration of the three-year award.

    “The work [he is] doing in pancreatic cancer…will bring new approaches to understanding the hypoxic environments of other cancer types under investigation in this program including cervix, head and neck, and prostate,” said Dr. Wouters. “I look forward to [his] future contributions to our Institute’s scientific success.”

    DaCosta says he was so excited to win the TFRI NI award he almost fell out of his chair.

    “It’s just great all-around and we’re thrilled, absolutely thrilled,” he said. “And the best part is if we can get this to work in the pancreas, we could apply the same methodology to other solid tumours.”

    To learn more about TFRI’s Program Project Grant in Research Pipeline for Hypoxia-Directed Precision Cancer Medicine visit: Our Work section.

    Project Title: Investigating radiation responses of pancreatic tumours, their vasculature and microenvironment using in vivo imaging to identify new treatment strategies
    Award: $450,000
    Mentoring Program: The Terry Fox New Frontiers Program Project Grant in Research Pipeline for Hypoxia-Directed Precision Cancer Medicine
    Mentors/PIs: Drs. Bradley Wouters and Robert Bristow

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