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  • Leukemia researchers discover genetic screening tool to predict healthy people at risk of developing aggressive form of leukemia

    by Peter Mothe | Jul 11, 2018

    Drs. John Dick and Sagi Abelson discuss the findings of their research published in Nature. (Video: UHN)


    An international team of leukemia scientists that includes TFRI-funded researchers has discovered how to predict healthy individuals at risk of developing acute myeloid leukemia (AML), an aggressive and often deadly blood cancer.  

    The findings, published in Nature (July 9, 2018), illuminate the 'black box of leukemia' and answer the question of where, when and how the disease begins, says co-principal investigator Dr. John Dick (Princess Margaret Cancer Centre), who leads TFRI's Stemness Project

    "We have been able to identify people in the general population who have traces of mutations in their blood that represent the first steps in how normal blood cells begin on a pathway of becoming increasingly abnormal and puts them at risk of progressing to AML. We can find these traces up to 10 years before AML actually develops," says Dr. Dick. "This long time window gives us the first opportunity to think about how to prevent AML."

    Dr. Dick is also a Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto, holds the Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Biology, and is Co-Leader of the Acute Leukemia Translational Research Initiative at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research.

    Study author Dr. Sagi Abelson, a post-doctoral fellow in the Dick lab, says: "AML is a devastating disease diagnosed too late, with a 90 per cent mortality rate after the age of 65. Our findings show it is possible to identify individuals in the general population who are at high risk of developing AML through a genetic test on a blood sample.

    "The ultimate goal is to identify these individuals and study how we can target the mutated blood cells long before the disease actually begins."

    The study builds on Dr. Dick's 2014 discovery that a pre-leukemic stem cell could be found lurking amongst all the leukemia cells that are present in the blood sample taken when a person is first diagnosed with AML. The pre-leukemic stem cell still functions normally but it has taken the first step in generating pathway of cells that became more and more abnormal resulting in AML (Nature, February 12, 2014), and continues his quest to trace every step in the evolution of AML, starting with blood cells from healthy people.

    "Our 2014 study predicted that people with early mutations in their blood stem cells, long before the disease appears and makes them sick, should be able to be detected within the general population by testing a blood sample for the presence of the mutation." says Dr. Dick.

    Co-principal investigator Dr. Liran Shlush, a former fellow in the Dick lab, and now Senior Scientist at the Weizmann Institute in Israel, led the approach to use data from a large European population health and lifestyle study that tracked 550,000 people over 20 years to determine correlations to cancer.

    The leukemia team extracted the data from more than 100 participants who developed AML six to 10 years after joining the study, plus the data from an age-matched cohort of more than 400 who did not develop the disease.

    Dr. Dick says: "We wanted to know if there was any difference between these two groups in the genetics of their 'normal' blood samples taken at enrollment. To find out, we developed a gene sequencing tool that captured the most common genes that get altered in AML and sequenced all the 500 blood samples."

    The answer was "Yes". The seeds of the blood system started picking up mutations years before an individual was diagnosed with AML, a finding that enabled the team to predict accurately who had been at risk of disease progression.

    Furthermore, the team used advanced computational technology to assay the information obtained from routinely collected blood tests taken over 15 years in Israel and housed in a massive database of 3.4 million electronic health records.

    The study has deepened our understanding of the distinction between AML and a common feature of aging called ARCH–age-related clonal hematopoiesis–whereby blood stem cells acquire mutations and become a little more proliferative. For the vast majority of people this is just a completely benign feature of aging.  

    "Every AML patient has ARCH but not everyone with ARCH gets AML," explains Dr. Dick.

    The study, Prediction of acute myeloid leukaemia risk in healthy individual, is available from Nature, here: https://go.nature.com/2zpsdLz

     

  • L’Institut de recherche Terry Fox et leurs partenaires de recherche de Montréal forment un consortium en vue d’offrir des traitements plus personnalisés aux personnes atteintes de cancer au Québec

    by Peter Mothe | Jun 28, 2018

    Launch_Photo

    À L’ATTENTION DES MÉDIAS: 
    • COMMUNIQUÉS
    • DOCUMENTS D`INFORMATION
    • PHOTOGRAPHIES ET BIOGRAPHIES (si disponibles)
      • Dr Victor Ling, président et directeur scientifique de l’IRTF : Bio
      • Dr Anne-Marie Mes-Masson, responsable du pôle Québec de l’IRTF: Bio 
      • Dr John Stagg, co-chercheur principal (CRCHUM)Bio Photo
      • Dr Ian Watson, co-chercheur principal (CRCG): Bio Photo
      • Mr Stan Czebruk. Stage IV melanoma patient (MUHC)Photo
      • Mr Yves Tellier, Stage IV melanoma patient (CRCHUM)Photo
    • VIDÉO
      • Images non montées du Dr John Stagg (CRCHUM) : Télécharger


    Jeudi 28 juin 2018
    (Click here for English version)

    MONTRÉAL - Dans le but d’améliorer les traitements offerts aux 18 000 patients atteints de cancer traités annuellement, les meilleurs chercheurs, centres de cancérologie et hôpitaux de Montréal et l’Institut de recherche Terry Fox ont formé un partenariat afin de réaliser de nouvelles avancées dans le domaine de la médecine personnalisée et de précision.

    Le Consortium contre le cancer de Montréal (CCM) regroupe plusieurs institutions, soit le Centre de recherche du Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CRCHUM), le Centre de recherche sur le cancer Goodman (CRCG), le Centre de recherche de l’Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont, l’Institut de recherche en immunologie et en cancérologie (IRIC), l’Hôpital général juif (HGJ), le Centre d’innovation Génome Québec, l’Université McGill, l’Université de Montréal et l’Institut de recherche du Centre universitaire de santé McGill (IR-CUSM).

    Pour l’Institut de recherche Terry Fox, le lancement de ce consortium marque une nouvelle étape vers l’atteinte de son objectif d’accélérer l’application de la médecine de précision pour tous les Canadiens. Le Consortium est le second projet pilote créé par l’Institut dans le cadre de sa stratégie visant à former un réseau pancanadien de centres de cancérologie.

    Les membres du projet pilote montréalais poursuivront l’élaboration d’une nouvelle stratégie de traitement du cancer qui renforce le système immunitaire du patient pour qu’il combatte le cancer. Ce traitement appelé immunothérapie a récemment donné des résultats impressionnants chez certains patients.

    Yves Tellier, 70 ans, a remarqué une petite tache foncée sur sa jambe. Ce qu’il croyait être une blessure causée par un bâton de golf s’est avéré être un mélanome au stade IV. C’était il y a six ans et, lorsqu’une tumeur métastatique a été découverte sur sa colonne vertébrale en 2013, il a reçu des traitements d’immunothérapie et de chimiothérapie au Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal. Son état de santé s’est amélioré de façon spectaculaire. « Je suis actuellement en rémission complète et j’ai très peu d’effets secondaires. Je mène maintenant une vie active normale. Je peux faire du ski, du vélo, de la plongée libre et jouer au golf. N’eût été ce traitement, je suis convaincu que je ne serais pas vivant aujourd’hui. Grâce à ce nouveau consortium, les chercheurs ne travailleront plus chacun de leur côté. Le regroupement aidera à faire progresser les traitements contre le cancer, et c’est une excellente nouvelle pour les patients. »

    L’immunothérapie a aussi changé la vie de Stan Czebruk. « C’était en 2009. Je faisais une randonnée en Écosse quand mon épouse m’a appelé pour m’annoncer que j’avais le cancer. C’était un mélanome sur mon oreille gauche qui s’est ensuite propagé aux poumons et au cerveau », explique ce Montréalais âgé de 60 ans qui est traité au Centre universitaire de santé McGill. Lui aussi est en rémission et il subira son dernier traitement d’immunothérapie au début du mois d’août. « Le parcours a été long, mais j’ai une grande confiance dans le système de santé. J’ai grand espoir que davantage de recherches seront faites et que d’autres traitements seront trouvés. »

    MCC_Patients
    Stan Czebruk et Yves Tellier

    Le Consortium contre le cancer de Montréal se concentrera en premier lieu sur les traitements d’immunothérapie pour le mélanome et la leucémie aiguë. Il se servira par la suite des connaissances et des ressources acquises pour soutenir les traitements d’autres types de cancers. « À Montréal, nous avons le leadership dans ce domaine de recherche. Il y a également un besoin clinique à combler en matière de nouveaux traitements à élaborer afin que davantage de patients traités au moyen de cette thérapie obtiennent de meilleurs résultats. Actuellement, seulement 20 à 30 % des patients qui reçoivent des traitements d’immunothérapie répondent bien à ceux-ci », indique le co-chercheur principal du projet pilote, le Dr John Stagg, chercheur et professeur agrégé du CRCHUM et de la Faculté de pharmacie de l’Université de Montréal.

    Les chercheurs du CCM, en travaillant en collaboration, tenteront également de mieux comprendre comment les divers aspects du système immunitaire sont liés à la leucémie aiguë et pourquoi la thérapie fonctionne chez certains patients, mais pas chez d’autres. Ils espèrent découvrir de nouveaux biomarqueurs et de nouvelles cibles qui répondront aux traitements d’immunothérapie.

    « Au total, le Consortium contre le cancer de Montréal tirera profit des données de plus de 18 000 patients annuellement et de plus de 50 essais cliniques continus en immunothérapie et en médecine de précision dans le but de créer l’un des pôles d’innovation en oncologie les plus centrés sur le patient au Canada », déclare le Dr Ian Watson, Chaire de recherche du Canada en génomique fonctionnelle du mélanome et professeur adjoint, Département de biochimie de l’Université McGill, membre du Centre de recherche sur le cancer Goodman et co-chercheur principal du projet de CCM.

    MCC_Scientists
    Dr Ian Watson (GCRC) et Dr John Stagg (CRCHUN). 

    Plusieurs organisations appuyant l’initiative verseront une somme totale de 6,5 M$ au CCM au cours des deux prochaines années. À titre de catalyseur du projet, l’IRTF fournira 2 M$. Parmi les autres bailleurs de fonds, il y a notamment Oncopole, Génome Québec, le Centre de recherche sur le cancer Goodman et l’Institut du cancer de Montréal.

    « Nous sommes ravis de voir la formation de ce partenariat avec les meilleurs chercheurs, cliniciens et centres de cancérologie universitaires et de santé de Montréal. En regroupant leurs travaux et en établissant ces nouvelles collaborations, nous créons un nouveau modèle de travail qui a le potentiel de changer réellement les choses dans les cliniques. Ce sont d’excellentes nouvelles pour les patients vivant ici, au Québec, et partout au Canada », affirme le Dr Victor Ling, président et directeur scientifique de l’IRTF.

    « Ce partenariat est le résultat d’une importante mobilisation entre les différents hôpitaux et centres de recherche de Montréal impliqués dans la lutte contre le cancer. Nous sommes très heureux d’offrir une contribution de 750 000 $ pour créer ce consortium qui répond au besoin de structurer l’écosystème en vue d’offrir des solutions innovantes aux patients », mentionne Stéphanie Lord-Fontaine, directrice générale d’Oncopole.

    « Génome Québec salue cette initiative de l’Institut de recherche Terry Fox qui a pour objectif de réunir les forces et les expertises de la recherche en cancer ainsi que des institutions de santé de Montréal. Nous sommes fiers de participer, à titre de partenaires, au soutien des études génomiques des projets concernés. Le Consortium contre le cancer de Montréal (CCM) favorisera l’intégration des données génomiques en clinique et l’implantation de la médecine de précision. Nous sommes persuadés que le CCM contribuera à faire de Montréal un environnement compétitif, optimal et durable pour la recherche sur le cancer, et ce, pour le plus grand bénéfice des patients », souligne Daniel Coderre, président-directeur général de Génome Québec.

    Partenaires de recherche

    Logos

    À propos de l’Institut de recherche Terry Fox (IRTF) 

    Lancé en octobre 2007, l’Institut de recherche Terry Fox est une idée de la Fondation Terry Fox et fonctionne aujourd’hui comme son organisme de recherche. L’IRTF cherche à améliorer de manière déterminante les résultats de la recherche sur le cancer pour les patients, grâce à une approche très collaborative, axée sur les équipes, avec des étapes clés de recherche qui permettront de transformer rapidement les découvertes en solutions concrètes pour les patients atteints de cancer dans le monde entier. L’IRTF collabore avec plus de 80 centres de cancérologie et organismes de recherche d’un bout à l’autre du Canada. Le siège social de l’IRTF est à Vancouver, Colombie-Britannique. Pour obtenir plus d’information, prière de nous visiter au www.tfri.ca et de nous suivre sur Twitter (@tfri_research).

    À propos du Centre de recherche du CHUM (CRCHUM

    Le Centre de recherche du Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CRCHUM) est l'un des plus importants centres de recherche en milieu hospitalier en Amérique du Nord. Sa mission est d'améliorer la santé chez l'adulte grâce à un continuum de recherche allant des sciences fondamentales à la santé des populations, en passant par la recherche clinique. Plus de 1819 personnes travaillent au CRCHUM dont 465 chercheurs et 641 étudiants et stagiaires de recherche. chumontreal.qc.ca/crchum

    À propos du Centre de recherche sur le cancer Goodman (GCRC)

    Situé dans le Complexe des sciences de la vie de l’Université McGill, le Centre de recherche sur le cancer Rosalind et Morris Goodman (CRCG) est un pôle de recherche de pointe sur le cancer qui attire et conserve dans ses rangs de brillants chercheurs des quatre coins du monde. Établi en 1978, le CRCG (à l’époque le Centre du cancer McGill) réalise des percées scientifiques qui nous permettent d’étudier le cancer aussi bien sur le plan du génome qu’aux niveaux cellulaire et moléculaire, afin de mieux comprendre ses mécanismes d’évolution, de propagation et de résistance aux traitements. Le Centre compte actuellement 27 équipes de recherche attitrées pourvues de plateformes technologiques de pointe, du personnel de recherche et de soutien, et plus de 200 stagiaires. Les activités menées au CRCG, première ligne d’attaque contre le cancer, sont axées sur la recherche fondamentale et visent à comprendre pourquoi certains cancers résistent aux traitements dans le but de trouver de nouvelles cibles et de nouveaux traitements.

    Contacts Mèdias

    Pour de plus amples informations ou pour obtenir une entrevue, veuillez communiquer avec:
    Jason Clement, McGill University, 
    514-865-6990 (cell); 
    Jason.clement@mcgill.ca

    Julie Cordeau-Gazaille, Université de Montréal,
    514-343-6796;
    j.cordeau-gazaille@umontreal.ca

    Kelly Curwin, TFRI,
    cell: 778-237-8158;
    kcurwin@tfri.ca

    Julie Robert, MUHC
    (pour une entrevue avec M. Stan Czebruk)
    514-971-4747;
    julie.robert@muhc.mcgill.ca 

    Jacinthe Ouellette, CHUM/CRCHUM
    (pour une entrevue avec M. Yves Tellier)
    514-246-0567 (cell.);
    jacinthe.ouellette.chum@ssss.gouv.qc.ca 

     
  • The Terry Fox Research Institute and Montreal research partners form consortium to provide more personalized treatments for cancer patients in Québec

    by Peter Mothe | Jun 28, 2018

    Launch_Photo
    Representatives from partnering institutions participate in the unveiling of the Montreal Cancer Consortium Pilot Project. 


    ATTENTION MEDIA: 


    • RELEASES
    • BACKGROUNDERS
    • PHOTOGRAPHS AND BIOS (As Available)
      • Dr. Victor Ling, TFRI President and Scientific DirectorBio
      • Dr. Anne-Marie Mes-Masson, TFRI Node President (Quebec): Bio 
      • Dr. John Stagg, Co-Principal Investigator (CRCHUM): Bio Photo
      • Dr. Ian Watson, Co-Principal Investigator (GCRC)Bio | Photo
      • Mr. Stan Czebruk. Stage IV melanoma patient (MUHC)Photo
      • Mr. Yves Tellier, Stage IV melanoma patient (CRCHUM)Photo
    • VIDEO
      • B-Roll of Dr. John Stagg (CRCHUM): Download

    Thursday, June 28, 2018
    (Click here for French version)


    MONTRÉAL - Seeking to improve treatments for 18,000 annual cancer patients, leading researchers, cancer centres and hospitals in Montreal and The Terry Fox Research Institute have partnered to generate new advances in personalized and precision medicine.

    The multi-institutional Montreal Cancer Consortium (MCC) comprises the Centre de recherche du Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CRCHUM), Goodman Cancer Research Centre (GCRC), Centre de Recherche Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont, Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC), Jewish General Hospital (JGH), McGill University, the Université de Montréal, Génome Québec Innovation Centre, and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC).

    For the Terry Fox Research Institute, the launch of this consortium marks another step forward in accelerating precision medicine for all Canadians. The consortium is the second pilot project the Institute has created as part of its strategy to form a pan-Canadian network of linked cancer centres from coast to coast.

    The Montreal pilot project members will further develop a new cancer treatment strategy that enhances an individual’s immune system to fight cancer called immunotherapy, which has recently shown impressive results for some patients.

    A small dark spot on his lower leg that Yves Tellier, 70, thought was an injury from a golf club turned out to be Stage IV melanoma. That was six years ago and when metastatic disease was found on his spine in 2013, he was treated with immunotherapy and chemotherapy at the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal.  His health improved dramatically. “I am currently in complete remission with very few side effects. I now have a normal, active life. I can ski, golf, cycle and scuba dive.  Had it not been for this treatment, I am convinced I would not be alive today.  Thanks to this new consortium, instead of working on their own, the amalgamation of these researchers will help advance cancer treatments, and that is great news for patients.

    Immunotherapy changed Stan Czebruk’s life. “It was in 2009. I was hiking in Scotland, when my wife called me and announced that I had cancer. It was a melanoma on my left ear that spread later to my lungs and brain,” explains the 60-year-old Montrealer, who is treated at the McGill University Health Centre. He, too, is now in remission and will undergo his last immunotherapy treatment at the beginning of August. “It has been a long journey, but I have a lot of faith in the health care system and great hope that more research will be done and more treatments will be found.

    MCC_Patients
    Stage IV melanoma patients Stan Czebruk and Yves Tellier speak at the launch of Montreal Cancer Consortium.

    The Montreal Cancer Consortium will focus on immunotherapy treatments for melanoma and acute leukemia initially and use the knowledge and resources gained to support other cancer types. “We have both leadership in this research area in Montreal and also an unmet clinical need for new treatments to be developed so that more patients treated with this therapy have better outcomes. Currently only 20-30 per cent of patients who receive immunotherapy respond well to the treatment,” remarks pilot project co-principal investigator Dr. John Stagg, CRCHUM researcher and associate professor, Faculty of Pharmacy, Université de Montréal.

    Working together, the MCC researchers will also aim to better understand how various aspects of the immune system relate to acute leukemia and why therapy works for some patients but not others. They hope to identify new biomarkers and novel targets that will respond to immunotherapy treatments.

    “In total, the Montreal Cancer Consortium will harness the data power of more than 18,000 patients annually and more than 50 ongoing precision medicine and immunotherapy clinical trials, with the goal of developing one of the most patient-centric oncology innovation poles in Canada,” says Dr. Ian Watson, Canada Research Chair in Functional Genomics of Melanoma and assistant professor, Department of Biochemistry at McGil, member of the  Goodman Cancer Research Centre, and co-principal investigator for the MCC project.

    MCC_Scientists
    Drs. Ian Watson (GCRC) and John Stagg (CRCHUN) will be co-principal investigators for the new pilot project. 

    The MCC will receive $6.5 million over the next two years from several organizations supporting the initiative. As the project catalyst, TFRI is providing $2 million and Oncopole, Genome Québec, Goodman Cancer Research Centre and Institut du Cancer de Montréal are among several other co-funders.

    “We are delighted to see the formation of this partnership with Montreal’s leading health and academic cancer centres, researchers and clinicians. In consolidating their work, and forging these new collaborations, we are creating a new working paradigm that has the potential to make a real difference in the clinic and that is great news for patients living here in Quebec and anywhere in Canada,” says Dr. Victor Ling, TFRI’s president and scientific director.

    “This partnership is the outcome of an important mobilization effort across different Montreal hospitals and research centers involved in the fight against cancer. We are proud to contribute $750,000 to the consortium creation that responds to the co-ordination needed to bring innovative solutions to patients,” explains Stéphanie Lord-Fontaine, executive director of Oncopole.

    “Génome Québec salutes this initiative of the Terry Fox Research Institute that aims to bring together cancer research organizations and experts, and Montréal’s health institutions. We are proud to participate, as a partner, in supporting genome studies in the projects involved. The Montreal Cancer Consortium (MCC) promotes clinical integration of genomic data and the implementation of precision medicine. We are convinced that the MCC will help make Montréal a competitive, ideal and sustainable environment for cancer research, for the greater good of patients,” says Daniel Coderre, president and CEO of Génome Québec.

    Partner Institutions

    Logos

    About The Terry Fox Research Institute (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 more than 80 cancer hospitals and research organizations across Canada. TFRI headquarters are in Vancouver, B.C. For more information please visit www.tfri.ca and follow us on Twitter (@tfri_research).

    About Centre de recherche du Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM)

    The Centre de recherche du Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal is one of North America’s leading hospital research centres. It strives to improve adult health through a research continuum covering such disciplines as the fundamental sciences, clinical research and public health. Over 1,819 people work at CRCHUM, including 465 scientists and 641 students and research assistants chumontreal.qc.ca/crchum

    About the Goodman Cancer Research Centre (GCRC)

    The Rosalind and Morris Goodman Cancer Research Centre (GCRC), located within McGill University’s Life Sciences Complex, is a state-of-the-art hub for ground-breaking cancer research that attracts and retains top scientists from around the world. Originally established in 1978 as the McGill Cancer Centre, the GCRC leads scientific advances that enable it to investigate cancer at a genomic, cellular and molecular level, and to understand how cancer progresses, spreads and resists therapies. The GCRC currently comprises 27 dedicated research teams with cutting-edge technology platforms, research and support staff and over 200 trainees. Research activities at the GCRC represent a first line of defense in the fight against cancer, with focus on fundamental research to understand why cancers fail to respond to treatment and translating findings into new targets and therapies.

    Media Contacts

    For more information, please contact:
    Jason Clement, McGill University,
    514-865-6990 (cell); 
    Jason.clement@mcgill.ca

    Julie Cordeau-Gazaille, Université de Montréal,
    514-343-6796;
    j.cordeau-gazaille@umontreal.ca

    Kelly Curwin, TFRI,
    cell: 778-237-8158;
    kcurwin@tfri.ca

    To interview Mr. Stan Czebruk, please contact:
    Julie Robert, MUHC
    514-971-4747;
    julie.robert@muhc.mcgill.ca 

    To interview Mr. Yves Tellier, please contact:
    Jacinthe Ouellette, CHUM/ CRCHUM
    514-246-0567 (cell.);
    jacinthe.ouellette.chum@ssss.gouv.qc.ca 

  • "Celebrate failure!" says TFRI’s leader in new book celebrating Chinese Canadians

    by Peter Mothe | Jun 12, 2018

    Celebration
    A new book on on Chinese Canadian legacies published by Province of British Columbia Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture highlights Dr. Ling's work at the Terry Fox Research Institute. 

    "TO BE SUCCESSFUL, ONE MUST LEARN TO TOLERATE AND EVEN CELEBRATE FAILURES,"
    remarks TFRI President and Scientific Director Dr. Victor Ling, who is among several prominent Chinese Canadians featured in a newly published 180-page, full-colour book titled Celebration: Chinese Canadian Legacies in British Columbia. “As a young person, I learned to imagine what success would be like and let that vision sustain me through the long dark periods of waiting and dealing with repeated failures.”

    Published by the Province of British Columbia Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, the book evolved as part of a legacy following an apology by the British Columbia Legislature for the historical wrongs endured by Chinese Canadians. It highlights the contributions Chinese Canadians have made to this country and province – from serving in the military to playing an important part of its social, cultural and economic fabric. 

    Dr. Ling is described as iconic figure in the field of cancer research. He refers to his role at TFRI “as a matchmaker in bringing the best scientists from different institutions to work on collaborative research on more effective and larger-scale research studies.”  He attributes his successes to his father and those who mentored him in his scientific research.






  • Three top Canadian research teams receive $13 million to solve key cancer challenges

    by Peter Mothe | Jun 12, 2018
    TFRI_2018PPG_Photo

    From left to right: Drs. Greg Czarnota (Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre), David Malkin (Hospital for Sick Children) and David Huntsman (BC Cancer, UBC).

    (Click here for French version)

    VANCOUVER - Three outstanding cancer research teams will receive nearly $13 million to continue their investigations into rare tumours, an inherited disorder (Li-Fraumeni Syndrome) and the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound to improve treatments for breast cancer.

    Two teams primarily based in Ontario and the other in BC will receive the funding from the Terry Fox Research Institute (TFRI) as winners of its 2018 Terry Fox New Frontiers Program Project Grant (PPGs) competition.

    “These three teams have demonstrated that they are able to think outside the box and create really innovative projects that tackle some of the most challenging problems in cancer research. They bring together leading researchers with complementary skills to investigate different aspects of a given area of cancer research to find solutions that could yield positive results for patients in the short term,” says Dr. Victor Ling, TFRI president and scientific director.

    The projects were selected after a rigorous process that saw a committee of international experts visit six short-listed labs before making a final decision on the award recipients.

    Familiar faces, innovative approaches

    All three research teams have a proven track-record in cancer research and have received funding from the TFRI before.  With this new funding, the teams hope to continue building on previous discoveries with the hopes of beginning to transition their ground-breaking research out of the lab and into clinics.

    “The only way you can do this type of research is through a team grant,” says Dr. David Huntsman (UBC, BC Cancer), lead investigator for the renewed forme fruste program. “The New Frontiers Grant is Canada’s premiere grant for team science cancer research and has allowed us to take on a large challenge – something much greater than any of us would be able to tackle as individuals – and be able to deliver discoveries that would otherwise be impossible to find.”

    Learn more about the research of the 2018 Terry Fox New Frontiers Program Project Grant winners:

    About The Terry Fox Research Institute (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 


    For more information, contact:
     
    Peter Mothe
    Communications Specialist
    604-675-8000 ext.7630
    C: 604-773-2827
    pmothe@tfri.ca 

  • Trois des meilleures équipes de recherche canadiennes reçoivent 13 millions de dollars pour résoudre les principaux problèmes liés au cancer

    by Peter Mothe | Jun 05, 2018

    TFRI_2018PPG_Photo
    Drs. Greg Czarnota (Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre), David Malkin (Hospital for Sick Children) and David Huntsman (BC Cancer, UBC)

    (Click here for English version)


    VANCOUVER -
    Trois équipes exceptionnelles de recherche sur le cancer recevront près de 13 millions de dollars afin de poursuivre leurs recherches sur les tumeurs rares, un trouble héréditaire (syndrome de Li-Fraumeni), sur l'imagerie par résonance magnétique (IRM) ainsi que sur l'échographie pour améliorer les traitements du cancer du sein.

    Deux équipes, une basée en Ontario et l'autre en Colombie-Britannique, recevront le financement de l'Institut de recherche Terry Fox (IRTF) en tant que lauréats du concours de subventions de projet du Programme Terry Fox Nouvelles frontières (PPG) de 2018.

    “Ces trois équipes ont démontré qu'elles sont capables de sortir des sentiers battus et de créer des projets vraiment innovants qui s'attaquent à certains des problèmes les plus difficiles de la recherche sur le cancer. Ils réunissent des chercheurs chevronnés possédant des compétences complémentaires pour étudier différents aspects d'un domaine donné de la recherche sur le cancer afin de trouver des solutions qui pourraient conduire à des résultats positifs à court terme pour les patients ”, déclare le Dr Victor Ling, président et directeur scientifique de l'IRTF.

    Les projets ont été sélectionnés à la suite d’un processus rigoureux, notamment par la visite par un comité d'experts internationaux de six laboratoires présélectionnés avant que la décision finale sur les lauréats soit rendue.

    Visages familiers, approches innovantes

    Les trois équipes de recherche ont fait leurs preuves dans la recherche sur le cancer et ont déjà reçu des fonds de l'IRTF auparavant. Grâce à ce nouveau financement, ces équipes espèrent continuer à tirer parti des découvertes précédentes dans l'espoir de commencer à faire le transfert de leurs résultats de recherche vers la clinique.

    “La seule façon de faire ce genre de recherche est de subventionner une équipe”, affirme le Dr David Huntsman (UBC, BC Cancer), chercheur principal du programme renouvelé sur les formes frustes de cancer. “La subvention Nouvelles frontières est la première subvention canadienne pour la recherche scientifique sur le cancer en équipe et nous a permis de relever un grand défi - quelque chose de beaucoup plus grand qu'aucun d'entre nous ne pourrait atteindre en tant qu'individu - et de faire des découvertes autrement impossible à faire."

    Pour en apprendre davantage sur les lauréats du programme Nouvelles frontières 2018 Terry Fox :

    Au sujet de l’Instutut de recherche Terry Fox (IRTF)

    Lancé en octobre 2007, l'Institut de recherche Terry Fox est une idée originale de la Fondation Terry Fox et fonctionne aujourd'hui comme son bras de recherche. L'IRTF cherche à améliorer considérablement les résultats de la recherche sur le cancer pour le patient grâce à une approche de recherche hautement collaborative, axée sur l'équipe et sur les étapes, qui permettra aux découvertes de se traduire rapidement en solutions pratiques pour les patients atteints de cancer. L'IRTF collabore avec plus de 70 hôpitaux et organismes de recherche sur le cancer partout au Canada. Le siège de l'IRTF est à Vancouver, en Colombie-Britannique. www.tfri.ca 

    Pour de plus amples informations, veuillez contacter: 

    Peter Mothe
    Spécialiste des communications
    604-675-8000 poste 7630
    C: 604-773-2827
    pmothe@tfri.ca


  • Three top Canadian research teams receive $13 million to solve key cancer challenges

    by Peter Mothe | Jun 05, 2018
    TFRI_2018PPG_Photo

    From left to right: Drs. Greg Czarnota (Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre), David Malkin (Hospital for Sick Children) and David Huntsman (BC Cancer, UBC).

    (Click here for French version)

    VANCOUVER - Three outstanding cancer research teams will receive nearly $13 million to continue their investigations into rare tumours, an inherited disorder (Li-Fraumeni Syndrome) and the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound to improve treatments for breast cancer.

    Two teams primarily based in Ontario and the other in BC will receive the funding from the Terry Fox Research Institute (TFRI) as winners of its 2018 Terry Fox New Frontiers Program Project Grant (PPGs) competition.

    “These three teams have demonstrated that they are able to think outside the box and create really innovative projects that tackle some of the most challenging problems in cancer research. They bring together leading researchers with complementary skills to investigate different aspects of a given area of cancer research to find solutions that could yield positive results for patients in the short term,” says Dr. Victor Ling, TFRI president and scientific director.

    The projects were selected after a rigorous process that saw a committee of international experts visit six short-listed labs before making a final decision on the award recipients.

    Familiar faces, innovative approaches

    All three research teams have a proven track-record in cancer research and have received funding from the TFRI before.  With this new funding, the teams hope to continue building on previous discoveries with the hopes of beginning to transition their ground-breaking research out of the lab and into clinics.

    “The only way you can do this type of research is through a team grant,” says Dr. David Huntsman (UBC, BC Cancer), lead investigator for the renewed forme fruste program. “The New Frontiers Grant is Canada’s premiere grant for team science cancer research and has allowed us to take on a large challenge – something much greater than any of us would be able to tackle as individuals – and be able to deliver discoveries that would otherwise be impossible to find.”

    Learn more about the research of the 2018 Terry Fox New Frontiers Program Project Grant winners:

    About The Terry Fox Research Institute (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 


    For more information, contact:
     
    Peter Mothe
    Communications Specialist
    604-675-8000 ext.7630
    C: 604-773-2827
    pmothe@tfri.ca 

  • Erectile dysfunction drugs and flu vaccine may work together to help immune system fight cancer after surgery, study finds

    by Peter Mothe | May 17, 2018

    Auer_Rebecca

    A new study led by Dr. Rebecca Auer, a member of TFRI's Oncolytic Virus project and former recipient of a TFRI New Investigator Award, suggests that a common treatment for erectile dysfunction combined with the flu vaccine may be able to help the immune system mop up cancer cells left behind after surgery. The study, published in OncoImmunology, shows that this unconventional strategy can reduce the spread of cancer by more than 90 percent in a mouse model. It is now being evaluated in a world-first clinical trial.  

    “Surgery is very effective in removing solid tumours,” said Dr. Auer, a surgical oncologist and head of cancer research at The Ottawa Hospital. “However, we’re now realizing that, tragically, surgery can also suppress the immune system in a way that makes it easier for any remaining cancer cells to persist and spread to other organs. Our research suggests that combining erectile dysfunction drugs with the flu vaccine may be able to block this phenomenon and help prevent cancer from coming back after surgery.”

    The current study investigated sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis) and an inactivated influenza vaccine (Agriflu) in a mouse model that mimics the spread of cancer (metastasis) after surgery. The researchers evaluated these treatments by counting the number of metastases in mouse lungs. They found an average of:

    • 37 metastases with cancer cells alone
    • 129 metastases with cancer cells and surgery
    • 24 metastases with cancer cells, surgery and one of the erectile dysfunction drugs
    • 11 metastases with cancer cells, surgery, one of the erectile dysfunction drugs and the flu vaccine

    Dr. Auer is now leading the first clinical trial in the world of an erectile dysfunction drug (tadalafil) and the flu vaccine in people with cancer. It will involve 24 patients at The Ottawa Hospital undergoing abdominal cancer surgery. This trial is designed to evaluate safety and look for changes in the immune system. If successful, larger trials could look at possible benefits to patients.  

    “We’re really excited about this research because it suggests that two safe and relatively inexpensive therapies may be able to solve a big problem in cancer,” said Dr. Auer. “If confirmed in clinical trials, this could become the first therapy to address the immune problems caused by cancer surgery.” 

    Using a variety of mouse and human models, Dr. Auer’s team has also made progress in understanding how erectile dysfunction drugs and the flu vaccine affect cancer after surgery. Normally, immune cells called natural killer (NK) cells play a major role in killing metastatic cancer cells. But surgery causes another kind of immune cell, called a myeloid derived suppressor cell (MDSC), to block the NK cells. Dr. Auer’s team has found that erectile dysfunction drugs block these MDSCs, which allows the NK cells to do their job fighting cancer. The flu vaccine further stimulates the NK cells.

    “Cancer immunotherapy is a huge area of research right now, but we’re still learning how best to use it in the time around surgery,” said first author Dr. Lee-Hwa Tai, former postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Auer’s lab and now assistant professor at the Université de Sherbrooke. “This research is an important step forward that opens up many possibilities.”

    Dr. Auer noted that although erectile dysfunction drugs and the flu vaccine are widely available, people with cancer should not self-medicate. Any changes in medication should be discussed with an oncologist.

    The work was funded by several agencies and organizations. 

    Full reference: “Phosphodiesterase-5 inhibition reduces postoperative metastatic disease by targeting surgery-induced myeloid derived suppressor cell-dependent inhibition of Natural Killer cell cytotoxicity.”  Lee-Hwa Tai, Almohanad A. Alkayyal, Amanda L. Leslie, Shalini Sahi, Sean Bennett, Christiano Tanese de Souza, Katherine Baxter, Leonard Angka, Rebecca Xu, Michael A. Kennedy & Rebecca C. Auer. OncoImmunology. Published Online: 01 Mar 2018. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/2162402X.2018.1431082


  • Breakthrough test uses ctDNA to determine treatment resistance in advanced prostate cancer patients

    by TFRI Admin | May 15, 2018
    Dr. Alex Wyatt Image

    Metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) patients are now one step closer to more personalized treatment, thanks to a new test that can distinguish who will respond well to standard therapies and who will become resistant to treatment.

    The simple blood test uses plasma circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) to identify genetic markers that can indicate if a patient is either currently -- or likely to become -- resistant to widely-used treatments. Defects in BRCA2 and ATM were strongly linked to poor clinical outcomes in patients receiving standard therapy regimes, and somatic alterations in TP53 were also independently associated with tumour resistance.

    The present study was led by Drs. Kim Chi, Alexander Wyatt and Martin Gleave (Vancouver Prostate Centre), and results were published in Cancer Discovery (January 2018). Around 30 per cent of patients with advanced metastatic cancer do not respond to standard treatments. This test is the first of its kind to offer hope to these patients, allowing physicians to direct this demographic to alternative treatments or therapy intensification (combination approaches) that may be more effective in treating their metastatic disease.

    The paper builds on the team’s foundational June 2017 discovery (published in JNCI), which determined that plasma ctDNA was indeed accurately representative of metastatic prostate cancer biopsies. Prior to this discovery, the only method of collecting samples of metastases in advanced prostate cancer was by taking a biopsy of the bone, the most common location for tumour spread in this disease. This invasive procedure hindered the collection of metastases, and made developing more personalized patient management difficult.

    For the JNCI paper, researchers performed targeted sequencing across 72 clinically relevant genes in ctDNA samples from 45 different patients. The results showed that all somatic mutations identified in matched metastatic tissue biopsies were also present in ctDNA, suggesting that blood-based profiling is sufficient to guide mCRPC patient management.

    Study: Concordance of Circulating Tumor DNA and Matched Metastatic Tissue Biopsy in Prostate Cancer

     Authors: Alexander W. Wyatt, Matti Annala, Rahul Aggarwal, Kevin Beja, Felix Feng, Jack Youngren, Adam Foye, Paul Lloyd, Matti Nykter, Tomasz M. Beer, Joshi J. Alumkal, George V. Thomas, Robert E. Reiter, Matthew B. Rettig, Christopher P. Evans, Allen C. Gao, Kim N. Chi, Eric J. Small, Martin E. Gleave

    Study: Circulating Tumor DNA Genomics Correlate with Resistance to Abiraterone and Enzalutamide in Prostate Cancer

    Authors: Matti Annala, Gillian Vandekerkhove, Daniel Khalaf, Sinja Taavitsainen, Kevin Beja, Evan W. Warner, Katherine Sunderland, Christian Kollmannsberger, Bernhard J. Eigl, Daygen Finch, Conrad D. Oja, Joanna Vergidis, Muhammad Zulfiqar, Arun A. Azad, Matti Nykter, Martin E. Gleave, Alexander W. Wyatt, and Kim N. Chi

    Funding: Both studies were funded in part by a Terry Fox New Frontiers Program Project grant from The Terry Fox Research Institute.

     Links #6

  • Medulloblastoma leptomeningeal metastases can also occur through the bloodstream, study finds

    by TFRI Admin | May 15, 2018
    Dr. Michael Taylor

    Findings from a recent study published in Cell are breaking new ground in the pediatric brain cancer world, suggesting medulloblastoma cells can metastasize in an entirely different way than previously assumed.

    Medulloblastoma is a tumour of the cerebellum that frequently metastasizes to the leptomeninges of the central nervous system. It is the most common malignant childhood brain tumour, and metastasis is the leading cause of patient death.

     The scientific community has historically assumed this metastasis occurred exclusively when cancer cells detached from the tumour in the cerebellum, travelling in the cerebrospinal fluid to attach and grow on the leptomeninges. Yet a recent discovery led by Dr. Michael Taylor (SickKids Hospital, Toronto) and his TFRI-funded team has shown that medulloblastoma cells can also travel from the cerebellum to the bloodstream before entering the central nervous system and forming leptomeningeal metastases. The majority of other cancers also spread through a similar hematogenous route.

    With this information, new methods to detect recurrence can be devised by analyzing the circulating tumour cells in the blood of patients post-treatment. This could potentially enable clinicians to detect patients who are at higher risk of developing metastasis very early, and administer treatment more aggressively. Further, specific strategies to kill or block these cells from entering the central nervous system and forming metastasis can be designed by analyzing the circulating tumour cells.

    Importantly, the team has also identified a signalling pathway that increases the tendency of medulloblastoma cells to metastasize, the CCL2/CCR2 axis. Leptomeningeal metastases express high levels of the chemokine CCL2, and expression of CCL2 in medulloblastoma can stimulate dissemination. Looking forward, this information could be utilized to design metastasis-specific precision medicine approaches for medulloblastoma.

    Study: A Hematogenous Route for Medulloblastoma Leptomeningeal Metastases

    Authors: Livia Garzia, Noriyuki Kijima, A. Sorana Morrissy, Pasqualino De Antonellis, Ana Guerreiro-Stucklin, Borja L. Holgado, Xiaochong Wu, Xin Wang, Michael Parsons, Kory Zayne, Alex Manno, Claudia Kuzan-Fischer, Carolina Nor, Laura K. Donovan, Jessica Liu, Lei Qin, Alexandra Garancher, Kun-Wei Liu, Sheila Mansouri, Betty Luu, Yuan Yao Thompson, Vijay Ramaswamy, John Peacock, Hamza Farooq, Patryk Skowron, David J.H. Shih, Angela Li, Sherine Ensan, Clinton S. Robbins, Myron Cybulsky, Siddhartha Mitra, Yussanne Ma, Richard Moore, Andy Mungall, Yoon-Jae Cho, William A. Weiss, Jennifer A. Chan, Cynthia E. Hawkins, Maura Massimino, Nada Jabado, Michal Zapotocky, David Sumerauer, Eric Bouffet, Peter Dirks, Uri Tabori, Poul H.B. Sorensen, Priscilla K. Brastianos, Kenneth Aldape, Steven J.M. Jones, Marco A. Marra, James R. Woodgett, Robert J. Wechsler-Reya, Daniel W. Fults, and Michael D. Taylor.

     Funding: This study is supported in part by the Terry Fox Research Institute.

    Links #6

     

     

     

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