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    by TFRI Editor | Sep 07, 2016

     Six stellar TFRI research teams will use $27.3 million to engineer precision medicine across a range of cancers


    Wednesday, Sept 7, 2016


    Attention Editors:

    > The Terry Fox Run is being held on Sunday, Sept. 18th
    The brain cancer project will focus on new treatments for glioblastoma (The Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie announced in May he has this cancer)

    Vancouver, BC – Six outstanding Canadian research teams will use $27.3 million in new funding to engineer precision medicines for patients whose cancer has relapsed or for whom current treatments are ineffective or non-existent.

    The Terry Fox Research Institute teams are conducting research into brain, colorectal, prostate, breast and ovarian cancers and lymphoma at research centres and hospitals across the country. Some studies will include undertaking trials for immunotherapy -- using the body’s immune system to kill cancer cells.

    The majority of the funding ($26.1 million) is being provided by The Terry Fox Foundation through funds raised annually from the Terry Fox Run. National funding partner, The Canadian Institutes of Health Research, is contributing $1.2 million to co-invest in the project with the goal of finding more effective treatment for a hard-to-treat breast cancer called triple negative breast cancer.

    “We thank the Terry Fox Foundation and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for making these investments possible.  Our shared goal is to provide cancer patients with the right remedy for the right cancer at the right time – so precision medicine will help us to find more cures for cancer.  The projects being funded today are judged by international experts as being excellent, leading-edge and having the best potential for us to achieve this goal,” says Dr. Victor Ling, TFRI president and scientific director.

    “We are delighted to see our supporter funds invested across such a range of cancers since Terry Fox believed in funding all types of cancer research. We hope Canadians will continue to show their support for Terry’s cause and cancer research on Sunday, September 18 by participating in and donating to a Terry Fox Run in their community,” said Terry Fox Foundation executive director Britt Andersen. The Terry Fox Run will be held on Sunday, September 18.

    The Terry Fox New Frontiers Program Project Grants (PPGs) and Translational Research Programs are highly competitive. Following international peer review, funds are awarded annually to teams of investigators to support breakthrough and transformative biomedical research which may form the basis for innovative cancer prevention, diagnosis and/or treatment. See below the investment breakdown by project and province:

    PAN CANADIAN (Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta)

    Dr. Pamela Ohashi, director, immune therapy program, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network (UHN), and colleagues will develop immunotherapies and undertake clinical trials through The Immunotherapy Network to improve survival for women diagnosed with high-grade serous ovarian cancer, the deadliest of the ovarian cancers. (Award: $5.41M over 5 years)


    Awards of  $2.25 M each over 3 years:

    Dr. Mathieu Lupiensenior scientist and oncologist and colleagues at UHN (Toronto), will focus on effective therapies, including immunotherapy, to improve treatments available to women with triple negative breast cancer. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research is funding 50 per cent of this award.

     Dr. Sheila Singhpediatric neurosurgeon at McMaster University (Hamilton), and colleagues at the University of Toronto, will study glioblastoma multiforme (brain cancer) in its recurrent and relapsed form, rather than the original tumour (s), to  develop new and effective treatments to improve survival

    Dr. Jeff Wrana
    senior investigator at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, Sinai Health System and co-investigators there and at the U of T (Toronto), will study how an important body mechanism, the Hippo Pathway, is inactivated, thus enabling abnormal tissue growth, and ways to reactivate it. Their work will focus on colorectal cancer using unique “mini-gut” models


    Awards of $7.5 M each over 5 years:

    Dr. Joseph Connors, clinical director at the Centre for Lymphoid Cancer, BC Cancer Agency (Vancouver), and colleagues (University of British Columbia, BC Cancer Agency, and Simon Fraser University ) will continue novel and innovative research in lymphoma and related cancers to provide new tests and treatments that will benefit those patients

    Dr. Martin Gleave
    executive director, Vancouver Prostate Centre (VPC), and team members (VPC, UBC, and SFU), to continue world-class research to provide new treatments for men whose prostate cancer has become resistant to current therapies.

     Quotes from Funding Partners

    “CIHR is pleased to partner with the Terry Fox Research Institute and theTerry Fox Foundation and support Dr. Mathieu Lupien and his team at the University Health Network. Dr. Lupien’s research project showcases Canadian leadership in immunology, genomics and epigenetics and, ultimately, will lead to new treatments to extend survival and quality of life for women diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer,” said Dr. Stephen Robbins, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Cancer Research.

     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 CIHR 

    The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada's health research investment agency. CIHR's mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to enable its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened health care system for Canadians. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to more than 13,000 health researchers and trainees across Canada. http://www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca/


    For more information contact:


    Kelly Curwin, Chief Communications Officer
    Terry Fox Research Institute
    Vancouver BC

    Office: 604-675-8223
    Cell: 778-237-8158



  • “Smart” nanoparticle (PEARLs) a promising gem to target and treat tumours with greater precision

    by User Not Found | Jul 14, 2016

    Dr. Zheng
    Dr. Gang Zheng

    Canada – July, 14, 2016 – Dr. Gang Zheng and a team of biomedical researchers have discovered a “smart” organic, biodegradable nanoparticle that uses heat and light in a controlled manner to potentially target and ablate tumours with greater precision.

    The proof-of-concept findings, published online today and designated a “very important paper” in the leading chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie, provide a viable approach to boosting the clinical utility of photo-thermal therapy in treating cancer, says Dr. Zheng, senior scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and professor of medical biophysics at the University of Toronto. Dr. Zheng also holds the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum/Brazilian Ball Chair in Prostate Cancer Research. He talks about and demonstrates the research at https://youtu.be/EEN6Mz5iWBI.

    In the lab, using phantom models, the “smart” nanoparticle the team has dubbed  PEARLs – photo-thermal enhancing auto-regulating liposomes – showed how it can solve the two bottlenecks currently preventing more effective use of photo-thermal therapy with patients. These are overheating of tissue that can cause collateral damage during treatment, and the inability to ablate larger tumour volumes because the light stops travelling when it is absorbed.

    Explains the chemist: “Our smart nanoparticle is super cool. It can absorb light, generate heat and ablate the tumour. It’s a thermal sensor and once it reaches the desired ablation temperature of 55C, it becomes invisible, allowing the light to move deeper into more areas of the tumour and repeat the treatment process.

    “The result is a promising new way to heat and ablate larger volumes of the tumour with minimal damage to surrounding tissues in a controlled and precise way. The next step is to conduct pre-clinical studies to test the concept further.”

    For the past 10 years at PMCC, Dr. Zheng’s research has focused on advancing nanoparticle technology by harnessing light, heat and sound to advance tumour imaging and targeted treatment.

    Study: Controlling Spatial Heat and Light Distribution by Using Photothermal Enhancing Auto-Regulated Liposomes (PEARLs)

    Kenneth K Ng. Robert A. Weersink, Liang Lim, Brian C. Wilson, Gang Zheng 

    The research was funded by the Terry Fox Research Institute, Prostate Cancer Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Tanenbaum Chair in Prostate Cancer Research, and The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation. 

    TFRI Links, Fall 2016
  • Stem cell scientists discover genetic switch to increase supply of stem cells from cord blood

    by User Not Found | Jul 14, 2016

    AML cells

    Canada – July 14, 2016) – International stem cell scientists, co-led in Canada by Terry Fox-funded scientist Dr. John Dick and in the Netherlands by Dr. Gerald de Haan, have discovered the switch to harness the power of cord blood and potentially increase the supply of stem cells for cancer patients needing transplantation therapy to fight their disease.

    The proof-of-concept findings, published online today in Cell Stem Cell (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.stem.2016.06.008) provide a viable new approach to making more stem cells from cord blood, which is available through public cord blood banking, says co-principal investigator John Dick, senior scientist, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network (UHN). Dr. Dick is also professor, Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto, and holds a Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Biology. The co-principal investigator was stem cell scientist Gerald de Haan, scientific co-director, European Institute for the Biology of Ageing, University Medical Centre Groningen, the Netherlands.  Dr. Dick talks about their joint research at https://youtu.be/cpEmKnjkb9s.

    “Stem cells are rare in cord blood and often there are not enough present in a typical collection to be useful for human transplantation. The goal is to find ways to make more of them and enable more patients to make use of blood stem cell therapy,” says Dr. Dick. “Our discovery shows a method that could be harnessed over the long term into a clinical therapy and we could take advantage of cord blood being collected in various public banks that are now growing across the country.”

    Currently, patients needing stem cell transplants are matched to an adult donor with a compatible immune system through international registry services. But worldwide, many thousands of patients are unable to get stem cell transplants needed to combat blood cancers such as leukemia because there is no donor match.

    “About 40,000 people receive stem cell transplants each year, but that represents only about one-third of the patients who require this therapy,” says Dr. Dick. “That’s why there is a big push in research to explore cord blood as a source because it is readily available and increases the opportunity to find tissue matches. The key is to expand stem cells from cord blood to make many more samples available to meet this need. And we’re making progress.”

    Although there is much research into expanding the rare stem cells present in cord blood, the Dick-de Haan teams took a different approach. When a stem cell divides it makes a lot of progenitor cells immediately downstream that retain key properties of being able to develop into everyone of the 10 mature blood cell types, but they have lost the critical ability to self-renew (keeping on replenishing the stem cell pool) that all true stem cells possess.

    In the lab, analysing murine and human models of blood development, the teams discovered that microRNA (mirR-125a) is a genetic switch that is normally on in stem cells and controls self-renewal; this normally gets turned off in the progenitor cells.

    “Our work shows that if we artificially throw the switch on in those downstream cells, we can endow them with stemness and they basically become stem cells and can be maintained over the long term,” says Dr. Dick.

    In 2011, Dr. Dick isolated a human blood stem cell in its purest form – as a single stem cell capable of regenerating the entire blood system, providing a more detailed road map of the human blood development system, and opening the door to capturing the power of these life-producing cells to treat cancer and other debilitating diseases more effectively.

    Dr. Dick is also senior scientist at the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine (UHN) and director of the Cancer Stem Cell Program at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research.

    StudyEctopic miR-125a expression induces long-term repopulating stem cell capacity in mouse and human hematopoietic progenitors

    Authors: Edyta E. Wojtowicz, Eric R. Lechman, Karin G. Hermans, Erwin M. Schoof, Erno Wienholds, Ruth Isserlin, Peter A. van Veelen, Mathilde J.C. Broekhuis, George M.C. Janssen, Aaron Trotman-Grant, Stephanie M. Dobson,Gabriela Krivdova, Jantje Elzinga, James Kennedy, Olga I. Gan, Ankit Sinha,Vladimir Ignatchenko, Thomas Kislinger, Bertien Dethmers-Ausema,Ellen Weersing, Mir Farshid Alemdehy,Hans W.J. de Looper, Gary D. Bader, Martha Ritsema, Stefan J. Erkeland, Leonid V. Bystrykh,John E. Dick,and Gerald de Haan

    Funding: The Canadian team’s research published today was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute, the Terry Fox Foundation, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, the Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Biology, The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care.

    TFRI Links, Fall 2016
  • 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.
  • 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.
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