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  • Novel 17-gene test predicts if patients with aggressive leukemia will respond to treatment or not

    by TFRI Admin | May 24, 2017

    Researcher Stanley Ng holds up a cartridge used to measure the gene expression levels of cancer cells. (Photo: University of Toronto). 

    What if there was a way to predict if leukemia patients would respond to standard treatment or not? A TFRI-funded team has developed a novel, 17-gene signature test from leukemia stem cells (LSCs) that determines just that.

    The test provides doctors with a risk scoring tool that can predict within just a day or two of diagnosis an acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patient’s treatment response, as well as aid clinicians in treatment decisions. The work was published in Nature (December 2016, first author Stanley Ng). 

    Patients predicted not to benefit from standard treatment could be guided to novel clinical therapies and/or post-remission strategies, according to the study’s lead investigator Dr. Jean Wang at Princess Margaret (PM) in Toronto.   

    AML is the deadliest form of leukemia, with low cure rates especially in older patients. Although many patients respond to initial therapy, disease recurrence is common and difficult to treat. The high rate of relapse in AML has been attributed to the persistence of LSCs, which possess numerous stem cell properties connected with treatment resistance.

    The new biomarker, named the LSC17 score, is a signature of 17 genes that are specific to LSCs. To create it, the team first generated a list of genes differentially expressed between 138 LSC+ and 89 LSC− cell fractions derived from 78 AML patient samples. They then performed a sparse regression analysis of LSC gene expression against survival in a large training cohort.

    Calculating a patient’s score is simple: the patient’s blood or bone marrow sample is tested to measure the expression levels of the 17 genes. Those with a higher LSC17 score have the greatest risk of death if treated with standard chemotherapy, knowledge that could guide clinicians to offer them alternative options such as a clinical trial.

    Dr. John Dick, who leads TFRI’s prolific cancer stem cell program, was one of the co-senior authors of the team. Besides AML, Dr. Dick is also investigating the role of cancer stem cells in glioblastoma and multiple myeloma, two deadly and incurable cancers.

     A 17-gene stemness score for rapid determination of risk in acute leukemia

    Authors: Stanley W. K. Ng, Amanda Mitchell, James A. Kennedy, Weihsu C. Chen, Jessica McLeod, Narmin Ibrahimova, Andrea Arruda, Andreea Popescu, Vikas Gupta, Aaron D. Schimmer, Andre C. Schuh, Karen W. Yee, Lars Bullinger, Tobias Herold, Dennis Görlich, Thomas Büchner, Wolfgang Hiddemann, Wolfgang E. Berdel, Bernhard Wörmann, Meyling Cheok, Claude Preudhomme, Hervé Dombret, Klaus Metzeler, Christian Buske, Bob Löwenberg, Peter J. M. Valk, Peter W. Zandstra, Mark D. Minden, John E. Dick & Jean C. Y. Wang.

    Funding: This work was supported in part by the Terry Fox Foundation.

    TFRI Links, Spring 2017

  • Canadian study identifies predictive genomic signature for high-risk prostate cancer

    by TFRI Admin | May 24, 2017

    Prostate cancer

    Understanding why some prostate cancer tumours are indolent while others eventually kill patients is the focus of many within the global cancer research community. A top Canadian research team has provided new answers with the potential to change the way aggressive tumours are treated and, importantly, improve cure rates.

    The study was conducted by a TFRI and Prostate Cancer Canada funded research team led by Drs. Robert Bristow (Princess Margaret Cancer Centre) and Paul Boutros (Ontario Institute for Cancer Research), and was published in Nature in January 2017. 

    The team revealed for first time that the complexity of the prostate genome can be used to predict whether patients with localized and non-indolent prostate cancers will have more or less aggressive cancers. Improving this understanding could allow researchers to figure out how to deploy existing therapies more precisely; for example, triaging treatment based on defined prostate cancer subtypes. Further, it may provide novel candidate targets for creating new intensified therapies to increase cures in those patients at greatest risk of death.

    Prostate cancer remains the most frequently diagnosed non-skin cancer in Canadian men, and its incidence continues to grow as the population ages. Around 30 per cent of men relapse despite successful initial treatment, and current clinical prognostics cannot explain why. To counter this, the team took a novel approach to the analysis in the present study: rather than focusing on small subsets of the genome, information present in all of the DNA was used to come up with a predictive signature that accurately describes the complexity of prostate cancers. The signature comprises numerous molecular aberrations that outperformed well-described prognostic biomarkers for the disease.

    Two hundred whole-genome sequences and 277 additional whole-exome sequences from localized, non-indolent prostate tumours with similar clinical risk profiles were examined.  Numerous molecular aberrations that indicated disease recurrence were identified and could be used in determining disease prognosis. Further, local hypermutation events that correlated with specific genomic profiles often occurred.

    The research team defined 40 properties of prostate cancers, including mutation density, presence/absence of chromothripsis and kataegis and a series of recurrent somatic mutations. The team’s data also highlights the differences in mutational profiles between localized intermediate risk cancers and metastatic castrate resistant prostate cancer.

    The present study furthers the ability to understand why some prostate cancers are aggressive, and despite the best available treatments may go on to kill the patient, while others are adequately treated by precision radiotherapy or surgery alone. Besides furthering the field of precision medicine and potentially changing the way aggressive prostate cancers are treated, this data will also serve as a major genomic resource for groups around the world.

    Study: Genomic hallmarks of localized, non-indolent prostate cancer

    Authors: Michael Fraser, Veronica Y. Sabelnykova, Takafumi N. Yamaguchi, Lawrence E. Heisler, Julie Livingstone, Vincent Huang, Yu-Jia Shiah, Fouad Yousif, Xihui Lin, Andre P. Masella, Natalie S. Fox, Michael Xie, Stephenie D. Prokopec, Alejandro Berlin, Emilie Lalonde, Musaddeque Ahmed, Dominique Trudel, Xuemei Luo, Timothy A. Beck, Alice Meng, Junyan Zhang, Alister D’Costa, Robert E. Denroche, Haiying Kong, Shadrielle Melijah G. Espirit, Melvin L. K. Chua, Ada Wong, Taryne Chong, Michelle Sam, Jeremy Johns, Lee Timms, Nicholas B. Buchner, Michèle Orain, Valérie Picard, Helène Hovington, Alexander Murison, Ken Kron, Nicholas J. Harding, Christine P’ng, Kathleen E. Houlahan, Kenneth C. Chu, Bryan Lo, Francis Nguyen, Constance H. Li, Ren X. Sun, Richard de Borja, Christopher I. Cooper, Julia F. Hopkins, Shaylan K. Govind, Clement Fung, Daryl Waggott, Jeffrey Gree, Syed Haider, Michelle A. Chan-Seng-Yue, Esther Jung, Zhiyuan Wang, Alain Bergeron, Alan Dal Pra, Louis Lacombe, Colin C. Collins, Cenk Sahinalp, Mathieu Lupien, Neil E. Fleshner, Housheng H. He1, Yves Fradet, Bernard Tetu, Theodorus van der Kwast, John D. McPherson, Robert G. Bristow & Paul C. Boutros.

    Funding: P.C.B. was supported by a Terry Fox Research Institute New Investigator Award and a CIHR New Investigator Award. D.T. was part of the Terry Fox Foundation Strategic Health Research Training Program in Cancer Research at the Canadian Institute of Health Research and Ontario Institute for Cancer Research.

    TFRI Links, Spring 2017

  • Complement inhibitors decrease neutralization of some oncolytic viruses, increase treatment efficacy

    by TFRI Admin | May 24, 2017


    The use of oncolytic viruses to stimulate a patient’s immune system as well as directly kill tumour cells is a novel approach to eradicating cancer, but antibodies that permanently inactivate the virus are often generated that counter treatment efficacy. An Ottawa-based lab has come up with a way of countering this problem by using a complement inhibitor that prevents the virus’ neutralization, thereby ensuring viral vectors reach their target.

    Multiple doses of oncolytic viruses are likely needed to maximize the therapeutic effect, however the delivery of the latter doses is limited by the presence of anti-viral antibodies both in the blood as well as in the tumor microenvironment.

    The present study published in Molecular Therapy – Oncolytics (November 2016) shows that the antibodies that are generated against the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) glycoprotein (GP), while non-neutralizing on their own, can mediate virus neutralization in a complement-dependent manner. An oncolytic virus that was pseudotyped with this glycoprotein was neutralized by immune serum with intact complement, whereas neutralization was prevented when a complement inhibitor was present.

    This discovery has had immediate benefit to patients: by using a transient complement inhibitor oncolytic viruses pseudotyped with the LCMV glycoprotein can be effectively delivered to a tumour without being neutralized by antibodies for a period of time, thus increasing its efficacy. For example, virus stability in the blood of immunized animals increased by approximately 100-fold when a complement was inhibited, leading to a corresponding increase in viral titer in the tumour.

    The present study also shed light on using animal models in oncolytic virus research. The antibody response to LCMV has been studied primarily in mouse models, and it was thought that the antibodies that were generated against the virus were essentially biologically inert. However, mouse complement does not fully recapitulate the effects of human complement. The team more accurately modelled the effect of complement by using rats instead of mice, and it became clear that the anti-LCMV GP antibodies induced profound complement-mediated neutralization. This finding underscores that mouse models have important limitations that must be recognized when designing translational therapeutic approaches.

    Study: Complement inhibition enables tumour delivery of LCMV glycoprotein pseudotyped viruses in the presence of antiviral antibodies

    Authors: Laura Evgin, Carolina S Ilkow, Marie-Claude Bourgeois-Daigneault, Christiano Tanese de Souza, Lawton Stubbert, Michael S Huh,Victoria A Jennings, Monique Marguerie, Sergio A Acuna, Brian A Keller, Charles Lefebvre, Theresa Falls, Fabrice Le Boeuf, Rebecca A Auer, John D Lambris, J Andrea McCart, David F Stojdl and John C Bell.

    Funding: J.C.B. is supported by the Terry Fox Research Institute, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, and the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation.

    TFRI Links, Spring 2017
  • B.C. team study detects rare ovarian cancer mutation in ctDNA of patients

    by TFRI Admin | May 18, 2017


    A study examining the circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) of women with a rare ovarian cancer has been successful in detecting the mutation which is the defining feature of adult granulosa cell tumours (AGCTs) in the plasma of patients.

    The finding by a B.C. team studying rare and forme fruste tumours is important in that it may help to identify women at risk of relapse for the disease, as well as to provide a non-invasive way to monitor patients in follow-up. Their work was published in the Journal of Molecular Diagnostics (January 2017).

    FOXL2 402C>G (C134W) is the pathognomonic mutation found in these ovarian tumours, which affect three to five per cent of women diagnosed with the disease. AGCT is typically slow-growing and indolent, with a 97 per cent, five-year disease-specific survival rate for the majority of women with early Stage I tumours. However, disease recurrence occurs in 30 per cent of women within four to 10 years, and 50 to 70 per cent of this cohort will eventually die of the disease. Identifying ways to prevent relapse and improve monitoring for relapse will improve outcomes for these patients.

    The team (led by Dr. David Huntsman) developed a specific digital droplet PCR (ddPCR) assay to apply to circulating cell-free DNA extracted from 120 serial plasma samples of 35 patients from Helsinki, Finland and Vancouver. FOXL2 ctDNA mutations were detected in the plasma of 12 of 33 AGCT patients (36 per cent) with both primary (35 per cent) and recurrent tumours (19 per cent). The ctDNA mutation was detected in four patients without clinical disease, of which one relapsed during follow-up.

    Tumour size was identified as a factor in determining ctDNA mutation positivity and the team noted that tumour size was significantly smaller in the ctDNA mutation-negative cases. The team made recommendations for future studies pertaining to the amount of plasma needed and its isolation upon collection of the patient blood samples to ensure the quality of the cell-free DNA and to increase the yield of the ctDNA, thereby increasing the sensitivity and clinical applicability of the assay.

    The present study (first author Anniina Färkkilä) not only offers a non-invasive method of detecting AGCT via liquid biopsies, but may also be able to detect recurrence before the onset of clinical symptoms or elevation of serum marker levels. Ideally, this method could indicate the presence of low-level metastatic tumour cells and highlight patients at increased risk for relapse.

    Study: FOXL2 402C>G Mutation Can Be Identified in the Circulating Tumor DNA of Patients with Adult-Type Granulosa Cell Tumor

    Authors: Anniina Färkkilä, Melissa K. McConechy, Winnie Yang, Aline Talhouk, Ying Ng, Amy Lum, Ryan D. Morin, Kevin Bushell, Annika Riska, Jessica N. McAlpine, C. Blake Gilks Leila Unkila-Kallio, Mikko Anttonen, and David G. Huntsman.

    Funding: Supported by grants including the Terry Fox Research Institute grant 1021 (The Terry Fox New Frontiers Program Project grant in the Genomics of Forme Fruste Tumors: New Vistas on Cancer Biology and Treatment) (M.K.M.)

    TFRI Links, Spring 2017
  • Terry Fox Foundation is media outlet’s top pick for donating to cancer research

    by TFRI Admin | May 17, 2017

    Terry FoxAn article published in The National Post in mid-May has identified the Terry Fox Foundation as one of the best places to donate to cancer research in Canada.

    “Some charities, such as the Terry Fox Foundation, direct the vast majority of their spending to cancer research. Others spend little, even nothing, on research at all,” writes reporter Claire Brownell.

    The article, part of the newspaper’s multi-part series New War on Cancer, recommends donating to the Foundation.

    Around 84 per cent of all TFF funds go directly to cancer research – a percentage The National Post found to be significantly higher than the average charity.

    Read the full story here: http://news.nationalpost.com/features/the-fundraising-complex

  • Four 2017 New Investigator award recipients announced

    by TFRI Editor | Apr 25, 2017

    Awards to three New Investigators were made by TFRI in late December 2016, for a total investment of $1.3 million. A fourth New Investigator Award was also made possible through the generosity of a private donor to the Terry Fox Foundation, the late Gregory Hohn of Penticton, B.C. Each award is valued at $450,000 for a term of three years, commencing Jan. 1, 2017.

    Recipients are:

    • Dr. Housheng Hansen He, scientist, Princess Margaret, UHN, and assistant professor, University of Toronto Department of Medical Biophysics.  “Understanding the Function of Circular RNA in Tumour Hypoxia.” Mentoring program: TFRI PPG on “A Research Pipeline for Hypoxia-Directed Precision Cancer Medicine,” led by Drs. Rob Bristow and Bradly Wouters. 

    • Dr. Frédérick Mallette, assistant professor, Université de Montréal Department of Medicine/Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital Research Centre. “Deciphering the Oncogenic Properties of Cancer-Associated IDH1/2 Mutations.” Mentoring program: TFRI PPG in “Oncometabolism and the Molecular Pathways that Fuel Cancer,” led by Dr. Vincent Giguère.

    • Dr. Peter Stirling, scientist, Terry Fox Laboratory, BC Cancer Agency, and assistant professor, UBC Department of Medical Genetics.  “Functioning SWI/SNF Chromatin Remodeller Mutations in Rare and Common Tumours.” Mentoring program: TFRI PPG on “Genomics of Forme Fruste Tumours: New Vistas on Cancer Biology and Management,” led by Dr. David Huntsman.

    • Dr. Trevor Pugh, scientist, Princess Margaret, UHN, and assistant professor, University of Toronto. "Single Cell Dissection and Non-Invasive Monitoring of Childhood Cancer and Immune Systems During Treatment." Mentoring program: "Precision Oncology for Young People (PROFYLE)," led by Dr. David Malkin.

    TFRI has featured profiles on each recipient on our website.

    A total of 10 applications were received for the competition. Reviewers said all applicants prepared high-quality research proposals and the ranking of applicants was challenging.

  • New test identified to detect men at high risk of aggressive prostate cancer

    by TFRI Admin | Mar 24, 2017

    Dr. BoutrosTFRI New Investigator Paul Boutros is among a team of researchers who have found a new test that can help to determine men at high risk for aggressive prostate cancer. The findings, published in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute, could help fill an unmet need for reliable genetic testing for prostate cancer from a simple blood sample. This test would be very similar to how the test for BRCA genes is used to guide treatment for breast cancer. 

    “The results of our study show that six to 14 per cent of men carried KLK6 gene variants,” says Dr. Boutros, principal investigator, informatics and bio-computing, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR). “Men with these mutations had three times the risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer. Identifying these patients means that they can more quickly receive the intensive therapy they require and spare patients at lower risk unnecessary therapy. We look forward to seeing these findings improve care for prostate cancer patients worldwide.”

    Lead author Dr. Laurent Briollais, senior investigator, Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, Dr. Alexandre Zlotta, director, uro-oncology, Mount Sinai Hospital and Dr. Boutros, along with other collaborators, identified germline mutations in the Kallikrein (KLK) 6 region of the genome that could be used to identify men who harbour the deadliest forms of prostate cancer. 

    “As an oncologist I know first hand how valuable it would be to have a genetic tool that could help me choose the best course of action with my patients,” explains Dr. Zlotta. “It would help spare patients with indolent disease from unnecessary treatments and their side effects and aid in directing patients with aggressive disease to the appropriate treatment.” 

    To identify the relevant mutations the scientists analyzed the blood samples of 1,858 patients from three independent groups which included men from Canada, Europe and the U.S. 

    Dr. Neil Fleshner (Princess Margaret Cancer Centre) was instrumental in providing the study with its Canadian cohort. Through their analysis they found that variations in the KLK6 region were associated with aggressive prostate cancer, defined as those with a Gleason Score of eight or greater. The Gleason Score is used to stratify results of the standard PSA test, which is based upon the KLK3 region (a genomic ‘neighbour’ of KLK6).

    The KLK6 variants also independently predicted treatment failure after surgery or radiation for prostate cancer in a fourth independent cohort of 130 men from the Canadian Prostate Cancer Genome Network. Boutros and Dr. Rob Bristow (PMCC) analyzed this cohort using whole genome sequencing.

    The tool most routinely used by clinicians to diagnose prostate cancer is a blood test that measures the amount of prostate specific antigen (PSA) in the serum. While the test is useful for identifying men with the disease, it cannot accurately distinguish between those cancers that are likely to lead to death and those that are indolent and pose little threat. 

    This research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, Prostate Cancer Canada, Movember and the Terry Fox Research Institute.





    TFRI New Investigator Paul Boutros among team to identify new test that could help determine men at risk for aggressive prostate cancer

    “The results of our study show that six to 14 per cent of men carried KLK6 gene variants,” says Boutros. “Men with these mutations had three times the risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer. Identifying these patients means that they can more quickly receive the intensive therapy they require and spare patients at lower risk unnecessary therapy. We look forward to seeing these findings improve care for prostate cancer patients worldwide.”
    “The results of our study show that six to 14 per cent of men carried KLK6 gene variants,” says Boutros. “Men with these mutations had three times the risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer. Identifying these patients means that they can more quickly receive the intensive therapy they require and spare patients at lower risk unnecessary therapy. We look forward to seeing these findings improve care for prostate cancer patients worldwide.”
    “The results of our study show that six to 14 per cent of men carried KLK6 gene variants,” says Boutros. “Men with these mutations had three times the risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer. Identifying these patients means that they can more quickly receive the intensive therapy they require and spare patients at lower risk unnecessary therapy. We look forward to seeing these findings improve care for prostate cancer patients worldwide.”
  • Multiple Myeloma Announcement

    by TFRI Editor | Feb 15, 2017
    TFRI announces its M4 Study today in Saint John

    • PHOTOGRAPHS AND BIOS (As Available)
    • VIDEOS
      • Principal investigators Drs. Reece and Trudel (PM) explain their role in M4 study Watch

    Dr. Tony Reiman
    Dr. Tony Reiman

    Dr. Reece
    Dr. Reece

    Dr. Suzanne Trudal
    Dr. Suzanne Trudel

    New Brunswick-led national research team aims for tailored treatments for patients with incurable multiple myeloma through Terry Fox Research Institute's $5-million investment

    Wednesday, February 22, 2017

    Saint John, NB - The Terry Fox Research Institute today announced an investment of $5-million for New Brunswick researchers and their colleagues at other cancer centres in Canada to study how new precision medicine tools could improve, and potentially save, the lives of patients diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

    "This $5-million for the Multiple Myeloma Molecular Monitoring Study will enable this world-class research team to apply cutting-edge tools of precision and personalized medicine to better characterize, monitor and treat the disease over time, with the goal of identifying patients whose treatments should be tailored from the current standard of care for the best outcomes possible. We hope this strategy will result in more lives saved. This is our first pan-Canadian study led from New Brunswick and we congratulate Dr. Reiman and his team for bringing together this talented group," said Dr. Victor Ling, TFRI president and scientific director.

    Dr. Tony Reiman, a medical oncologist and professor at the University of New Brunswick, will lead the team, which comprises researchers and clinicians at multiple sites including Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. He hopes the five-year study will result in game-changing new approaches to identifying, treating and monitoring the disease in patients, including those who are at high risk of relapse. He hopes their work will bring strong, evidenced-based results that impact the current standard of care.

    "Currently, patients are all treated and monitored the same way. For patients for whom treatment fails, we need to be able to find new ways of doing things to change that. We're working with sensitive newer techniques to better understand characteristics of the disease that escape our treatments and persist, even during clinical remission, that are going to eventually cause the patient to have a relapse, so we can find better ways to kill those cancer cells that survive the initial treatment," says Dr. Reiman.

    His team in Saint John will organize all the participating centres as well as conduct its own research and receive and bank specimens (blood and marrow) from the 250 myeloma patients that will participate in the project.

    M4 study team members will use tests based on advanced techniques like immunoglobulin gene sequencing, multiparameter flow cytometry, PET scans, circulating tumour DNA analysis, and novel drug resistance assays to evaluate the patient specimens and other biosamples. Principal investigators at the partner sites are: Drs. Donna Reece and Suzanne Trudel, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre; Dr. Nizar Bahlis, University of Calgary; and Dr. François Bénard, BC Cancer Agency.

    The research study is significant to Saint John resident and myeloma patient Susan Collins, who is already an active research participant. "Hope is what sustains all myeloma patients. We hope for a better quality of life and survival until the time when doctors tell their patients myeloma is treatable and curable. Research offers hope for a cure and, in a small way, by supporting studies like this one, I feel I am making a contribution to unlocking the doors to a cure," she remarks. Patients will be recruited by the study investigators at their own sites.

    Multiple myeloma is a deadly disease of the blood and bone marrow. Many people live only months after diagnosis, and only 40 percent are alive after five years. Between 2,000 to 3,000 Canadians are affected by this disease annually. New treatments are need to help save and extend the quality of life for these patients.

    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 UNB
    The University of New Brunswick (UNB) is Canada's oldest English-language university. Founded in 1785, the multi-campus institution has a rich history and a dynamic focus on innovation, experiential learning and entrepreneurship. UNB has more than 10,500 students from nearly 100 countries while several thousand more take UNB courses online and at partner institutions around the world.

    For more information, or to schedule an interview, please contact:
    Heather Campbell, Communications Officer, UNB; tel: 506-648-5697, hcampbel@unb.ca,
    Kelly Curwin, Communications, TFRI; tel: 778-237-8158, kcurwin@tfri.ca
  • Cambridge MP Bryan May congratulates TFRI and partners in House of Commons

    by TFRI Editor | Feb 15, 2017
    Bryan May

    In the House of Commons today, Cambridge MP Bryan May congratulated TFRI and its joint pilot project partners -- The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and the BC Cancer Agency -- for their new partnership to accelerate precision medicine. You can listen to his remarks on You Tube. or read them below.

    Mr Bryan May, (Cambridge, Liberal) : 

    Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to bring congratulations and highlight the excellent ongoing work in the fight against cancer.

    The Terry Fox Research Institute, the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, and the BC Cancer Agency are starting a pilot project to combine the work of investigators and clinicians. This joint project and framework will provide invaluable insight into how to fight cancer.

    This collaboration invests $12 million in four projects: a framework for genomic profiling of cancer patients; optimizing T-cell immunotherapy for ovarian cancer; molecular imaging to improve managing prostate cancer; and building the infrastructure for clinical and genomic data-sharing.

    As we work towards a cure, I want to applaud the leadership and collaboration of the Terry Fox Research Institute, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, and the BC Cancer Agency. Thanks, and well done.

    Learn more about the pilot project

  • The Terry Fox Research Institute, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and BC Cancer Agency launch innovative pilot project to accelerate precision medicine in Canada

    by TFRI Editor | Feb 02, 2017

    Pilot project announcement1
    Left to right, unveiling the project name: Dr. Khokha (UHN), Dr. Ling (TFRI), Minister Philpott, Dr. Moore (BC Cancer Agency) and Dr. Wouters (UHN).


    Friday, February 3, 2017

    Adam GreenTerry Fox Foundation Terry's Team Member and cancer survivor Adam Green
    Toronto, ON - In a national first, today the Terry Fox Research Institute and two leading cancer centres in Canada -- the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto and the BC Cancer Agency in Vancouver -- launched an innovative pilot project to accelerate precision medicine for their cancer patients. The initiative comes at a time when other developed countries are investing heavily in strategies to improve survival from cancer through precision medicine and increased collaboration. The pilot will provide much-needed evidence on how best to roll out a broader vision for data sharing and collaborative translational and clinical research to enable precision medicine for cancer patients.

    The pilot is the first phase for developing and implementing a national program that will link high-performing comprehensive cancer research centres, hospitals and universities and their clinical and laboratory programs across Canada through the Terry Fox Designated Canadian Comprehensive Cancer Centres Network.

    "With the support of the Terry Fox Foundation, TFRI is pleased to have provided catalytic funding to bring this novel and innovative research initiative forward. A project of this scope with two leading cancer care and research institutions working together in this way has never been done before," remarks Dr. Victor Ling, president and scientific director of the Terry Fox Research Institute. "Our ultimate goal through this collaboration is to create a national network of designated Terry Fox comprehensive cancer centres that will be able to deliver excellence in personalized and precision medicine from coast to coast to coast."

    "As a world-leading comprehensive cancer centre, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre has made strategic investments to enable personalized cancer therapy through efforts in immune therapy, genetic sequencing and molecular imaging, thanks to the ongoing support of The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation. We are excited to participate in this new strategic partnership with the Terry Fox Research Institute and the BC Cancer Agency to enable collaborative efforts in these areas and to accelerate the implementation of effective, targeted therapies for patients," said Dr. Bradly Wouters, executive vice-president, science and research, University Health Network.

    "This project will leverage BC's pioneering contributions in massively parallel sequencing and cutting-edge research in cancer immunology and molecular imaging. Along with our funding partner, the BC Cancer Foundation, we are committed to excellence in cancer care and research and we are pleased to be a founding partner in this initiative. We will share our expertise and learn from each other to make a substantive difference for cancer patients in British Columbia and across Canada" said Dr. François Bénard, vice-president research at the BC Cancer Agency.

    "As a long-time supporter and Terry Fox Run organizer who is inspired by Terry's selfless example, courage and unwavering determination, I am delighted to witness these world-leading organizations working together, bringing hope and innovative care to help more patients survive their cancers," said Pam Damoff, Member of Parliament for Oakville North-Burlington. "Terry Fox reminded us that anything is possible if we try. This partnership is an example of that."

    Through the pilot project, these organizations will provide complementary analyses of specimens (e.g. tumour biopsies and blood samples), identify and determine ways to harmonize their research processes, set up an IT infrastructure for data sharing, and develop resources required to conduct multi-centre precision medicine clinical trials. The initial focus will be on colorectal, ovarian, and prostate cancers, with the goal of improving the health outcomes of patients through treatment by precision medicine.

    Each organization is contributing $4 million over the next two years for a $12-million total investment that will see multidisciplinary teams focus on four specific research thrusts that are institutional priorities: genomics, immunotherapy, molecular imaging and data sharing.

    Networking and shared efforts of comprehensive cancer centres already operate in many other countries, including the US and Europe. A multimillion-dollar continuing annual investment from many funding sources is required for the pan-Canadian network to become fully operational.

    Several national and international cancer experts have voiced their support for the TFRI-led initiative, saying that Canada already has many elements that would contribute to the network's success and its aim to transform cancer care so current and future generations will benefit from precision medicine.

    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

    About Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network
    The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre has achieved an international reputation as a global leader in the fight against cancer and delivering personalized cancer medicine. The Princess Margaret, one of the top five international cancer research centres, is a member of the University Health Network, which also includes Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and the Michener Institute for Education; all affiliated with the University of Toronto. For more information, go to www.theprincessmargaret.ca or www.uhn.ca.

    About BC Cancer Agency
    The BC Cancer Agency, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, is committed to reducing the incidence of cancer, reducing the mortality from cancer and improving the quality of life of those living with cancer. It provides a comprehensive cancer control program for the people of British Columbia by working with community partners to deliver a range of oncology services, including prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, research, education, supportive care, rehabilitation and palliative care. For more information, visit www.bccancer.bc.ca or follow us Twitter @BCCancer_Agency.

    For more information, or to schedule an interview with any of the institutional leads, please contact:

    TFRI: Kelly Curwin, 604-675-8223; 778-237-8158 (cell) kcurwin@tfri.ca
    PM/UHN: Jane Finlayson, Public Affairs, (416)946-2846 jane.finlayson@uhn.ca
    BCCA: Pamela Gole, Communications, 604-877-6282 pamela.gole@bccancer.bc.ca

    Pilot Project Backgrounder (PDF): Click Here

    Q&A about The Terry Fox Canadian Comprehensive Cancer Centres Network (PDF): Click Here
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