skip to main content
Research Highlight | April 12, 2011

Investment helps novel drug for colorectal cancer move forward into clinical trial to determine tolerability for patients

Today marks the 31st anniversary of the Terry Fox Marathon of Hope

Vancouver, BC - The Terry Fox Research Institute's investment in a translational research project at the BC Cancer Agency has contributed to the development and licensing of a new form of an existing drug which will next be tested in humans to determine if it is more effective and less toxic for patients with colorectal cancer.

Irinophore CTM is a proprietary anti-tumour product developed by researchers at the BC Cancer Agency. Since 2008, TFRI has provided more than $700,000 for pre-clinical studies of the drug in a new formulation. In the laboratory, the drug has proven very encouraging for the future of colorectal cancer treatment.

"The Terry Fox Research Institute is pleased to have contributed to the work ofinvestigators at the BC Cancer Agency to bring a novel way to deliver a drug to the point where it is ready to be tested in human clinical trials, and its commercial development will now be taken on by a biotechnology company. We are committed to building effective models for translational research in Canada and this announcement today moves us one step forward in achieving this goal," said TFRI President and Scientific Director Dr. Victor Ling. "For us, this is a good example of how we can make a difference. We look forward to the results of the Phase I trial."

"The funding provided by TFRI enabled our research team to conduct important toxicology tests for this new formulation which have all gone very well to date. Further, with this funding we were able to leverage other investment in the project which enabled us to bring this drug to the point where it is today," commented Dr. Samuel Abraham, acting vice-president of research for the BC Cancer Agency.

Project principal investigators Drs. Dawn Waterhouse, research scientist, experimental therapeutics, and Marcel Bally head, experimental therapeutics, led this project to determine the dose of Irinophore CTM that can be safely administered, and how it compares to the current standard-of-care drug for colorectal cancer, Irinotecan. We now have evidence in over 15 different models of cancer demonstrating substantial improvements in anti-cancer effects at Irinophore CTM doses that are equal to or less than Irinotecan, and Irinophore CTM is also tolerated much better in the animal studies," says an enthusiastic Dr. Bally. "Everything looks really good in terms of moving it forward in the clinic."

Irinophore CTM is a nanomedicine which means its particles are especially tiny, designed to be 100 times smaller than a red blood cell. The drug molecules are encased in a liposome or fat "bubble" that protects the medicine until it reaches its destination, the cancerous tumour.

It has been shown to release slowly into the tumour and kill off cancerous cells more effectively than the currently used Irinotecan. Research supported by the TFRI also led to a new and unexpected discovery - Irinophore CTM treatment makes the abnormal tumour blood vessels become more like normal blood vessels.

"Another great potential benefit of this drug is that it doesn't appear to cause the gastro-intestinal side effects, sometimes fatal, that can be experienced with the drug currently used," says Dr. Karen Gelmon, medical oncologist, BC Cancer Agency and a project investigator. We need to confirm these findings in human studies, but at this time it looks very exciting."

About The Terry Fox Research Institute

Launched in October 2007, The Terry Fox Research Institute is the brainchild of The Terry Fox Foundation. 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 50 cancer hospitals and research organizations across Canada. TFRI headquarters are in Vancouver, BC.

About the 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. Visit for more information. The BC Cancer Foundation (, raises funds to support research and enhancements to patient care at the BC Cancer Agency.

For more information, contact:

Kelly Curwin
Chief Communications Officer

Allison Colina
BC Cancer Agency
T: 604-877-6272
C: 604-861-8079

BC Cancer Agency Media Release: Locally developed cancer fighting drug moves one step closer to clinical trial