skip to main content
TFRI News | December 08, 2010

Terry Fox Foundation awards four promising new investigators with nearly $2 million

Four new phenoms in BC and Ontario to further cancer research

Three of four recipients of the TFF's New Investigator Awards, announced Dec. 8, are from British Columbia (l-r): Dr. Cathie Garnis, UBC/BC Cancer Agency; Dr. Amina Zoubeidi, UBC/Vancouver Prostate Centre at VGH; and Dr. Ryan Brinkman, BC Cancer Agency/UBC. The fourth recipient is Dr. Uri Tabori (see inset photo), The Hospital for Sick Children/University of Toronto in Ontario.
Vancouver, BC - Today, The Terry Fox Foundation (TFF) announced funding of $1.8 million in career awards to four promising scientists under its New Investigator (NI) Awards program. Three researchers working in British Columbia and a fourth working in Ontario will receive the funds to further their quest to unravel the complexities of cancer.

Their areas of focus are quite varied - from targeting molecular activity to halt progression of prostate cancer, to developing techniques for early detection of lung cancer, to developing software to enhance the identification and analysis of normal and malignant stem cells, to targeting and to investigating the mechanics of potential new therapeutics for brain cancer in children. All four researchers share a common goal to improve cancer outcomes.

TFF has funded career awards for top new investigators for over three decades. The awards are highly competitive and recipients are determined by a review committee of international scientific experts. The annual competition draws applications from the nation's best new talent and awards are made to those applicants selected to be the most outstanding.

"The caliber of the applicants competing for the TFF's New Investigator Awards was nothing short of spectacular," notes Dr. Victor Ling, president and scientific director of The Terry Fox Research Institute (TFRI), which manages TFF's research investment.

"New investigators are often at a disadvantage when they compete with seasoned scientists for research funding, so we have dedicated funding to support them as they conduct their investigations and establish themselves in the field of cancer research," Dr. Ling explains. "Often they are brimming with promising ideas for preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer, but they lack the necessary funding, infrastructure and guidance to advance their work," he adds.

Commencing this year, TFF has embedded a new, unique component into the Awards program: mentorship of young investigators by established scientists who are currently working on TFF and TFRI-funded projects. Each new investigator is linked to existing funded programs, and is supported by the principal investigators who have committed to mentoring the new researchers and integrating them into their research teams.

"By pairing young stars with senior researchers, we are creating an environment for greater success," Dr. Ling says. "While the merit of the new investigator applications stand on their own, this unique award supports them by providing them with a productive and insightful environment provided by senior colleagues."

Specifically, the $1.8 million in funding will support the work of three researchers in Vancouver and one in Toronto. They are:

Note: Affiliation is by host research institute

Dr. Ryan Brinkman, BC Cancer Agency/University of British Columbia
Dr. Brinkman, an associate professor of medical genetics at the University of British Columbia and a senior scientist with the BC Cancer Agency's Terry Fox Laboratory, will receive $435,252 over the next three years to examine flow informatics approaches for the identification of normal and malignant stem cells. His work will aid in speeding up the diagnosis and prognosis of blood cancers. Mentoring Dr. Brinkman will be Principal Investigator Dr. Keith Humphries, a senior scientist at the Agency and professor of medicine at UBC, whose project - "Cell fate and control of normal and malignant stem cells" - has received a $5.1 million grant from TFF.

Dr. Cathie Garnis, University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine/BC Cancer Agency
Dr. Garnis, an assistant professor with the Division of Otolaryngology in UBC Faculty of Medicine and a senior scientist with the BC Cancer Agency, will receive $450,000 over three years to identify and evaluate lung cancer markers that can be detected in the bloodstream and may be useful in early detection of lung cancer. The project is designed to develop simple, cost-effective blood tests for early diagnosis of lung cancer. Dr. Garnis project supports Co-Principal Investigator and mentor Dr. Stephen Lam's study - Early Detection of Lung Cancer: A Pan-Canadian Study, which will receive almost $7 million in funding over five years from TFRI and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. Dr. Lam is a professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia and Chair, Provincial Lung Tumor Group, BC Cancer Agency.

Dr. Amina Zoubeidi, University of British Columbia/The Vancouver Prostate Centre at VGH
An award of $449,964 will be given to Dr. Amina Zoubeidi, an assistant professor, Department of Urologic Sciences, University of British Columbia and research scientist with the Vancouver Prostate Centre at VGH, over the next three years for her project designed to determine if the expression of a protein - Lyn kinase - promotes prostate cancer progression. She will examine whether targeting the molecule for inhibition will halt progression of castration resistant prostate cancer and ultimately improve treatment. Mentoring Dr. Zoubeidi will be Principal Investigator Dr. Paul Rennie, a professor of urologic sciences at UBC and director of laboratory research, Vancouver Prostate Centre, whose prostate cancer progression project has received a TFF New Frontiers Program Grant for nearly $6.8 million.

Dr. Uri Tabori, The Hospital for Sick Children / University of Toronto
Dr. Uri Tabori, a staff physician in the Division of Haematology / Oncology and scientist in the Genetics and Genome Biology Program at Sick Kids and an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Toronto, will receive $448,520 over three years to further his work in pediatric neuroblastoma and brain tumours. He will explore the exhaustion of tumour initiating cells by targeting their self-renewal capacity with telomerase inhibition. Tumour stem cell exhaustion may transform the treatment and survival for children with neural tumours and prevent relapse. Dr. Tabori's project is linked with Principal Investigator and mentor Dr. Rob Rottapel, a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto and the University Health Network, who leads the $23-million Ontario Institute for Cancer Research-Terry Fox Research Institute (OICR-TFRI) Selective Therapies Program.

For additional information about the New Investigator awards and their associated TFF funded projects, please visit

About the Terry Fox Foundation
The Terry Fox Foundation maintains the vision and principles of Terry Fox while raising money for cancer research through the annual Terry Fox Run, National School Run Day and other fundraising initiatives. To date, over $550 million has been raised worldwide for cancer research in Terry Fox's name. The first Terry Fox Run was held in 1981, with The Terry Fox Foundation being created in 1988. Its national headquarters are located in Chilliwack, BC and it has offices in 9 provinces.

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 45 cancer hospitals and research organizations across Canada. TFRI headquarters are in Vancouver, BC.

[ Media Backgrounder ]

Media Contact
Kelly Curwin
Chief Communications Officer
Terry Fox Research Institute