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Press Release | Jul 11, 2019

TFRI and partners react to investment of $150M by Federal Minister of Health to create “Team Canada of Cancer Research”

MONCTON, NB – The federal Minister of Health, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, announced today an investment of $150 million over five years by the Government of Canada for the creation of the Marathon of Hope Cancer Centres network.

The network, which is led by the Terry Fox Research Institute (TFRI), will unite cancer centres across Canada for the first time, accelerating the implementation of precision medicine so that Canadian cancer patients can access the right treatment at the right time for their particular cancer, no matter where they live.

“We are thrilled to have the Minister of Health share this great news today and want to thank the Government of Canada for its leadership in making this investment and for this vote of confidence,” said Dr. Victor Ling, TFRI president and scientific director. “Under this new Terry Fox research network, centres and researchers will form the Team Canada of Cancer Research, sharing knowledge, harnessing technology and championing collaboration for the benefit of cancer patients from coast to coast to coast.”

Precision medicine is a highly promising framework for cancer research and care that takes the genetic characteristics of each patient and their cancers into consideration to personalize treatments, making them more effective and reducing negative side-effects associated with current therapies.

This newly formed “Team Canada of Cancer Research” will help make precision medicine for cancer a reality by bringing together the country’s top cancer centres and their researchers to share data and apply new technologies such as genomics, advanced imaging, big data and artificial intelligence for the benefit of patients.

Five regional consortia, representing cancer research and care institutions in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, the Prairies and Atlantic Canada, are expected to participate in the network once fully operational. A key network deliverable is the creation of a 15,000 high-quality shareable dataset of cancer cases completed by 2023.

When Terry Fox set out on his Marathon of Hope 39 years ago, his goal was to raise money for cancer research so that one day cures could be found for all cancers. By uniting cancer researchers like never before and accelerating precision medicine for cancer, the Marathon of Hope Cancer Centres network provides the best way forward to make Terry’s dream a reality.

“On the road 39 years ago, Terry wrote in his journal that he wanted ‘to try the impossible to show that it can be done.’ The Marathon of Hope Cancer Centres network will try the impossible every day in research labs, hospitals and institutes across Canada,” said Pam Damoff, MP for Oakville North-Burlington, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and Oakville Terry Fox Run Chair.  “Today we keep our promise to Terry to continue his dream of a world without cancer. One day we will look back and recognize this as the moment we truly transformed cancer research in Canada and around the world, just like Terry did.”

“We have remained protective of the Marathon of Hope branding, using it sparingly and selectively, waiting for the right opportunity to maximize its meaning and value. We have found that opportunity with the Marathon of Hope Cancer Centres network and precision medicine,” said Mr. Darrell Fox, on behalf of the Fox Family. “Terry said the Marathon of Hope must continue without him and he would be very proud to see this happening in this highly collaborative and inspired way.”

The funding, which was originally announced as part of Budget 2019, will be matched by the network’s partners who, for the first time, will work together to share data, resources and knowledge, all with the goal of achieving Terry Fox’s dream of a world without cancer.

Quotes from leading Canadian cancer researchers on the creation of the Marathon of Hope Cancer Centres network

Brad Wouters, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (Toronto), Co-lead BC-Ontario Cancer Consortium

"We are thrilled to participate in the Marathon of Hope Cancer Centres network – a new partnership with the Terry Fox Research Institute and our clinical and research partners across Canada –  which will keep Terry’s dream alive for newer, targeted and more effective treatments for cancer patients,” said Dr. Brad Wouters, executive vice-president of science and research at the University Health Network and senior scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. “The Marathon of Hope Cancer Centres network will accelerate the adoption of more effective precision medicine cancer therapies through new approaches to capture, share, and learn from molecular, imaging and patient-specific big data. Only a concerted, huge push from all us within a collaborative Marathon of Hope network will help us achieve this.”     

François Bénard, BC Cancer (Vancouver), Co-lead BC-Ontario Cancer Consortium

“The support from the Federal Government to create the Marathon of Hope Cancer Centres network will change the research and care landscape across Canada,” said Dr. François Bénard, vice-president of research at BC Cancer. “The creation of the network will provide an avenue for us to share data and apply new technologies, including genome science, across the country and help more Canadians than ever before. BC Cancer is looking forward to working with the Terry Fox Research Institute and our partners from coast to coast to coast to bring new ways to treat and care for Canadians with cancer.”

Anne-Marie Mes-Masson, University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre - CRCHUM (Montreal); Institutional lead, Montreal Cancer Consortium

“The application of precision medicine will bring new strategies to combat all types of cancers,” said Dr. Anne-Marie Mes-Masson, associate director of basic and fundamental research at the CRCHUM. The Marathon of Hope Cancer Centres Network will connect the best cancer researchers across Canada, and allow them to pool their resources and data, ultimately empowering cancer researchers to deliver on the promise of precision medicine. We are thankful for this investment by the Federal Government in the network and are extremely excited for the impact it will have on cancer patients in Quebec and around the country.”

Morag Park, Morris Goodman Cancer Research Centre (Montreal); Institutional lead, Montreal Cancer Consortium

“I am thrilled with the Government of Canada’s investment in the Marathon of Hope Cancer Centres network,” said Dr. Morag Park, director of McGill University’s Goodman Cancer Research Centre. “This initiative creates a tremendous opportunity to position Canada as a world leader in patient-centric cancer research. We are proud to be able to play an important part in this venture that will ultimately lead to better outcomes for patients.”

Sherri Christian, Memorial University of Newfoundland; Leader of Atlantic Cancer Consortium

“This is a new era for cancer research backed by precision medicine and we’re proud to be working towards finalizing our role as a galvanizing force behind the creation of this collaborative network,” said Dr. Sherri Christian, a biochemist at Memorial University of Newfoundland and leader if the Atlantic Cancer Consortium (ACC). “Our hope is to be able to officially launch the ACC later this year and to join the national Marathon of Hope Cancer Centres network soon after.”

Spencer Gibson, University of Manitoba; Co-leader of Prairies Cancer Research Consortium

“The Marathon of Hope Cancer Centres network will bring together scientists and clinicians from across the country, including the Prairies, so that any Canadian cancer patient can participate in the effort to deliver precision medicine,” said Dr. Spencer Gibson, director of translational research at University of Manitoba.