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TFRI News | February 18, 2020

The Terry Fox Research Institute and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research partner to invest $2-million to support research of promising new investigators

Vancouver, BC. Five promising, Toronto-based, early career cancer researchers will receive a total of $2-million for work they will undertake through a joint partnership between the Terry Fox Research Institute (TFRI) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The funds will support research on a deadly brain cancer called glioblastoma, cancer of the head and neck, and children, adolescent and young adult cancers.

For the 2020 New Investigator Award competition, TFRI and CIHR joined forces to support the best and brightest early career scientists to lead research projects and, at the same time, be mentored by established research teams. The TFRI and CIHR partnership allowed more awards to be provided. All five winners come from institutions in Toronto.

The recipients are:

  • Dr. Avram Denburg, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), Toronto; $427K for: Access to precision therapies for young people with cancer: From genomic innovation to health system implementation
  • Dr. Phedias Diamandis, University Health Network, Toronto; $450K for: Deciphering the therapy-driven molecular evolution of glioblastoma stem cells
  • Dr. Antoine Eskander, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto; $445K for: Symptom burden as a predictor of emergency room visits and unplanned hospitalizations in patients with head and neck cancer
  • Dr. Sumit Gupta, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), Toronto; $271K for: Measuring and targeting symptom burden among adolescents and young adults with cancer; A population-based study using routinely collected patient reported outcomes
  • Dr. Jüri Reimand, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, Toronto; $450K for: Deciphering recurrence of glioblastoma for precision medicine using multi-omics data integration

“The potential for mentorship from other sources and cross-fertilization in different fields were a big part of this year’s competition because of our partnership and CIHR’s broader mandate to support research in cancer control,ˮ says Dr. Victor Ling, TFRI’s president and scientific director. "These early career investigators will benefit from the mentoring of established scientists, but at the same time they will bring a new perspective and energy to the established research teams that are mentoring them.”

Under the partnership, TFRI agreed to adjudicate the competition and candidates from all disciplines were eligible to apply. The awardees will be mentored by a team already supported by either TFRI or CIHR. Four awards are for three years; one is for two. The total invested is $2.04-million.

“It is in our collective best interest to encourage Canada’s brightest, most motivated young investigators to reach their full potential,” Dr. Stephen Robbins, Scientific Director of CIHR’s Institute of Cancer Research. “One such way is to allow the next generation of cancer researchers to join well-established teams across multiple disciplines that are at the forefront of cancer research. This is why we are pleased to join forces with the Terry Fox Research Institute. The 2020 New Investigator Award will provide the five recipients with a unique opportunity to make their mark, as they use their considerable skills and talents to pursue our shared vision: a world free of life-threatening diseases such as glioblastoma. All, under the watchful eye of an established mentor."

Neuropathologist Dr. Phedias Diamandis is one of the competition’s awardees. He will use the funding he receives to study glioblastoma research at the University Health Network.

“The structure of the New Investigator Award is unique in the sense that you get the best of both worlds: you can benefit from the momentum and knowledge that these larger, more established teams provide, but you also have dedicated funding to ask your own questions and explore your own hypotheses,ˮ says Dr. Diamandis. “There are no other grants that really allow you to work with a world-class team while also giving you the opportunity to develop as an independent scientist.”

The Terry Fox New Investigator Award provides research operating grants to support future leaders as they develop their independent careers in cancer research. The award provides a single research grant of up to $450,000 for three years to investigators within the first seven years of a first faculty-level appointment in Canada. New Investigator applicants for the 2020 competition had to be sponsored and mentored by an existing Terry Fox- or Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)- funded program.

About TFRI:

The Terry Fox Research Institute (TFRI), established in 2007, invests in world-class, collaborative cancer research teams and partnerships. Together with its research and funding partners, TFRI is working to inspire the transformation of cancer research in this country by bringing together leading cancer research and treatment organizations in Canada and empowering them under the framework of the Marathon of Hope Cancer Centres Network.

About CIHR:

At the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) we know that research has the power to change lives. As Canada's health research investment agency, we collaborate with partners and researchers to support the discoveries and innovations that improve our health and strengthen our health care system.


Kelly Curwin, Chief Communications Officer, Terry Fox Research Institute; o: 604-675-8223; c: 778-237-8158