New Canada-Israel research partnership to identify molecular drivers of metastatic pancreatic cancer

TORONTO, April 23, 2014 /CNW/ - A significant, multi-year commitment by Sylvia M. G. Soyka, director, and the Board of Trustees of the SMGS Family Foundation to the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University (CFHU) announced today will be used to launch an international research project in pancreatic cancer to identify molecular drivers associated with metastasis. This will improve understanding and clinical management of a fatal disease. Researchers at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Sheba Medical Center in Israel and at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) in Canada will work together to uncover the molecular landscape of pancreatic cancer and the underlying pathways that are driving the disease.

Pancreatic cancer remains the most deadly common solid tumour in developed countries. Approximately 80 per cent of patients present with advanced disease, are not eligible for surgery and have extremely poor prognosis. These advanced forms of pancreatic cancer have generally been understudied. Advances in combating this aggressive disease require detailed molecular analysis of tumours to uncover the pathways driving tumour growth and dissemination. The ultimate goal of this collaborative effort is to discover new biomarkers for detection and diagnostics and potentially to find new targeted therapies that will improve patient outcomes.

Researchers based in Toronto and in Israel will continue to identify incident cases of pancreatic cancer and build a powerful research infrastructure. They will focus on augmenting their existing large bank of biospecimens and data from patients with early stage tumours by collecting material from patients with more advanced disease. OICR will use state-of-the-art technologies for high-throughput molecular analysis of tumours (e.g., DNA, RNA and protein activity), and its platforms will provide the support for extracting molecular data. Researchers at IMRIC will use the collected patient specimens to conduct detailed molecular analyses and experimental studies.

"This is an exciting opportunity to bring together world-class researchers from Canada and Israel, all of whom are experts in the field of pancreatic cancer research," said Dr. Tom Hudson, President and Scientific Director of OICR. "This partnership could lead to important new insights into one of the most deadly cancers."

"Sylvia Soyka's philanthropic dedication and determination to make a difference in the area of pancreatic cancer research serves as a role model and inspiration to those of us who are fortunate enough to be touched by her vision and focus. The SMGS Family Foundation has acted to make Sylvia's vision a reality," said Merle Goldman, Executive Vice President, CFHU.

"Pancreatic cancer remains the most deadly type of solid tumour in the developed world, with overall survival of less than five per cent," said Dr. Steven Gallinger, Senior Investigator at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital and Director of the Pancreatic Cancer Research Initiative at OICR. "By better understanding pancreatic cancer at a molecular level, we can develop the critical new personalized tools needed to detect, diagnose and treat pancreatic tumours sooner, and potentially improve the lives of those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the future."

"We are extremely excited about this new partnership. It opens a whole range of possibilities for tackling a terrible disease, for which we currently have very few tools. The partnership will allow us to bring together a unique combination of research approaches, cutting edge technologies, and clinical data and material. Importantly, it opens new avenues for scientific interaction," said Dr. Ittai Ben Porath, Chair of the Grafstein Cancer Network for Cancer Research.

"My father, Alex U. Soyka, was a remarkable and vital man who spent six weeks downhill-skiing and was not yet retired at the age of ninety. He did not die of old age; he died of metastasized pancreatic cancer three months to the day after formal diagnosis. It is a privilege to be able to pay tribute to the man he was by supporting this team of dedicated, skilled and passionate researchers," said Sylvia Soyka.

"I extend my congratulations to all the researchers involved in this international partnership, and I am delighted that Ontario researchers are playing a key role in such an important international initiative to help those facing pancreatic cancer," said Reza Moridi, Ontario Minister of Research and Innovation.

About OICR
OICR is an innovative cancer research and development institute dedicated to prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The Institute is an independent, not-for-profit corporation, supported by the Government of Ontario. OICR supports more than 1,600 investigators, clinician scientists, research staff and trainees located at its headquarters and in research institutes and academia across the Province of Ontario. OICR has key research efforts underway in small molecules, biologics, stem cells, imaging, genomics, informatics and bio-computing. For more information, please visit the website at www.oicr.on.ca.

About Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Founded in 1944 by Canadian philanthropist Allan Bronfman, Canadian Friends of The Hebrew University (CFHU) promotes awareness, leadership and financial support for The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. CFHU facilitates academic and research partnerships between Canada and Israel as well as establishing scholarships, supporting research, cultivating student and faculty exchanges and recruiting Canadian students to attend the Rothberg International School.  CFHU has chapters in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University is dedicated to supporting IMRIC through direct funding and by being the catalyst in developing key collaborative medical research partnerships between Canada and Israel. Through IMRIC, Israeli and Canadian scientists are working together to find solutions and better treatments for diseases such as Cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's, heart disease and brain-related disorders. Today, IMRIC enjoys 15 partnerships with Canadian organizations such as The Rick Hansen Foundation, McGill University, University of Toronto, University of British Columbia, and Toronto Western Hospital. Please visit our website www.cfhu.org.

SOURCE Ontario Institute for Cancer Research

For further information:

Ontario Institute for Cancer Research 
Christopher Needles
Manager, Strategic Communications
Email: christopher.needles@oicr.on.ca
Telephone: 416-673-8505
Mobile: 416-319-5252
@OICR_news

Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University 
Miriam Pilc-Levine
National Director, Communications and Marketing
Email: mpilc-levine@cfhu.org
Telephone: 416.485.8000 x121
@CdnFriendsHU