Society announces $4.5 million in new funding for 23 high-risk,
high-reward innovation grants
TORONTO, Feb. 29, 2012 /CNW/ - A London, Ontario, cardiologist is
turning cancer research on its head by proposing that increasing the
blood supply to a tumour (in effect, feeding the tumour) could actually
prevent cancer from spreading to other parts of the body. Previous
research had suggested a more intuitive route - that starving a tumour
of its blood supply could prevent it from spreading, however that
method (known as anti-angiogenesis) has shown limited success to date.
In fact, Dr Geoffrey Pickering's theory is that starving tumours may
actually make them more aggressive, rather than less. With a $200,000
Innovation Grant from the Canadian Cancer Society, he will test his
tumour-feeding idea which, if correct, could revolutionize the way
cancer patients are treated.
"A key reason why cancer exerts its deadly toll is because it can spread
to different organs," says Dr Pickering, a cardiologist and professor
of medicine at the University of Western Ontario. "The concept of
deliberately improving the blood supply to a tumour may sound
counterintuitive, but we believe it has real potential to stop the
tumour from spreading - to render it non-aggressive."
Dr Pickering and his team will test the theory on mice with various
types of cancers, including breast, lung, brain, and colon. Using
specialized microscope techniques and MRI technology, they will observe
blood flow in the mice to determine if the "overfed" tumours become
"calm" and therefore do not spread to other organs.
In addition, says Dr Pickering, there are other potential benefits to
this method. "By opening up the blood supply, cancer drugs may be able
to reach the entire tumour and thus be more effective. As well,
radiation therapy works better when tumours receive a good amount of
oxygen through the blood," he says.
Innovation Grants: "Creative, unorthodox ideas for solving cancer
problems in different ways"
Dr Pickering, who has many years experience as a cardiologist and
scientist, has never applied his research ideas to fighting cancer
before. "I had been mulling this idea over in my head for a while but
when I saw the description of the Canadian Cancer Society Innovation
Grants it really caught my eye," he says. "They were looking for
scientists with creative, unorthodox ideas for solving cancer problems
in different ways. And so I applied for funding and I'm elated that I
can now go ahead with this research."
These are the Canadian Cancer Society's first-ever Innovation Grants.
The goal of this new program is to support unconventional concepts,
approaches or methodologies to address problems in cancer research.
All 23 new projects (link to: http://www.cancer.ca/research/Funding%20Results/Recent%20Results/Results%20of%20the%20October%202011%20Innovation%20grants%20competition.aspx?sc_lang=en) include elements of creativity, curiosity, investigation, exploration
and opportunity. The projects were ranked according to their potential
for "high reward" - to significantly impact our understanding of cancer
and generate new approaches to combat the disease by introducing novel
ideas into use or practice. As competition for grant funding increases
worldwide, peer review panels have become more conservative and
risk-averse, emphasizing feasibility more than innovation.
"We are thrilled to be able to fund these outstanding, novel projects
that show incredible creativity and great potential for their impact in
the fight against cancer," says Dr Christine Williams, Vice-President,
Research, Canadian Cancer Society. "We await the results of these
studies with tremendous excitement."
It is hoped this grant program will accelerate the introduction of
innovation into the entire cancer research system and contribute to the
scientific idea pipeline. Grant budgets may be up to $100,000 per year
and a maximum of $200,000 per grant. Funding is provided to support the
direct costs of research, including supplies, salaries, and equipment
associated with the proposed work.
A few of the other new Innovation projects:
Dr Goetz Ehrhardt, Toronto, $199,290 - Dr Ehrhardt is studying an ancient sea creature which may hold a key
to the development of new tools to detect, diagnose and predict the
outcome of multiple myeloma and other cancers. The antibodies of sea
lampreys have a radically different protein architecture that allows
them to recognize their targets with a high degree of specificity, a
unique quality which may help in the development of these tools.
Dr Fei-Fei Liu, Toronto, $198,320 - Up to 40% of patients who receive radiation therapy experience fatigue
but the reasons why this happens are not well understood. In this study
involving women undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer, Dr Liu
will test her hypothesis that radiation changes the bone marrow,
affecting the movement of blood stem cells and the production of
different proteins that cross into the brain and cause fatigues
Dr Christopher Loewen, Vancouver, $200,000 - Tumours may grow and spread as a result of changes in metabolism,
including acidity levels in the body. Dr Loewen is using a simple
organism, yeast, to study biosensors that monitor acidity and regulate
the genes that control tumour growth, with the goal of better
understanding the metabolic changes that can occur in human cancers,
which may lead to the identification of new treatment targets and the
development of new drugs.
Dr Tamra Werbowetski-Ogilvie, Winnipeg, $179,835 - Medulloblastoma, a devastating pediatric brain tumour, leaves affected
children with permanent neurological side effects and a high incidence
of recurrence following harsh treatments. In this project, Dr
Werbowestski-Ogilvie is studying whether the Otx2 gene, which is
involved in brain development, may contribute to the earliest stages of
medulloblastoma, possibly making it a critical target to identify and
treat brain tumours before they develop multiple genetic changes and
About the Canadian Cancer Society
The Canadian Cancer Society fights cancer by doing everything we can to
prevent cancer, save lives and support people living with cancer. Join
the fight! Go to fightback.ca to find out how you can help. When you want to know more about cancer,
visit our website at cancer.ca or call our toll-free bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1-888
SOURCE Canadian Cancer Society (National Office)
For further information:
Canadian Cancer Society