OICR invests $2.25 million to move cancer discoveries from the lab into the clinic

    TORONTO, April 22 /CNW/ - Dr. Tom Hudson, President and Scientific
Director of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) today announced
the investment of $2.25 million in five promising early stage cancer
technologies, including a minimally invasive treatment for tumours, a targeted
delivery system for a cancer therapeutic, two new tests that will help doctors
diagnose tumours earlier and a new therapeutic. The recipients will use the
funds to continue the early commercial development of their discoveries.

    The recipients of the awards are:

    -   Princess Margaret Hospital Cancer Program, University Health Network,
        Toronto, for Dr. Michael Sherar's novel radio frequency ablation
        technology for treatment of solid tumours;

    -   Princess Margaret Hospital Cancer Program, University Health Network,
        Toronto, for the development of novel chemical proteasome inhibitors
        by Dr. Aaron Schimmer;

    -   Princess Margaret Hospital Cancer Program, University Health Network,
        Toronto, for Dr. Gang Zheng's nanoparticles for targeted delivery of
        siRNA-based cancer therapeutics;

    -   Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, for the development of
        Glypican-3 as a novel marker for the early diagnosis of
        hepatocellular carcinoma by Dr. Jorge Filmus;

    -   University of Toronto, for Drs. Shana Kelley and Ted Sargent's
        GenEplex platform for detection of cancer biomarkers.

    "The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research is turning Ontario's
world-class cancer research into better prevention, improved patient care, new
technologies and more effective therapies for people," said Minister of
Research and Innovation, John Wilkinson. "Our government is proud to be
supporting leading scientists whose work in Ontario means a more vibrant
research community, a stronger economy, and better lives for people here at
home and around the world."
    OICR will actively participate in efforts to commercialize the selected
projects by providing additional expertise and resources and working
collaboratively with the recipients and their scientists.
    "It is important that promising cancer research projects receive the
funding they need to successfully move out of the lab and into the clinic,"
said Dr. Hudson. "We are happy to assist these researchers in developing these
technologies further and eventually create new treatments to help people
living with cancer."
    The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research is a new research institute,
moving Ontario to the forefront of discovery and innovation. It is dedicated
to research in prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
OICR is a not-for-profit corporation funded by the Government of Ontario
through the Ministry of Research and Innovation.


    Dr. Michael Sherar, Princess Margaret Hospital Cancer Program,
     University Health Network
    Novel radio frequency ablation technology for treatment of solid tumours

    Current procedures to treat tumours can require invasive surgery or
produce harmful side effects for patients. But researchers at the University
Health Network (UHN) are developing a new technology that will treat solid
tumours up to 6 cm in diameter non-invasively, including those found in liver,
kidney and lung. The treatment is based on a novel approach that deploys a
helical coil around the tumour through a small single needle insertion. Radio
frequency energy is applied to the coil, which then heats and kills the tumour
(called Radiofrequency Ablation or RFA). Conventional RFA is not effective in
completely eliminating larger tumours and has been shown to produce incomplete
results in smaller tumours due to uneven heating. The new RFA system produces
uniform heating within the tumour allowing the destruction of both large and
small tumours in a single treatment. This has the potential to minimize the
effects of surgery on patients living with cancer and reduce health care costs
due to lower risk of trauma and faster patient recovery time.

    Dr. Aaron Schimmer, Princess Margaret Hospital Cancer Program,
     University Health Network
    Development of novel chemical proteasome inhibitors

    It is estimated that in 2008 more than 44,000 new leukemia, lymphoma and
myeloma cases will be diagnosed in North America. Relapsed and refractory
hematologic malignancies have poor responses to standard therapy and are
associated with a poor prognosis. Allogeneic bone marrow transplantation is
the only curative option for patients obtaining a second remission, but this
treatment modality is not universally available due to lack of donors and
other factors. Thus, there is an urgent need for new agents in relapsed and
refractory hematologic malignancies such as acute leukemia. Dr. Aaron Schimmer
at the University Health Network (UHN) has identified the proteasome inhibitor
5AHQ, a compound related to an off-patent antimicrobial compound. Proteasome
inhibitors block the proteasomal break-down of excess and damaged proteins
inside the cell, thereby stopping certain tumours from developing further.
5AHQ binds to a different site on the proteasome than the proteasome inhibitor
bortezomib (Velcade(TM); sales of approximately $265 million in 2007 in North
America), which has been approved by Health Canada and the FDA for the
treatment of multiple myeloma and is currently under evaluation for the
treatment of other cancers. Dr. Schimmer has also shown that 5AHQ and
bortezomib's effects are synergistic and, due to the different mechanism of
proteasomal inhibition, 5AHQ cannot only be used as a primary treatment agent
but can also be used on patients that are bortezomib resistant.

    Dr. Gang Zheng, Princess Margaret Hospital Cancer Program,
     University Health Network
    Nanoparticles for targeted delivery of siRNA-based cancer therapeutics

    Short sequences of interfering RNA (siRNA) have a remarkable ability to
stop the activity of specific cancer causing genes. However, the biggest
challenge for potential siRNA-based therapeutics is finding a way to deliver
the siRNA to the correct cells and tissues at a level that is safe for
patients. Nanoparticles are a potential solution to this problem. These tiny
particles, much smaller than a human cell, can be used as carriers to deliver
siRNA to specific parts of the body. Dr. Gang Zheng at the University Health
Network has developed a novel class of nanoparticle carriers (termed "HPPS")
that offer unprecedented accuracy and efficiency in delivering siRNA. HPPS is
a simple and robust preparation made from nontoxic biocompatible components
that mimic the structure and superior pharmacologic properties of native HDL
(the 'good cholesterol' carrier found in the body). HPPS is smaller than most
siRNA nanoparticles with a precisely controlled size that is able to navigate
the body's natural defences.

    Dr. Jorge Filmus, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
    Glypican-3: a novel marker for the early diagnosis of hepatocellular

    Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the fifth most common cancer in the
world and it remains difficult to diagnose at the early stages. The blood
marker that is currently used, called AFP, is not elevated in most cases of
early stage cancer, and the average life expectancy of patents with
disseminated HCC is only six months. Dr. Jorge Filmus, a researcher at
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, has developed a test that could make
diagnosis easier and help patients to receive treatment sooner. The test uses
a protein called Glypican-3 (GPC3), which is found in about three quarters of
HCC tumours but not in normal liver or non-cancerous diseased liver. GPC3 can
be detected in the blood of the majority of people with HCC and because it is
not found in healthy people or in patients with hepatitis it can accurately
detect the presence of HCC. Patients with chronic hepatitis B or C are at high
risk of developing HCC but early detection significantly increases the chance
of a cure.

    Drs. Shana Kelley and Ted Sargent, University of Toronto
    Validation of the GenEplex electronic molecular diagnostic platform and
     application to oncological management

    There is a need for faster, more cost-effective and more sensitive
devices to detect known cancer biomarkers at the earliest stages of tumour
development. The GenEplex platform, co-invented by Dr. Shana Kelley and Dr.
Ted Sargent at the University of Toronto, will address this need with a new
chip-based technology that reports DNA, RNA and protein binding events as
strong, readily interpreted electrical currents. The platform consists of
simple electronic chips that are easy and cost effective to produce, and an
inexpensive chip reader that can be miniaturized. GenEplex was shown to be
highly effective by rapidly, correctly and inexpensively identifying a panel
of prostate cancer biomarkers in tumour tissue. The next stage of development
of GenEplex is validation of the platform using clinically accepted biomarkers
for leukemia.

For further information:

For further information: Rhea Cohen, Director of Communications, E-mail:
rhea.cohen@oicr.on.ca, Telephone: (416) 673-6642, Mobile: (416) 671-2846

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