Pfizer and B.C. launch $9M collaboration to tackle cancer

VANCOUVER, Dec. 3 /CNW/ - Pfizer is entering into a three-year, $9-million research collaboration with the BC Cancer Agency and the Vancouver Prostate Centre, a University of British Columbia (UBC) and Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) Centre of Excellence, to tackle new treatment avenues for breast, ovarian and prostate cancer. This is the single-largest investment by Pfizer into British Columbia's public research sector, and it recognizes the strength and world-class cancer expertise that resides in this province.

"While British Columbia has some of the best cancer survival outcomes and lowest incidence rates in Canada, we are committed to building on our successes through investments and innovations in prevention, treatment and research," said Health Services Minister Kevin Falcon. "I would like to thank Pfizer Canada for their recognition of British Columbia's cancer research abilities with their investment of $9 million for research into new treatments of breast, ovarian and prostate cancer."

"This investment is a major step in the fight to control cancer in tumour areas that kill thousands of British Columbians and Canadians every year," said Paul Lévesque, president, Pfizer Canada. "Pfizer is excited about the opportunity to collaborate with The BC Cancer Agency and the Vancouver Prostate Centre, as they are outstanding translational research centres with international reputations. Overall, British Columbia's research climate, capacity and expertise are why Pfizer has brought close to $25 million of additional investment to the province since 2007."

The research collaboration project focuses on identifying new biomarkers and treatment targets for breast and ovarian cancer, and will help Pfizer to more efficiently test new agents to delay the progression and improve survival in prostate cancer patients. The BC Cancer Agency team, led by Dr. Samuel Aparicio, is investigating the genomic landscape of breast cancer using next-generation sequencing, siRNA screens and the BC Cancer Agency's unique anonymous breast cancer tumour bank with detailed outcomes data on over 4,000 frozen breast cancers. The collaboration aims to identify new therapeutic targets and new biomarkers of disease and treatment.

The Vancouver Prostate Centre, under the leadership of Dr. Martin Gleave, has developed an early drug discovery platform that brings multiple experts together to rapidly and efficiently evaluate the mechanism of action and efficacy of new drug molecules.

In addition, as part of the breast cancer research program, ovarian cancer will also be decoded to identify new and much needed biomarkers and therapeutic targets for more personalized approaches in ovarian cancer treatment. Dr. David Huntsman, director of the Ovarian Cancer Research Program at BC Cancer Agency and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute and associate professor, department of pathology and laboratory medicine, UBC, will lead that work.

"Research collaborations with experienced industry partners are vital to translating our discoveries into effective medicines for patients. Thanks to this collaboration with Pfizer, we will be able to extend our search for new therapeutic targets and biomarkers, using the BC Cancer Agency's unique breast tumour resource," said Dr. Samuel Aparicio, head of the molecular oncology and breast cancer research program at the BC Cancer Agency and a professor in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine at UBC. "By combining our platforms with our anonymous, long-term data on breast cancer patients in B.C., we hope to discover new drug targets and biomarkers that will be developed into new therapies."

The research at the Vancouver Prostate Centre will be conducted through the Translational Research Initiative for Accelerated Discovery and Development (PC-TRIADD), directed by Gleave, who is also a distinguished professor in the department of urologic sciences, UBC faculty of medicine, and the B.C. leadership chair in prostate cancer research.

"This partnership with one of the world's major pharmaceutical companies supports and accelerates one of our key areas of focus, which is to identify why prostate cancer becomes hormone-resistant and to use this information to develop new treatments that improve the quality and longevity of life for patients," said Gleave. "We are proud to work with Pfizer and the BC Cancer Agency to continue to bring discoveries from the lab to our patient clinic and offer the best in cutting-edge treatment to British Columbians."

It is hoped this collaboration will identify new molecular entities that can be developed into therapeutics to fight cancers more rapidly. Breast cancer is the second leading cancer-related cause of death in females, and prostate cancer is the third leading cancer-related cause of death in Canada.

The BC Cancer Agency and the Vancouver Prostate Centre are respectively programs of the Provincial Health Services Authority and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute and UBC's faculty of medicine.

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Project Overview

Increasingly, discovery and development for anti-cancer medicines is focusing on better understanding the genomic differences of particular cancer cell lines and finding highly targeted and more effective ways of blocking the different aspects of cancer proliferation and survival.

With the BC Cancer Agency's unique tissue bank with extensive outcomes data, the research promises to identify novel new targets for the treatment of breast cancer. The unique preclinical capabilities of the Vancouver Prostate Centre will strategically build a package of data (including biomarker information) supporting the entry of Pfizer compounds into phase 1 development. This activity will help decision making for future development of compounds in hormone dependent and/or independent prostate cancer.

One of the unique aspects of this investment/collaboration is that it brings together industry and academia in a complementary research initiative that leverages the research capabilities of the BC Cancer Agency and the Vancouver Prostate Centre, a UBC and VGH Centre of Excellence, with Pfizer's discovery and development expertise of new chemical entities.

Facts and Stats about Breast Cancer in Canada

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer). One in nine women is expected to develop breast cancer during her lifetime and one in 28 will die of it.

    In 2009 in Canada:(1)
    -   An estimated 22,700 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and
        5,400 will die of it.
    -   In BC(2), an estimated 3000 women will be diagnosed with breast
        cancer and 615 will die of it.
    -   An estimated 180 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 50 will
        die of it.
    -   On average, 437 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer
        every week.
    -   On average, 104 Canadian women will die of breast cancer every week.

    (1) Source for National Statistics: Canadian Cancer Society: Canadian
        Cancer Statistics 2009
    (2) Source for BC Specific Statistics: BC Cancer Agency

Breast cancer death rates have declined in every age group since at least the mid 1990s. In women aged 20-39, breast cancer incidence and death rates have declined since 1969.

    Facts and Stats about Prostate Cancer in Canada

    -   Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer, and a leading
        cause of cancer-related death of men.
    -   Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian men
        (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer).
    -   It's estimated that one in six men over the age of 50 will get
        prostate cancer in his lifetime.
    -   An estimated 25,500 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and
        4,400 will die of it.
    -   In BC, 3500 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, and
        520 will die of it.
    -   On average, 490 Canadian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer
        every week.
    -   On average, 85 Canadian men will die of prostate cancer every week.

    Facts and Stats about Ovarian Cancer in Canada

    -   Approximately 2500 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer each
        year in Canada and 1750 will die of it.
    -   An estimated 310 BC women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer each
        year, and 220 will die of it.
    -   Ovarian cancer is the 5th leading cause of cancer death in Canadian

Pfizer Oncology

Pfizer Oncology is an independent business unit within Pfizer Inc. and was established to accelerate innovation by pursuing research focused on a personalized approach to cancer treatment and tailoring therapy based on the molecular and/or biologic make-up of the disease.

Pfizer Oncology has a robust pipeline that consists of 22 biologics and small molecules in development, including several first-in-class compounds. In addition, there are 200 clinical trials currently running, including 14 phase III trials,

Pfizer Oncology works collaboratively with academic institutions, individual researchers, cooperative research groups, governments, and licensing partners to further its extensive research and development program.

Breast Cancer Research at the BC Cancer Agency

Breast cancer is the most common malignancy affecting women in the Western world today, but improved tools are needed for the assessment of prognosis and treatment prediction. Moreover certain subtypes of breast cancer, such as triple negative breast cancer have no truly targeted therapies and there is a desperate need to find novel drug targets. The team will be focused on identifying new drug targets and developing biomarkers for guiding therapy in patients.

Dr. Sam Aparicio (whose research program was launched a few years ago through a large investment of funds from the BC Cancer Foundation) and his team are using the next generation genome sequencing methods available through the Michael Smith Genome Science Centre, led by Dr. Marco Marra. They are able to draw on the BC Cancer Agency's unique breast tissue bank led by Dr. Peter Watson, which has over 4000 frozen breast cancers, and over 17 years of associated outcomes data, as well as an associated live tumour cryopreservation program. This provides researchers at the BC Cancer Agency with the ability to link discoveries to the behaviour tumours in patients over a long period of time.

Prostate Cancer Research at the Vancouver Prostate Centre

Prostate Cancer is the most commonly diagnosed non-skin cancer in men and one of the leading causes of cancer death in North America. If caught early, prostate cancer can often be cured by surgery or radiation. However, if the disease is more advanced, treatment to block the production of male hormones (testosterone) that feeds prostate cancer cells is needed. However, some cancer cells survive and learn to live without testosterone. When this happens, the life expectancy of patients drops to only 18 months. Researchers at the Vancouver Prostate Centre have been evaluating new ways to target the Androgen receptor, believed to play a role in treatment resistance.

Under the leadership of Dr. Martin Gleave, the overall goal of the prostate program through the Pfizer collaboration is to develop robust preclinical proof-of-principle packages for selected Pfizer pipeline drugs, thereby helping guide decision making for future clinical development in hormone dependent and/or independent prostate cancer. The research will come under the Prostate Centre's TRIADD (Translational Research Initiative for Accelerated Discovery and Development) division. PC-TRIADD is a designated federal Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR), which recently attracted a $15 million investment from the federal government to support prostate, breast, and ovarian cancer research.

Ovarian Cancer under the OvCare Program

The collaboration with Pfizer will also extend to ovarian cancers, in partnership with Dr. David Huntsman, Director of The Ovarian Cancer Research Program (OvCare), a program of the BC Cancer Agency and the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute. The team will be focused on identifying new drug targets and developing biomarkers for guiding therapy in patients.


Richard Fajzel - Pfizer

Richard Fajzel is currently General Manager, Oncology Business Unit with Pfizer Canada, a position he has held since January 2009. From 2001 to 2008, he gained extensive oncology experience as Director of Marketing followed by Director of Sales for the Specialty Market division. During this time he led the Specialty Business Model development for the Oncology-HIV portfolio, successfully oversaw the launch of Sutent and developed the Institutional Key Account Management division. Richard holds a Bachelors of Arts from McGill University as well as a Master of Business Administration from Concordia University, where he was on the Dean's Honour List.

Dr. Sam Aparicio - BC Cancer Agency

Dr. Aparicio is head of the Department of Molecular Oncology at the BC Cancer Agency and is the University of British Columbia Nan and Lorraine Robertson Chair of Breast Cancer Research and a Canada Research Chair holder in Molecular Oncology. He was recruited to British Columbia four years ago, from the University of Cambridge, UK, where his research was based for 14 years. Dr. Aparicio trained in internal medicine and molecular pathology in the UK and was co-founder of the UK and Singapore based biotech company, Paradigm Therapeutics. Dr. Aparicio also co-leads an Anglo-Canadian partnership using integrated genomic analysis to define the number of disease subtypes in breast cancer with Dr. Carlos Caldas in Cambridge. Recently the BC Cancer Agency team led by Dr. Aparicio, published the results of the world first deep genome sequencing of a breast cancer from a patient (Nature, October 8, 2009).

Dr. Martin Gleave - Vancouver Prostate Centre

Dr. Martin Gleave is Executive Director of the Vancouver Prostate Centre; Distinguished Professor in the Department of Urologic Sciences at the University of British Columbia; and the Liber Ero BC Leadership Chair in Prostate Cancer Research. He has published more than 240 peer-reviewed papers, and currently has more than $50M in peer reviewed funding.

Dr. Gleave's major research focus involves the study of cellular and molecular mechanisms mediating progression of prostate cancer to its lethal stage of androgen independence, and use of this information to develop integrated multimodality therapies that specifically target these mechanisms. He has characterized the functional role of many survival genes in cancer progression, leading to several patented targeted inhibitors, and first-in-human trials of new anti-cancer drugs. These targeted anti-cancer drugs have been licensed from UBC to OncoGenex Technologies, a Vancouver-based biotechnology company founded by Dr. Gleave.


Pfizer Canada Inc.

Pfizer Canada Inc. is the Canadian operation of Pfizer Inc., the world's leading biopharmaceutical company. The company is one of the largest contributors to health research in Canada. Pfizer's diversified health care portfolio includes human and animal biologic and small molecule medicines and vaccines, as well as nutritional products and many of the world's best-known consumer products. Every day, Pfizer Canada employees work to advance wellness, prevention, treatments and cures that challenge the most feared diseases of our time. We apply science and our global resources to improve the health and well being of Canadians at every stage of life. Our commitment is reflected in everything Pfizer does, from our disease awareness initiatives to our community partnerships, to our belief that it takes more than medication to be truly healthy. To learn more about Pfizer's More than Medication philosophy and programs, visit To learn more about Pfizer Canada, visit

BC Cancer Agency

The BC Cancer Agency, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, is committed to reducing the incidence of cancer, reducing the mortality from cancer, and improving the quality of life of those living with cancer. It provides a comprehensive cancer control program for the people of British Columbia by working with community partners to deliver a range of oncology services, including prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, research, education, supportive care, rehabilitation and palliative care. The BC Cancer Foundation raises funds to support research and enhancements to patient care at the BC Cancer Agency. For more information, please visit

The Vancouver Prostate Centre, a Centre of Excellence at UBC and VGH

The Vancouver Prostate Centre (VPC) is a Centre of Excellence created by Health Canada in 1999. The VPC has 9 principal investigators as well as a staff complement of over 70, including post-doctoral and clinical fellows, graduate students, co-op students, clinical research nurses, technicians, and support staff. In addition to basic scientific projects ranging from molecular biology to functional genomics, its research programs encompass clinical trials, socio-behavioural studies and research into complementary and alternative medicine. The VPC has a strong funding base supported through an aggressive fund raising campaign by VGH and UBC Hospital Foundation, which has raised $41 million toward a goal of $45 Million. In addition, the senior investigators have brought in more than $15 Million in grant and industrial funding in the past 5 years. Visit and for more information.

Provincial Health Services Authority

The Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) plans, manages and evaluates selected specialty and province-wide health care services across BC, working with the five geographic health authorities to deliver province-wide solutions that improve the health of British Columbians. For more information, please visit

VCH Research Institute

VCH Research Institute is one of Canada's top funded health sciences research centres, with $136 million in total research funding for 2007/2008. The institute is the research arm of Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and the health partner of the University of British Columbia. VCH Research Institute's major programs include the Vancouver Prostate Centre, the Brain Research Centre, Centre for Hip Health and Mobility, Ovarian Cancer Research Program, and more. Visit

The UBC Faculty of Medicine

The UBC Faculty of Medicine provides innovative programs in the health and life sciences, teaching students at the undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate levels, and generates more than $200 million in research funding each year. In 2007/08, out of the total UBC research endeavour, 53 percent, or $247 million, came from academic and clinical teams in the Faculty of Medicine. For more information, please visit

    For more information

    Pfizer Canada
    Julie-Catherine Racine, Senior Manager Corporate Communications
    Tel: (514) 693-4602 Cell: (514) 239-2393

    BC Cancer Agency
    Rob McMahon, Communications Manager
    Tel: (604) 877-6272

    The Vancouver Prostate Centre
    Lisa Carver, Regional Communications Leader
    Tel: (604) 875-4111 x 61777
    Cell: (604) 319-7533

/NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: A photo accompanying this release is available at Images are free to accredited members of the media/

SOURCE Pfizer Canada Inc.

For further information: For further information: Media contact: Bernadette Murphy, Media Relations Manager, Ministry of Health Services, (250) 952-1887 (media line), (250) 213-9590 (cell); Rob McMahon, Communications Specialist, BC Cancer Agency, (604) 877-6272; Lisa Carver, Regional Communications Leader, The Vancouver Prostate Centre, (604) 875-4111 x61777

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