TORONTO, June 24, 2013 /CNW/ - The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) is investing $52 million to support the development of new innovative approaches for the prevention, early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. The announcement was made today by Ontario Minister of Research and Innovation Reza Moridi. This investment will focus on key areas of translational research that will have the greatest impact on patients, including cancer stem cells, drug discovery, genomics, informatics and pathology.
"This funding is a significant investment in the future of cancer research in Ontario," said Minister Moridi. "It will ensure that world-leading researchers continue to choose Ontario as the place to do breakthrough work, driving new discoveries that will improve the lives of people here and around the world."
"With these funds, OICR will further enhance Ontario's cancer research capacity and deliver on our translational research mission," said Dr. Calvin Stiller, Chair of OICR's Board of Directors. "This investment will help researchers from diverse fields come together to tackle some of the largest problems in cancer research and find new solutions for patients."
"The funds announced today will help OICR researchers across Ontario continue to tackle some of the greatest challenges in cancer research," said Dr. Tom Hudson, President and Scientific Director of OICR. "And because three programs funded today are supporting international initiatives, we are ensuring that OICR's research findings contribute to large-scale research projects with global impact."
"Drs. John Dick and Robert Rottapel and many other scientists in UHN's Princess Margaret Cancer Centre do important and life-saving work in our laboratories and clinics," said Dr. Robert Bell, President and CEO of University Health Network. "The Government of Ontario recognizes that an investment in cancer research is critical to maintaining an environment of scientific inquiry and discovery and that is extremely good news for cancer patients and their families - here and around the world."
"Cancer is a deadly disease that affects millions of people around the globe," said Dr. Nicole Onetto, Deputy Director of OICR. "But we now know that cancer is in fact many different diseases that require more targeted, precise tools for diagnosis and treatment. Funding today will help us to develop these tools to find cancers earlier and help characterize treatment for aggressive and non-aggressive disease. This will enable us to have an effect on patient care in the short term."
The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research
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. The annual budget for OICR, its research partners and collaborators exceeds $150 million. This 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
The OICR programs funded include:
Cancer Stem Cell Program
Led by Dr. John Dick at University Health Network, the Cancer Stem Cell Program aims to better understand cancer stem cells by identifying and validating gene and protein signatures derived from leukemia, sarcoma, glioblastoma and other tumour types using genomics and other cutting-edge technologies. This should provide the opportunity to better identify high-risk patients, overcome cancer treatment resistance and develop better and more individualized approaches to treat cancer patients.
Innovation in Target Validation Program
Led by Dr. Robert Rottapel at University Health Network, the objective of the program is to develop and deploy technologies to accelerate the identification and validation of new candidate targets against cancer, particularly ovarian cancer, using state-of-the-art high-throughput technologies.
Drug Discovery Program
Led by Dr. Rima Al-awar at OICR, the Drug Discovery Program identifies and validates new therapeutic targets for various cancers and participates in the development of new drugs aiming at these targets. The most advanced programs currently are focused on multiple myeloma and lymphoma. This should lead to collaboration with industry and other drug discovery and academic programs and ultimately will result in the development of new drugs.
Genome Technologies Program
Led by Dr. John McPherson at OICR, The Genome Technologies Program uses cutting-edge genomic technologies to characterize tumours and identify mutations by sequencing their DNA. The team focuses on pancreatic, prostate, breast and leukemic cancer in order to better understand the genetic events driving tumour development and growth and allow for more genes to be targeted with novel cancer treatments.
Informatics and Bio-computing Program
Led by Dr. Lincoln Stein at OICR, the goal of the Informatics and Bio-computing Program is to develop the sophisticated software needed to extract new information from large cancer data sets and to apply these methods to several OICR research projects. The resulting knowledge should lead to better care for patients with cancer through a deeper understanding of the genetic changes implicated in cancer development and progression, and of patient response to therapy.
Additional funds will go toward building the IT infrastructure that will help to support the next generation of cancer research and care in the province.
International Cancer Genome Consortium
IT infrastructure funds will also support the International Cancer Genome Consortium's (ICGC) Data Coordination Centre (DCC). The ICGC was created to launch and coordinate a large number of research projects with the goal of unraveling the genomic changes present in many forms of cancer. The knowledge generated by the ICGC will lead to personalized cancer treatments.
The data produced by the ICGC project teams is housed on the ICGC website at www.icgc.org and is based at OICR. Almost 8,000 cancer genomes are currently in the ICGC database and are made rapidly available to qualified investigators around the world. As of June 2013, there are commitments from funding organizations in Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America for 55 project teams in 15 jurisdictions to study more than 25,000 tumour genomes.
Transformative Pathology Program
Led by Dr. John Bartlett at OICR, The Transformative Pathology Program will advance the field of cancer personalized medicine by developing and validating new molecular diagnostic and biomarker approaches for breast cancer to better identify high risk patients and to understand the mechanism by which patients develop resistance to treatment. Training of the next generation of molecular pathologist and clinician scientists is also a central mission of this program.
Translational Research Initiatives
OICR integrates province-wide research teams and fosters collaborative efforts which are key to major achievements and have an impact on translational research. Funding will support two Translational Research Initiatives (TRIs). TRIs are led by an OICR program leader and are large collaborative efforts between several OICR programs and external partners.
One TRI is focused on pancreatic cancer and will capitalize on the International Cancer Genome Consortium's effort to characterize the genome of pancreatic cancer. It will aim at developing a better understanding of the disease in order ultimately to address the high fatality rate of the disease.
The second TRI, Improved Management of Early Cancer (IMEC), focuses on developing new strategies (biomarkers, imaging technologies and others) to address the issue of over-diagnosis and over-treatment of early breast and prostate cancer.
Global Alliance to Enable the Responsible Sharing of Genomic and Clinical Data
More than 70 organizations worldwide are collaborating to establish a common international framework of international standards that will allow genomic and clinical data to be collected, managed and shared in an effective, responsible and interpretable manner.
Dr. Tom Hudson, OICR's President and Scientific Director is one of the co-authors of the white paper that sets out the need for the framework of international standards as well as the goals and core principles of the Alliance.
OICR is providing funds to support secretariat functions for the Alliance under the leadership of Mr. Peter Goodhand, OICR's Executive Lead, International Partnerships.
SOURCE: Ontario Institute for Cancer Research
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