Eves government announces $1.2 million investment in cancer research at Kingston's Queen's University

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Eves government announces $1.2 million investment in cancer research at Kingston's Queen's University

KINGSTON, ON, Aug. 11 /CNW/ - The Ernie Eves government awarded approximately $1.2 million in the second round of Cancer Research Fund grants to two top Queen's University researchers in Kingston, Associate Minister of Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation David Turnbull announced today. The total province-wide investment is $8.7 million to researchers in Hamilton, Kingston and Toronto.
"Over the last two decades, Ontario's researchers have made staggering advances in cancer research," said Turnbull. "Ontario's health care system and its researchers are among the best in the world. Our increased support for cancer medical research illustrates the Eves government's strong commitment to achieve significant breakthroughs in the global fight against cancer. This funding will ensure that our province continues to be regarded as a world leader in cancer research, bringing innovative treatments to more cancer patients sooner."
The grants are administered by the Ontario Cancer Research Network (OCRN), a non-profit organization established by a $100-million investment from the Ontario government. The OCRN provides grants to researchers conducting laboratory and clinical research and testing needed to transform promising discoveries into new treatments that can prevent, diagnose, control and ultimately cure various forms of cancer.
"We are committed to helping researchers with innovative cancer-research programs for early detection and treatment for the long-term health of all Ontarians," said Tony Clement, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. "Ontario is capitalizing on our expert health professionals to establish the best health-care system in the world. This investment will enable Ontario's world- class researchers to make significant breakthroughs in our efforts to eliminate various forms of cancer."
Recipient Harriet E. Feilotter will use her $360,175 in funding to identify molecular markers or characteristics that could be used to predict aggressive tumours by using the latest DNA technology. William Mackillop, the other funding recipient, will use his $848,644 investment to conduct research on whether effective radiotherapy combined with chemotherapy is routinely applied to treat advanced cancers in the lungs, and head and neck region. His project will lead to strategies that ensure promising research discoveries benefit the maximum number of patients.
"These research grants are supporting innovative work by some of Ontario's best cancer scientists," said Dr. Bob Phillips, president and CEO of the OCRN. "To improve care for cancer patients, we need to support research that is looking at new approaches, new drug therapies and new diagnostic tools. These researchers are pushing these boundaries and exploring exciting new directions."
Under the framework of the Ontario government's innovation agenda, the government's wide variety of programs related to innovation and research and development will leverage a total investment of $6 billion. This includes the recent 2003 Ontario Budget announcement of the ten-year, $1 billion Cancer Research Institute of Ontario, which will bring Ontario to the forefront of the international campaign against cancer.


"We were delighted to learn that OCRN will fund this project that aims to maximize the societal benefits of new types of cancer treatment," said Dr. William Mackillop, chair of the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Queen's University. "Clinical trials have demonstrated that radiotherapy combined with chemotherapy is the most effective treatment for certain locally advanced cancers arising in the lungs, and the head and neck regions. This new funding from OCRN will enable us to determine whether these findings are routinely applied in the treatment of patients in Ontario today, and lead to strategies to ensure that research discoveries benefit the maximum number of patients in future."
"The funding received from OCRN and the Ministry of Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation will enable development of a clinical tool that can predict the future aggressiveness of a specific type of tumour," said Dr. Harriet E. Feilotter, director of the Microarray Facility in the Department of Pathology at Queen's University. "This prognostic tool would ultimately be used at the time when patients first see their doctors, when decisions about therapy options are being made. Having timely information about the likely clinical behaviour of a tumour will greatly assist in making tailored treatment decisions designed to optimize outcomes and minimize unnecessary morbidity. While we are focussing our research on follicular lymphoma, the approach we are taking will be broadly applicable to other cancers."

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The Ontario Cancer Research Network (OCRN) is committed to accelerating the development and testing of new cancer therapies in order to bring innovative treatments to patients sooner.

The OCRN is carrying out its mandate through a variety of strategies, including:

- Funding research into new cancer therapies
- Establishing an extensive tumour bank to support laboratory research
- Funding cancer centres and hospitals so that they can expand their
clinical trials programs
- Working with cancer centres and hospitals to streamline the clinical
trials process by developing standards, guidelines and best practices
- Developing a comprehensive database and website to provide information
to cancer patients and their families about clinical trials.

The OCRN is distributing $58 million to promote promising cancer research in Ontario. The second round of grants has now been awarded. Nineteen researchers - including 15 in Toronto, two in Hamilton and two in Kingston - have received $8.7 million to fund their research in this round.

Round Two Cancer Research Fund Awards

Project Description Location/
Laurence Klotz, Sunnybrook & Women's College Health Toronto
Sciences Centre

One-third of men treated for prostate cancer develop a $540,000
recurrence. These patients are treated with life-long,
continuous androgen suppression therapy and survive an
average of 10 years. One of the side effects of longterm
androgen suppression is osteoporosis, with approximately
40 per cent of men developing an osteoporotic fracture.
Dr. Klotz has initiated a study of intermittent androgen
suppression to determine if side effects can be reduced and
survival increased. This study will determine whether bone
loss is reduced when androgen therapy is used in an
intermittent, cyclical fashion.

Jean-Phillippe Pignol, Sunnybrook & Women's College Toronto
Health Sciences Centre

Radiation treatment destroys a tumor, or prevents its $265,626
regrowth after surgery. During radiation, high energy photon
particles are directed to the tumor. However, these particles
scatter and irradiate the normal organs around the cancer.
Dr. Pignol's research has found that photons of a specific
energy are able to target the tumor more specifically, while
reducing the scatter effect. The proposed research will design
a novel radiation machine using computer simulation, and
evaluate the potential benefit of this type of radiation for
cancer treatment.
James Thomas Rutka, The Hospital for Sick Children Toronto

Medulloblastoma is the most common malignant brain tumour in $531,914
children with a mortality rate of 50%. Recent research from
Dr. Rutka's laboratory has shown that gene mutations in novel
members of the Hedgehog signaling pathway can lead to
medulloblastoma. Using an animal model, Dr. Rutka will
determine if overexpression of a Hedgehog signalling gene,
Gli2, will cause medulloblastoma. Furthermore, he will
determine if a newly described drug treatment can block
Hedgehog signaling and prevent medulloblastoma growth in
this and other model systems.

Yaacov Ben-David, Sunnybrook & Women's College Health Toronto
Sciences Centre

Dr. Ben-David has identified several important cancer genes $483,498
that play a role in leukemias. His research has shown that
the progression of leukemia in mice can be significantly
delayed using the anti-inflammatory drug, celecoxib, in
combination with low-dose chemotherapy. This research will
identify the best combination of therapy for treating this

Cecil Pace-Asciak, The Hospital for Sick Children Toronto

Dr. Pace-Asciak and his colleagues have chemically designed $602,136
a novel family of hormone-like compounds, called PBTs, that
have selective biological effects in animal models. The PBTs
have no acute side effects. His research has shown that PBTs
control the growth of a leukemic cell line and leukemia cells
from human blood that are resistant to conventional treatments.
This research will test the use of PBTs to treat leukemia in
mice, and understand the mechanism of cell kill, an important
step in moving toward clinical use.

Ronald Barr, McMaster University Hamilton

The annual medical cost of cancer in children and adults in $664,650
the USA exceeds $100 billion. Consequently, hospitals are
searching for ways to decrease these costs. At the same time,
increasing emphasis is being placed on measurement of the
quality of life after treatment. This research will evaluate
the health care costs and health-related quality of life in
children and adolescents, during and after treatment for acute
lymphoblastic leukemia.

Fei-Fei Liu, University Health Network Toronto

Dr. Liu's research will develop novel strategies for gene $501,478
therapy to treat nasopharyngeal cancer. She will explore the
use of toxic "death" genes combined with a re-engineered
version of the common cold virus that only divides in cancer
cells. In addition, she will also develop a novel imaging
technique to track the actions of these genes in cancer cells.

Andrew J. Smith, Toronto Sunnybrook Regional Cancer Centre Toronto

When patients with colon cancer undergo surgery, lymph nodes $246,633
are removed and examined. The information gathered from this
"staging" determines the type of radiation or chemotherapy
they receive. Dr. Smith's research has shown that for many
patients in Ontario, not enough lymph nodes are
removed/examined to provide accurate staging. As a result,
these patients are not offered potentially life-saving
chemotherapy. This research will determine whether an
education program targetting surgeons and pathologists can
change this physician behaviour.

Brenda Louise Gallie, University Health Network Toronto

Dr. Gallie's project will build an internet database to $446,066
record information on the treatment worldwide of
retinoblastoma, a rare childhood cancer of the eye. The project
will evaluate the use of computer informatics in improving
patient care and research in a variety of ways, including: the
impact of conventional vs. electronic records; the
effectiveness of providing a graphical display of treatment
details for physicians; and the effectiveness of using the
database in accomplishing complex clinical trials.

Helen Chan / Brenda Louise Gallie, The Hospital for Toronto
Sick Children / University Health Network

Children being treated for retinoblastoma, a rare childhood $551,722
cancer of the eye, often develop resistance to the drugs used
in treatment. Research has shown that by adding cyclosporin to
the treatment, this multi-drug resistance can be reversed. This
research will determine the efficacy of combining higher
chemotherapy dosages with cyclosporin and other therapies.

Steven Gallinger, Mount Sinai Hospital Toronto

A very low number of patients with pancreatic cancer enroll $446,232
in clinical trials as a treatment option, despite the high
mortality rate of this disease. This study will follow the care
of newly diagnosed pancreas cancer patients to understand why
they are either referred, or not referred, to clinical trials.
The results will provide information on how the cancer treatment
system deals with this disease with the long term goal of
improving outcomes for these patients and increasing accrual
into clinical trials.

Harriet E. Feilotter, Queen's University Kingston

Follicular lymphoma is a common lymphoma in North American $360,175
adults. Some tumours are very slow-growing and do not require
early treatment. Others transform into fatally aggressive
tumours, and early treatment would benefit patients. Using the
latest DNA technology, Dr. Feilotter will attempt to identify
molecular markers or characteristics which could be used to
predict tumour aggressiveness.

John Kim, University Health Network Toronto

Rectal cancer that has penetrated through the wall of the $330,034
rectum or into nearby lymph nodes is routinely treated with a
combination of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. However,
tumours may still reoccur in the pelvis. Increasing the dose of
chemotherapy or radiation may cause unacceptable side effects,
especially small bowel damage. There is evidence from
laboratory studies that coxibs, a class of anti-inflammatory
drugs, may make bowel cancers respond better to radiotherapy
without increasing side effects when given concurrently with
radiation. This clinical trial will test the safety and
efficacy of this strategy. This study will also investigate the
biologic effects of this combination therapy in tumours.

Eric Bouffet, The Hospital for Sick Children Toronto

This multicenter, phase II clinical trial will study the $304,970
efficacy of Vinblastine Sulphate Injection (Vinblastine), in
children with recurrent low grade gliomas, a type of brain

Robert Glen Bristow, University Health Network Toronto

Focusing on prostate and pancreatic cancer, Dr. Bristow will $487,296
be conducting laboratory testing of a new cancer drug that
targets a specific DNA protein found in cancer cells. The
research will determine whether the drug improves response
to radiation and chemotherapy treatments without toxic effects.

William Mackillop, Queen's University Kingston

Clinical trials have demonstrated that radiotherapy combined $848,644
with chemotherapy is the most effective treatment for certain
locally advanced cancers arising in the lungs, and the head
and neck region. This research project will determine whether
these findings are routinely applied in the treatment of
patients in Ontario today, and lead to strategies to ensure
that research discoveries benefit the maximum number of
patients in the future.

Jean Gariepy, University Health Network / Toronto
University of Toronto

By modifying a powerful bacterial toxin, Dr. Gariepy will $387,792
create new proteins that can bind and selectively destroy
cancer cells. This protein template can be modified to create
millions of similar, but distinctive, proteins that will
function as "mini-toxins." This research will determine what
functions can be added to this protein template in order to
create powerful guided agents that can target cancer cells.

Liliana Attisano, University of Toronto Toronto

Research in colorectal cancer has shown that mutations in the $532,800
Wnt signalling pathway play a major role in the onset of the
disease. Through the use of high throughput analysis of Wnt
activation, Dr. Attisano's project seeks to identify small
molecule inhibitors of the Wnt pathway by screening a chemical
library and to test these small molecules as drug candidates
for colon cancer.

James Wright, Hamilton Regional Cancer Centre Hamilton

Despite the importance of cancer clinical trials, a very low $159,600
proportion of cancer patients are recruited to such studies.
The recruitment process typically depends on the doctor's
ability to remember all ongoing trials for which the patient
may be eligible. This study will introduce a screening process
to help physicians indentify patients eligible for clinical
trials and evaluate whether or not this process increases the
number of patients approached to consider clinical trials.


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For further information: Contact: Stephanie Lu, Minister's Office, (416) 325-1244