Eves government announces $8.7 million investment in cancer research

Archived Release

Eves government announces $8.7 million investment in cancer research

TORONTO, Aug. 11 /CNW/ - The Ernie Eves government awarded $8.7 million in the second round of Cancer Research Fund grants to 19 top Ontario researchers, Associate Minister of Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation David Turnbull announced today.
"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."
Grant recipients in this second round of Cancer Research Fund grants include 15 researchers from Toronto, two from Hamilton and two from Kingston. Some of the funded projects in this round include: novel drug target identification, new treatment development, additional clinical testing and companion studies of clinical trials.
"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.



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
Sciences Centre Toronto

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 Health
Sciences Centre Toronto

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 $531,914
in 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
Sciences Centre Toronto

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 disease.

Cecil Pace-Asciak, The Hospital for Sick Children Toronto

Dr. Pace-Asciak and his colleagues have chemically designed a $602,136
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 targeting 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 Sick
Children / University Health Network Toronto

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 tumour.

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 /
University of Toronto 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 identify 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 more information, visit www.ontariocanada.com.
For further information: Stephanie Lu, Minister's Office, (416) 325-1244