March 8, 2018

Collaborating to bring new treatment options to children with brain cancer

Medulloblastoma cells as seen under a microscope

OICR’s Brain Cancer Translational Research Initiative (TRI) and the Terry Fox Precision Oncology for Young People Program (PROFYLE) are partnering to share data and deliver improved treatment options to young brain cancer patients.

Cancer is the leading cause of disease-related death in children, yet the development of new pediatric cancer treatment options has stagnated over the last three decades. Collaboration is necessary to address the many complex challenges hindering progress in pediatric cancer treatment.

To foster new discoveries and deliver alternative treatment options to pediatric brain cancer patients, OICR’s Brain Cancer TRI research group and the PROFYLE research network are partnering to share genomic, proteomic and modeling data.

“Researchers affiliated with PROFYLE and the Brain Cancer TRI have previously made major contributions to our understanding of the genetic and biological basis of cancer,” explains Dr. David Malkin, Program Director of PROFYLE. “By formalizing the partnership, the exciting joint efforts of PROFYLE and Brain Cancer TRI scientists will lead to important discoveries that change our approach to the treatment of young Canadians with brain tumours.”

OICR’s Brain Cancer TRI is building on Ontario’s leading brain cancer research and leveraging the expertise of Ontario’s scientists to help identify prospective brain cancer therapies. The Initiative is undertaking an in-depth analysis of brain tumours over time and testing key targets or combinations of targets and delivering their findings to patients through clinical trials within the next four years.

“There is a robust need to develop new treatments for pediatric brain cancers and get them to patients as quickly as possible. Working with PROFYLE will allow our TRI to further integrate with other research groups and share valuable data. This will help us identify new targets to treat pediatric brain cancer and accelerate their development towards clinical use,” says Dr. Michael Taylor of SickKids and co-leader of the OICR Brain Cancer TRI. “Collaboration is key to increasing our understanding of the genetics of pediatric cancers and turning that knowledge into results.”

Collaborating with PROFYLE allows the Brain Cancer TRI to harness identified novel variants in cancer genomes for further study in predictive models. By modeling cancer and potential future treatments, the Brain Cancer TRI will work to better understand brain cancer genetics and further inform PROFYLE’s network of researchers.

PROFYLE, supported by the Terry Fox Research Institute, is establishing a national precision medicine platform, leveraging Canada’s expertise in genomics to make new therapeutic inroads for pediatric cancer patients. With the participation of more than 50 Canadian pediatric oncogenomics leaders and $16.4 million in funding, PROFYLE aims to identify patient-specific disease biomarkers that are manageable targets for therapy.

The sharing of information and knowledge between Brain Cancer TRI researchers and PROFYLE researchers will also bolster PROFYLE’s goal – to identify therapies that are designed to target specific cancer tumour profiles. Malkin says, “PROFYLE aims to improve the outcomes for young people with cancer – a challenge that is best addressed by the collective knowledge and combined effort of cancer researchers.”

The collaborative approach of PROFYLE’s platform has the capacity to establish predictive models and return information that can serve as clues to potential drug targets. PROFYLE’s collaborative network of researchers will also facilitate the translation of this research into novel clinical trials and real patient impact.

More information on OICR’s Brain Cancer TRI can be found at

More information on PROFYLE can be found at