April 8, 2021

OICR to contribute to new Canadian COVID-19 data portal

Genome Canada has announced the launch of a new, Canadian SARS-CoV-2 Data Portal that will manage and facilitate data sharing of viral genome sequences among Canadian public health labs, researchers and other groups interested in accessing the data for research purposes.

McGill University’s, Dr. Guillaume Bourque and his team will lead the project in collaboration with the Canadian COVID Genomics Network (CanCOGeN) and a number of world-leading genomics scientists specializing in data science, including Dr. Christina Yung, Director of Genome Informatics, OICR, and Dr. Lincoln Stein, Head, Adaptive Oncology, OICR.

The team will also collaborate with DNA Stack, a CanCOGeN industry partner led by OICR Associate Dr. Marc Fiume. The Data Portal will make use of DNA Stack’s COVID Cloud platform to develop and provide real-time analytical dashboards, data exploration and standards-compliant data interfaces.

Read the news release

April 7, 2021

OICR congratulates Dr. Elizabeth Eisenhauer on receiving the Canada Gairdner Wightman Award

Dr. Elizabeth Eisenhauer has been named the winner of the 2021 Canada Gairdner Wightman Award. The award is given to a Canadian scientist recognized for outstanding leadership in medicine and medical science throughout their career. Eisenhauer is receiving the award for her transformational research in cancer clinical trials and cancer drug delivery and the impact of her work for patients around the world.

Eisenhauer is Professor Emerita, Departments of Oncology and Medicine, Adjunct Professor of Oncology, Queen’s University and Innovation Lead, Kingston Health Sciences Centre. She is a current member of OICR’s Therapeutics Pipeline Advisory Committee, past Co-chair of OICR’s Scientific Advisory Board and was a founding member of OICR’s Board of Directors.

Eisenhauer has made fundamental contributions to the clinical evaluation of new cancer therapies, research strategy and clinical trials development that have been essential in the development of new treatments for ovarian cancer, malignant melanoma and brain tumours.

OICR congratulates Eisenhauer on this very well-deserved honour and thanks her for her past and current contributions to OICR and leadership in the cancer research community.

Read the full announcement from the Gairdner Foundation

March 30, 2021

Patient reflections from the 2021 OICR Translational Research Conference

Antonia Palmer, Chair of OICR’s Patient and Family Advisory Council, shares her thoughts from the Conference

Day 1

OICR recently established a Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC). The PFAC will be the chief patient-focused advisory body for the Institute and will have a critical role in helping it become a patient-partnered organization. PFAC members are an engaged and impressive group of patients and patient representatives from across Ontario. I have the great honour of taking the role of the first Chair of the PFAC and look forward to what our group will be able to accomplish as the group becomes established within OICR.

The first day of the OICR Translational Research Conference has been extremely interesting and illuminating. We applaud the future vision for OICR that Dr. Laszlo Radvanyi, the Institute’s President and Scientific Director, described in his opening remarks – placing an important focus on the early detection of cancer and on the development of precision tailored treatments leading to the cure of different cancer types and improved monitoring.

We are seeing research that is extending across different cancer types. Research into early detection that is simultaneously effective, minimally invasive, and cost effective. The creative design of clinical trials such as the Window of Opportunity (WOO) clinical trials, also known as phase 0 clinical trials, that evaluate new treatment strategies in between the time of a patient’s cancer diagnosis and their surgery. During the sessions we were informed about research into molecular signalling and how disruptions into signalling pathways contribute to disease, how radiopharmaceuticals are used for targeted therapies and imaging – working to improve the dynamic monitoring of disease and for early detection and diagnosis, and research into methods of cell protection and how to override checkpoints to disrupt inhibition. In the keynote address from Dr. Sylvia Plevritis, we learned more about the tumour microenvironment interactome.

When patient partners involved in the Conference had a debrief earlier today, we talked about the significant importance of collaboration between researchers, research institutions, within Ontario, other provinces and across Canada. Sharing findings and information in conferences like this one is absolutely critical but we must develop more regular, accepted and seamless ways of sharing research and patient information within provinces and across the country.  Data sharing is critical for moving the science forward and an example of this was specifically highlighted in the talk earlier today on hereditary cancers and being able to share information about patients in one family who live in different locations. We must continue to work to address communication and data sharing silos to create more opportunities for data sharing. The pandemic has also been a spotlight for this important issue.

Patient partners involved in the Conference greatly appreciate the lay summaries for presentations, the ability to ask questions, and to be a part of better understanding the immense breadth of work that is being done in the world of cancer and how OICR is a part of making a difference in oncology.

To all the researchers providing formal presentations, presenting posters, asking questions, and immersing themselves in science – patient partners see you, your work, passion and dedication.  We are pleased to be able to learn from you and hope that we can create more pathways where you can learn from us.  Your work gives us hope, and for that, we thank you.

The involvement of patient partners in research provides for some rich interactions and learnings that can occur in the design, execution and communication of findings. Patient partners are different from research participants – they are people with lived experience who can bring patient focused learnings and experience as involved members of research teams.  For researchers who are a part of this Conference, how are you including patient partners in the research that you are doing? If you were to include patient partners in your research, how would you do that? If this is something that you are doing already or something that you would like to start to do, I would like to encourage you to reach out to OICR to share your experiences or begin a discussion about how the OICR PFAC can help to bring the patient partner voice to your work.

Thank you for this opportunity to be able to share some patient reflections from Day 1 of the Conference. You can also read patient reflections from Day 2 below.

Day 2

Day 2 opened with Dr. David O’Neill, President of FACIT, described the need for establishing Ontario in a position of strength in the area of oncology research and the importance of initiatives such as Ontario First commercialization. As patient partners, we absolutely agree that we need to work diligently to ensure that patients are getting early access to experimental diagnostics, imaging and treatments. Building pathways for translating health intellectual property will create a positive feedback loop – encouraging even more research and research commercialization here in Ontario to continuously grow the promising pipeline of high-quality oncology innovations. It is about a positive impact on research, health systems, and the economy.

In our Patient Partner debrief today, we talked about the breadth and quality of research presented today, and at the Conference overall. We can hear the excitement and enthusiasm as presenters talk about their research and the science. This enthusiasm is palpable and in turn excites patients.

We see great examples of collaboration that is happening provincially, nationally and internationally. Collaboration is paramount and we applaud the sharing of research and the creation of multi-disciplinary teams to push science forward and provide the right treatments to the right patients at the right time.

Patient partners are excited by what we learned today about research on:

  • The use of novel imaging technologies to investigate cancer from the single cell level to understand different disease sub-groups and possible response to treatment.
  • The production of radiolabelled molecules for imaging and therapy – pushing forward understanding of patient stratification, disease response monitoring, drug development and imaging as predictive biomarkers of disease response.
  • The better understanding of diseases like pancreatic cancer through clinical trials to improve outcomes for patients.

Exciting developments were also shared about international data sharing, ICGC-ARGO and platforms for Big Data. And also the longitudinal understanding of cancer through CanPath to support studies focused on early detection.

We also heard about the importance of including health technology assessment early in the research process, especially within the precision medicine landscape, and how we can create a learning healthcare system to generate and apply real world evidence.

During the open session on patient partnership, the discussion was wide ranging. We talked about the importance of integrating patient partners in research. Cancer forces patients to walk a tightrope and helping researchers understand that bigger picture is critical. Patient partners provide a human face to research. 

We also talked about the importance of equity, diversity and inclusion in research and patient partnership and the importance of ensuring that treatments, clinical trials, and research are representative of all Canadian communities.

We discussed how we communicate to patients about science, clinical trials, and research findings. There is an obvious importance of talking about the successes of research; however, it is important to discuss the failures that also occur. The scientific process is not only about the successes. It is critical that we do a better job of helping each other understand where research fails and how we use that knowledge to understand where to go next.

Ideal patient partnership engagement has many forms. It is about ensuring that patients are involved early in the project, that their role is defined and understood, the involvement is built on trust and respect, and that there is a platform for open two-way conversation. If you are unsure with how to integrate patient partners within your research, the most important thing that you can do is try. If you need help with integrating patient partners into your research, please reach out to OICR and the Patient and Family Advisory Council will be happy to help.

Thank you for this opportunity to be able to share some patient reflections from Day 2 of the Conference.

March 24, 2021

OICR, Intensity Therapeutics and The Ottawa Hospital to conduct Window of Opportunity clinical trial in early-stage breast cancer

Dr. Angel Arnaout and Dr. John Bartlett.

OICR, Intensity Therapeutics and The Ottawa Hospital have agreed to collaborate to conduct a Phase II randomized, window of opportunity (WOO) clinical trial evaluating an immunotherapy drug, called INT230-6 vs. the standard of care. Currently there is no treatment available to be given in the gap between the diagnosis of breast cancer and surgery, which is often four weeks long. It is believed the treatment will kill cancer cells and slow the spread of breast cancer prior to surgery.

“WOO trials form a key part of OICR’s new research strategy because they are essential in helping to identify new biomarkers and develop more precise diagnostics and treatments for patients,” said Dr. Christine Williams, Ph.D., Deputy Director, OICR. “This trial is the first in our newly-launched Window of Opportunity Network, and it shows the promise and enthusiasm for WOO trials across the research community. We are proud to be working with proven clinical and industry partners like The Ottawa Hospital and Intensity Therapeutics to determine the effectiveness of INT230-6 in helping early-stage breast cancer patients.”

OICR’s Diagnostic Development group, led by Dr. John Bartlett, will analyze subject immune responses and conduct biomarker analysis. The study’s Principal Investigator is Dr. Angel Arnaout, Professor of Surgery at the University of Ottawa and Scientist at The Ottawa Hospital.

Read the news release

March 18, 2021

OICR appoints Dr. Steven Gallinger as Head, Clinical Translation

Gallinger brings more than three decades of clinical and interdisciplinary research experience to OICR leadership

Dr. Steven Gallinger has joined OICR’s executive leadership team as Head, Clinical Translation. In this role, he will lead one of OICR’s three key priority areas, Clinical Translation, which focuses on advancing Ontario cancer discoveries through early clinical validation, partnering with industry and the health system for downstream development and implementation.

Gallinger has more than three decades of experience as a surgical oncologist specializing in hepato-pancreatico-biliary surgeries. He is internationally recognized for establishing one of the largest population-based colon cancer registries, and he is well-known for his pancreatic cancer research, through which he has made significant contributions to large-scale genomics studies like the International Cancer Genome Consortium. Gallinger is passionate about building large biospecimens and data repositories to enable research discoveries.

In conjunction with Gallinger’s appointment, OICR is also proud to announce Dr. Glenn Bauman will continue as a Clinical Lead for Clinical Translation. Bauman, who has led several OICR research initiatives and clinical trials over the last 10 years, is a Radiation Oncologist at the London Health Sciences Centre who focuses on genitourinary and central nervous system tumours.

“The entire OICR executive is thrilled to have Dr. Gallinger join our leadership team,” says Dr. Laszlo Radvanyi, President and Scientific Director, OICR. “Steven’s deep experience as both a clinician and researcher will help OICR strengthen our bridge between the lab and the clinic. The continued contributions of Dr. Bauman will further accelerate our efforts to get novel solutions to patients in Ontario and around the world.”

“Translating research findings to improve clinical care is complex,” says Dr. Christine Williams, Deputy Director, OICR. “Success depends on the engagement of many partners, including the health system, health regulators and in some cases the private sector, as well as scientists, clinicians and especially patients and their families. Drs. Gallinger and Bauman are leaders in forging these partnerships and translating research into practice. We’re proud to welcome Dr. Gallinger to OICR’s executive team and delighted that OICR will continue to benefit from Dr. Bauman’s scientific leadership.”

Among his many career accomplishments, Gallinger and the multidisciplinary team at Princess Margaret has been the driving force behind the COMPASS clinical trial, which has led to seminal discoveries that are paving the way for new personalized pancreatic cancer therapies. As Head of Clinical Translation, Gallinger will continue co-leading the pancreatic cancer PanCuRx Translational Research Initiative and build upon PanCuRx’s translational achievements.

“This is an exciting time at OICR,” says Gallinger. “We’re looking to build on our existing networks and research successes. As we embark upon our new Strategic Plan, I think we can reach out and support research across more cancer centres so that we can work together to benefit patients sooner, while keeping Ontario at the forefront of precision cancer medicine.”

As part of her Deputy Director role, Williams will continue to oversee the Clinical Translation networks of the Clinical Translation portfolio, including the Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Network, the Ontario Cancer Research Ethics Board and the Ontario Health Study.

March 9, 2021

OICR-affiliated researchers awarded $6.6 million in funding from CIHR

From top-left: Drs. Courtney Jones, Faiyaz Notta, Rima Al-Awar, Trevor Pugh, Naoto Hirano, Hartland Jackson and Kieran Campbell.

The funding will support projects ranging from drug discovery to cancer stem cells

Seven OICR-affiliated researchers have been awarded $6.6 million in funding from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) through its Project Grants program, which is designed to capture ideas with the greatest potential to advance health and research. The funded projects will help support key OICR research in drug discovery, pancreatic cancer, immunotherapy, genomics and circulating tumour DNA, and cancer stem cells.

Dr. Rima Al-Awar
Head, Therapeutic Innovation and Drug Discovery, OICR
The Discovery and Optimization of NUAK Inhibitors: A Novel Approach to Target Hippo Pathway Driven Cancers

Dr. Kieran Campbell
OICR Affiliate, Scientist & Principal Investigator, Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital
Characterizing immune evasion in pancreatic adenocarcinoma: an integrative computational and experimental approach to understanding aberrant antigen presentation

Dr. Naoto Hirano
OICR Clinician Scientist, Senior Scientist, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
Development of TCR-engineered T cells against novel NY-ESO-1 epitopes for the treatment of triple negative breast cancer

Dr. Hartland Jackson
OICR Investigator, Investigator, Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, Sinai Health
Targeting chemotherapy resistant multi-cellular environments in pancreatic cancer

Dr. Courtney Jones
OICR Investigator, Senior Scientist, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
Characterization and Targeting of SIRT3 in Acute Myeloid Leukemia Stem Cells

Dr. Faiyaz Notta
OICR Associate, Co-Lead, OICR PanCuRx Translational Research Initiative, Scientist, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
Impact of copy number imbalances in mutant KRAS on pancreatic cancer chemoresistance and metastases

Dr. Trevor Pugh
Senior Investigator and Director, Genomics, OICR
Understanding inevitable relapse of multiple myeloma following highly-effective anti-BCMA treatment

March 9, 2021

OICR research team awarded $2.4 million to facilitate precision medicine for early-stage breast cancer

Partnership between Thermo-Fisher Scientific and OICR Diagnostic Development, led by Dr. John Bartlett, awarded support from Genome Canada’s Genomic Applications Partnership Program

The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, has announced $8.6 million in federal support through Ontario Genomics via Genome Canada’s Genomic Applications Partnership Program (GAPP) to five applied genomics research projects that will improve the well-being of Canadians. As one of the five recipients, OICR’s Diagnostic Development program will receive $2.4 million to develop an epigenomic profiling tool to better understand the progression of breast cancer.

Working with Thermo Fisher Scientific, OICR’s Drs. John Bartlett, Jane Bayani, Melanie Spears and collaborators will investigate the effects of differences in ethnicity on breast cancer treatment and survivorship. Their ultimate goal is to make the delivery of targeted breast cancer treatment more equitable for Black and Asian women.

From left to right: Melanie Spears, John Bartlett, Dan Dion, Jeff Smith, Elaine Wong-Ho, Seth Sadis and Jane Bayani.

“Moving forward we want to understand how the complex relationship between biology and ethnicity can accelerate the delivery of the best treatments to patients, treating everyone as an individual based on the biology of their disease,” says Dr. John Bartlett, Director, Diagnostic Development, OICR.

Breast cancer, which was once considered a homogeneous disease, is now understood to be a variety of different types of cancer that require different types of treatment. Understanding the DNA changes that lead to breast cancer and the downstream effects of DNA changes on the cellular machinery – such as the epigenomics of the disease – helps us match the best treatment for each patient. Through this project, Bartlett, Bayani, Spears and collaborators will develop and validate new and improved tests to subtype and predict the severity of breast cancers. They will focus on comparing results between cancers in Black and Asian minority ethnic groups and other ethnic groups.

“We’re thrilled to continue working with Thermo Fisher to examine the role of ethnicity and develop new tools in the diagnosis of breast cancer,” says Dr. Melanie Spears, Principal Research Scientist, Diagnostic Development.

Genome Canada’s GAPP funds translational research and development projects that address real-world challenges and opportunities identified by industry, government, not-for-profits, and other receptors of genomics knowledge and technology. These targeted investments support outcome-oriented partnerships across sectors to generate Canadian-led solutions.

“This grant will give us the opportunity to bring additional precision medicine tests for breast cancer patients and examine the impact ethnicity has in the biology of these cancers,” says Bayani, co-lead investigator and Principal Research Scientist at OICR. “We’re excited to work with our industry partner and collaborators in moving personalize medicine forward,” says Dr. Jane Bayani, Principal Research Scientist, Diagnostic Development.

“Investing in genomics research with a line of sight to application is critical for the health and well-being of Canadians,” said Dr. Rob Annan, President and CEO of Genome Canada.  “Genome Canada is proud to work with the Government of Canada to fuel demand-driven genomics research and innovation collaborations among academic, industry, health-care and other partners to shape a better, healthier future for Canadians.”

Learn more about this project: Development of an Epigenomic Profiling Tool to Facilitate Precision Medicine in Early Breast Cancer.

March 4, 2021

New national research platform to accelerate the development of new cell therapies for cancer

The Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG), based in Kingston, Ont., will lead a new initiative called ExCELLirate Canada that will develop and optimize distributed point-of-care manufacturing that will improve efficiency, quality, and capacity to test innovative “made in Canada” cell therapies. Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, François-Philippe Champagne, today announced $5.1 million in funding through the Canadian Foundation for Innovation to launch the platform.

ExCELLirate Canada will help researchers bring new therapies to market and ultimately provide better outcomes for Canadians with cancer. Many patients do not survive the month required to produce CAR T- cells using the current system. Through ExCELLirate Canada, Canadians will have rapid access to innovative cell therapies. OICR is a partner in the initiative along with other leading research organizations across Ontario and Canada.

“ExCELLirate will allow Canada to shift our efforts in cell therapy into high gear and be at the forefront of this game-changing technology while providing patients more access to this cutting-edge therapy,” says Dr. Laszlo Radvanyi, President and Scientific Director of OICR. “I congratulate our friends at CCTG and the ExCELLirate team on the funding announced today. We at OICR are so proud to be part of this important work.”

Read the announcement from the Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Group

February 19, 2021

OICR-supported collaboration discovers new method to stunt the growth of brain cancers

Inhibiting a key enzyme could help stop the growth of glioblastoma

Fewer than 10 per cent of people diagnosed with glioblastoma will survive beyond five years. Despite advances in understanding this deadly brain cancer, therapy options for this disease are severely limited. In a study recently published in Nature Communications, researchers have discovered that inhibiting a key enzyme, PRMT5, can suppress the growth of glioblastoma cells. Their findings demonstrate a novel approach to treating the disease, paving the way for a new class of therapeutics.

Dr. Peter Dirks, co-leader of OICR’s Brain Cancer Translational Research Initiative.

A multidisciplinary team with expertise in cancer stem cells, protein structures, small molecule development and multi-omic analyses enabled this discovery. The group, was co-led by Dr. Peter Dirks, Senior Scientist and Neurosurgeon at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and co-leader of OICR’s Brain Cancer Translational Research Initiative along with researchers at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) and the University of Toronto. Many of the researchers involved in the study are also part of the Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) Canada Cancer Stem Cell Dream Team, which receives support from OICR.

Through the study, they showed that inhibiting PRMT5 affected a large network of proteins that are important in cell division and growth, triggering cell senescence, and stopping the unrelenting division of cancer cells.

While PRMT5 inhibition has been previously suggested as a way to target brain and other cancers, no one has tested this strategy in a large cohort of patient tumour-derived cells that have stem cell characteristics, cells that are at the roots of glioblastoma growth.

They found that specific molecules – precursors to actual therapeutic drugs – inhibited the same enzyme, PRMT5, stopping the growth of a large portion of these patient-derived cancer stem cells. Many current drugs do not eliminate cancer stem cells, which may be why many cancers regrow after treatment.

“We used a different strategy to stop cancer cells from proliferating and seeding new tumours,” says co-senior author, Dr. Cheryl Arrowsmith, Senior Scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre who leads the University of Toronto site of the SGC. “By inhibiting one protein, PRMT5, we were able to affect a cascade of proteins involved in cell division and growth. The traditional way of stopping cell division has been to block one protein. This gives us a new premise for future development of novel, more precise therapies.”

“This strategy also has the opportunity to overcome the genetic variability seen in these tumours,” says co-senior author, Dirks, who also leads the SU2C Canada Dream Team. “By targeting processes involved in every patient tumour, which are also essential for the tumour stem cell survival, we side-step the challenges of individual patient tumour variability to finding potentially more broadly applicable therapies.”

The researchers also examined the molecular features of the patient-derived glioblastoma cells by comparing those that responded well to those that did not respond as well. They found a different molecular signature for the tumour cells that responded. In the future, this could lead to specific tumour biomarkers, which could help in identifying those patients who will respond best to this new class of drugs.

The research group will continue testing PRMT5 inhibitors to develop new therapies for people with glioblastoma.

“Right now, we have too few medicines to choose from to make precision medicine a reality for many patients,” says Arrowsmith. “We need basic research to better understand the mechanism of action of drugs, particularly in the context of patient samples. This is what will help us develop the right drugs to give to the right patients to treat their specific tumours.”

The research group also included OICR-affiliated scientists and staff researchers, Drs. Trevor Pugh, Mathieu Lupien, Benjamin Haibe-Kains, and Ahmed Aman.

Adapted from a SickKids news release.

February 17, 2021

OICR’s Dr. John Bartlett named one of the top-cited authors in the Journal of Clinical Oncology

Dr. John Bartlett

The Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO), one of the most prestigious journals in cancer research, recently added Dr. John Bartlett to its list of most-cited authors following an analysis by the analytics firm Clarivate. A clinical practice guideline update by Bartlett and his coauthors was the third most-cited article JCO published in 2018. The guideline, on HER2 testing in breast cancer, has been cited an outstanding 276 times. Bartlett is Director of OICR’s Diagnostic Development Program, which is working to develop new tools to guide precision medicine for cancer.

February 3, 2021

Standards redefined: What lab accreditation means to OICR Genomics

OICR Genomics believes high-quality cancer research starts with high-quality data. Since inception, their labs have been committed to quality, and now accreditation is within reach

Standards are all around us – making our lives safer and easier in many ways. In both research and medicine, laboratory standards help evaluate a lab’s quality, reliability and efficiency. Research lab standards help scientists generate reliable data leading to reproducible discoveries, but in medicine, lab standards help clinicians make more accurate diagnoses and treatment decisions. These different applications call for different standards and sometimes different schools of thought.

Since inception, OICR Genomics has been building a bridge between research and medicine, developing new standards for innovative genomics technologies while refining lab procedures so they can serve as the trusted genomics services provider for Ontario’s cancer community. Today, OICR Genomics is proud to provide high-quality services for cancer researchers, clinicians, and the patients they serve.

The journey to accreditation

Achieving and maintaining accreditation is an exceptionally rigorous process that requires steadfast diligence and meticulous lab management over a sustained period of time. Since 2018, OICR Genomics has been developing and improving processes and procedures to achieve accreditation by the Institute for Quality Management in Healthcare (IQMH) and the College of American Pathologists (CAP), two well-recognized leaders in lab accreditation.

There are three key elements that make accreditation possible:

Dedicated people. Every member of OICR Genomics is important to the accreditation process. Accreditation requirements include effective documentation and training protocols, a strong track record of good lab practices, continuous sharing and monitoring of technical results, appropriate validation and uncertainty correction methods, an extensive array of standard operating procedures, and more. Successful accreditation requires the collective effort of all lab staff – from students to senior researchers.

“I’m proud of our team’s commitment to the community,” says Dr. Carolyn Ptak, Program Manager and Quality Assurance Lead of OICR Genomics. “We have a great group that is flexible, innovative and committed to quality.

Balanced priorities. Given the complex and rapidly evolving field of cancer genomics, many laboratories face challenges associated with compliance. New tools and innovations call for new standards. OICR Genomics continuously strives to balance innovation, performance, efficiency and safety under the leadership of Dr. Trevor Pugh.

“As research continues to evolve, OICR Genomics will continue to as well,” says Dr. Trevor Pugh, Senior Investigator and Director of the Joint Genomics Program at OICR and the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. “We’re excited by the current advancements in genomics and we look forward to continuous improvement in the years to come.”

Stable support. Over the last fifteen years, OICR has mobilized the community to transform cancer care through collaborative networks, transformative initiatives and more. Many collaborators have recognized the value of working with OICR Genomics and it is with their consistent support that the foundations leading to accreditation were laid.

“We are thankful for all the talented scientists who have worked with us throughout the years on innumerable genomic sequencing projects,” says Dr. Paul Krzyzanowski, Director of the Genome Research Platform,  “Our  newly accredited services will be available to clinical, academic, and industrial research clients and we’re excited to be able to support a whole new scale and scope of projects.

For the community

Genomics has become a central discipline of cancer research. It has unlocked new opportunities to predict cancer earlier and match patients with the most effective medicines for their disease. In parallel, advances in research methods and sequencing technologies have expanded the affordability and accessibility of genetic sequencing. Reading human DNA and RNA is no longer a multi-year, multi-million-dollar initiative, it can be done in hours or days at a fraction of that cost. These opportunities, however, can only be realized through the translation of research and innovation. For OICR Genomics, translation is at the centre of their mission – and rigorous lab standards help accelerate translation.

Within the cancer community, OICR Genomics’ lab standards can mean different things to different people:

  • For the researcher, high lab standards and accredited lab services help you generate high-quality, reliable data in an efficient way. This means you can have more trust in your results and more reproducible discoveries.
  • For the patient, high lab standards can help ensure that the community is effectively gaining knowledge from your donated biological samples. Accreditation of your local genomics research lab can also help your care teams apply the most recent discoveries to your treatment planning.
  • For the province, these internationally recognized standards will help research teams use resources efficiently and effectively, maximizing the impact of finite resources, while attracting high-profile genomic studies to Ontario.

“Accreditation allows us to explore transformative new approaches to achieve health benefits,” says Dr. Laszlo Radvanyi, President and Scientific Director of OICR. “Ultimately, accredited lab protocols help our lab infrastructure serve as bridge between research and improved health.”

For more information on OICR Genomics’ services please visit the genomics services page or contact OICR Genomics.

February 3, 2021

Imagining the next 20 years and planning for the next five

How OICR is using strategic foresight to prepare for the future and inform its 2021-2026 Strategic Plan

OICR focuses on translating cancer research discoveries and transforming cancer care. Achieving this mission, however, is dependent on a myriad of factors beyond scientific research and development. Social, political, technological, economic and environmental factors all may play a role in driving the future of cancer research and care in Ontario and beyond.

As part of the process to develop its 2021-2026 Strategic Plan, OICR partnered with Dr. Peter Bishop, Professor Emeritus at the University of Houston, professional futurist and President of Strategic Foresight and Development, to investigate the possible futures of cancer research and care in Ontario and around the world. OICR plans to launch the 2021-2026 Strategic Plan in April 2021.

Read the full report in Foresight.

With the help of leaders from research institutes, hospitals and the public sector across Ontario, 20 key drivers were identified that may significantly affect the future of cancer, including an aging population, innovations in quantum computing and the growing focus on holistic health. The group then designed and evaluated potential future scenarios and derived four main insights that were used to inform OICR’s 2021-2026 Strategic Plan:

Data dilemmas
While health-related datasets continue to grow and new sources of data emerge, standards around data gathering, monitoring, integration, sharing and implementation remain unclear. These parameters affect how the cancer community implements precision medicine for people living with cancer. Through its 2021-2026 Strategic Plan, OICR’s computational biology and informatics research programs will continue to develop essential data tools and apply responsible data sharing standards, while strengthening Ontario’s global leadership in health data integration and federation through initiatives such as the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health, the International Cancer Genomics Consortium Accelerating Research in Genomic Oncology, Canada’s Digital Health and Discovery Platform, and the Ontario Data Integration Network.

Powerful patients
Integrating the perspectives of patients into research is becoming increasingly important to ensure that research ultimately leads to patient benefit. Over the next few decades, patients will increasingly have access to more information and misinformation, challenging the research and health communities to ensure patients receive the information they need to make informed decisions. To address these challenges, OICR will foster and grow meaningful partnerships with patients and caregivers to integrate patient values into OICR priorities. OICR is currently developing a Patient Family Advisory Council, which will advise on OICR’s patient partnership initiatives.

Funding fragility
As the cost and urgency of cancer drug development continue to increase, alternative funding for research and translation may become necessary. This challenge has become more apparent as the world looks to recover from the socio-economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. OICR will continue to strengthen partnerships within the cancer ecosystem over the next five years, to attract further investment in cancer research and innovation to Ontario. OICR will also build health services research expertise into critical research programs to evaluate the costs and benefits of emerging interventions to support the path between discovery and patient care.

Teetering trust
Trust between stakeholders in the cancer system – including patients, families, researchers and clinicians – is critical to progress in cancer research. Trust is imperative to data gathering, sharing and processing, and these data are necessary to make cancer detection and treatment more precise. Through the 2021-2026 Strategic Plan, OICR aims to work together with partners to ensure we remain and become an even more trusted custodian of patient data and scientific information to support high quality translational research, bridging the lab to the clinic.

“Our mission is based on translating cancer research discoveries to transform cancer care,” says Dr. Rebecca Tamarchak, Senior Director of Strategic Planning and Governance. “Integrating foresight into our strategic planning process is our way to proactively anticipate the future in order to develop a nimbler strategy.”

The strategic foresight workshop, which was hosted in late 2018, kicked off OICR’s multi-phase strategic planning process. The process, led by Tamarchak and OICR’s President and Scientific Director, Dr. Laszlo Radvanyi, has incorporated insights from extensive consultations with OICR staff, collaborators and the community.

“This strategic foresight study has reinforced the importance of enduring partnerships across the cancer research community and we look forward to strengthening those relationships over the next five years to maximize our impact on cancer patients and the Ontario economy,” says Tamarchak. “We’re excited to bring the 2021-2026 Strategic Plan into action.”

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