January 19, 2018

Scientists create method to sensitize triple-negative breast cancer to common immunotherapy

Drs. Marie-Claude Bourgeois-Daigneault and John Bell

Immunotherapy, which boosts the body’s immune system to kill cancer cells, has shown remarkable promise in treating many types of cancer. Now researchers have found a way to use immunotherapy against triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), one of the most lethal forms of breast cancer. Previously, TNBC was resistant to immune checkpoint inhibitors, a common class of immunotherapies. Using a new strategy, the scientists achieved a cure rate of up to 90 per cent in mouse models.

Continue reading – Scientists create method to sensitize triple-negative breast cancer to common immunotherapy

January 12, 2018

Large-scale study provides clearer picture of recurrence risk for ER-positive breast cancer

Dr. John Bartlett

Endocrine therapy uses hormone antagonists to greatly reduce the risk of disease recurrence in women with early-stage, estrogen-receptor (ER) positive breast cancer. However, the treatment can come with severe side effects. Around 30 per cent of women stop taking the therapy after three years largely due to these negative impacts. Usually patients receive the hormone therapy for five years following initial treatment (e.g., chemotherapy, surgery), but it can also be taken longer-term. A central question facing patients and clinicians is how to balance, in their decision making, the side effects of long-term treatment with the potential reduction in recurrence risk. In short, they want to know: ‘is it worth it?’ 

Continue reading – Large-scale study provides clearer picture of recurrence risk for ER-positive breast cancer

January 4, 2018

Study shows virus-boosted immunotherapy can be effective against aggressive breast cancer

The Maraba virus is seen under an electron microscope

Researchers at The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa have found that a combination of two immunotherapies – oncolytic viruses and checkpoint inhibitors – was successful in treating triple-negative breast cancer in mouse models. Triple-negative breast cancer is the most aggressive and hard-to-treat form of the disease.

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December 13, 2017

Happy holidays from OICR

 

The holidays are filled with traditions old and new, whether it’s a turkey dinner, a movie with friends, a long flight home or an annual trip south to get away from the cold. At OICR we have staff and collaborators from all over the world, and it is always amazing to hear about everyone’s unique plans as they gear up for the end of the year.

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December 11, 2017

Strict e-cigarette policies are meant to keep non-smokers from smoking. But they may also be preventing many smokers from quitting

A person holds a cigarette in one hand and an electronic cigarette in the other.

Regulatory strategies on electronic cigarettes vary from country to country. The International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project, led by Dr. Geoffrey Fong, explored how different regulatory environments might influence the effectiveness of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation. This research could be used to help shape e-cigarette control policies that minimize the potential health risks and recognize the potential benefits of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid.

Continue reading – Strict e-cigarette policies are meant to keep non-smokers from smoking. But they may also be preventing many smokers from quitting

December 7, 2017

Finding new ways to prevent virus-induced stomach cancers

An illustration of the Epstein-Barr virus

The link between some viruses and cancer has long been established. Now, researchers like OICR’s Dr. Ivan Borozan are using genomic sequencing to analyze common viruses like Epstein-Barr (also called human herpes virus 4). This knowledge could ultimately be used to develop new therapeutic vaccines to keep these viruses from taking hold in the body and prevent associated cancers from ever developing in the first place.

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December 4, 2017

OICR launches groundbreaking Cancer Therapeutics Innovation Pipeline to drive cutting-edge therapies to the clinic

Ten new projects were selected in the pipeline’s inaugural funding round, highlighting Ontario’s strengths in collaboration and drug discovery.

Toronto (December 4, 2017) – The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) today announced the Cancer Therapeutics Innovation Pipeline (CTIP) initiative and the first 10 projects selected in CTIP’s inaugural round of funding. CTIP aims to support the local translation of Ontario discoveries into therapies with the potential for improving the lives of cancer patients. The funding will create a new pipeline of promising drugs in development, and attract the partnerships and investment to the province necessary for further clinical development and testing.

“Ontario congratulates OICR on this innovative approach to driving the development of new cancer therapies,” says Reza Moridi, Ontario’s Minister of Research, Innovation and Science. “The Cancer Therapeutics Innovation Pipeline will help ensure that promising discoveries get the support they need to move from lab bench to commercialization, and get to patients faster.”

Continue reading – OICR launches groundbreaking Cancer Therapeutics Innovation Pipeline to drive cutting-edge therapies to the clinic

November 22, 2017

FACIT Welcomes Kevin Empey, Cynthia Goh and Shana Kelley to the Board of Trustees

FACIT Logo

FACIT expands Board to advance mandate to drive Ontario cancer breakthroughs.

TORONTO, ON (November 21, 2017) — FACIT announced the expansion of its Board of Trustees with the appointment of three new members: Mr. Kevin Empey, Dr. Cynthia Goh, and Dr. Shana Kelley. Their collective appointments strengthen FACIT’s leadership team, bringing additional financial, entrepreneurial and biotech industry expertise and networks, as FACIT advances its mandate to help guide and drive breakthrough Ontario oncology innovations.  The new members join existing Trustees Mr. Greg Gubitz and Mr. John Morrison. As part of this transition, Dr. Doug Squires is stepping down from his position of Chairman, FACIT Board of Trustees.

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November 16, 2017

CCRC brings Canadian cancer researchers together

A view of Vancouver's skyline

The 4th Canadian Cancer Research Conference, held at the beginning of November in Vancouver, was a major success. OICR was proud to support and participate in the conference, which brought together over 1,000 cancer researchers from across Canada.

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November 2, 2017

Novel approach yields four robust biomarkers for breast cancer drug response

Dr. Benjamin Haibe-Kains and Zhaleh Safikhani pose for a photo

Biomarkers that can help predict a patient’s response to a given drug are central to testing new therapies in clinical trials as well as selecting which drugs to use in the clinic. Some of the biomarkers in use today rely on the overall expression of a given gene to predict if a drug will be of benefit. While these types of biomarkers have aided cancer research and treatment, a group led by Dr. Benjamin Haibe-Kains recently published research that is ushering in a new class of biomarkers – those based on gene isoforms (the different expression of the same gene within an individual). This work opens the door to more precise biomarkers.

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October 24, 2017

Researchers discover genes behind the spread of lung cancer to the brain

Mohini Singh works in the lab

Brain tumours resulting from the spread of cancer from its primary location, known as brain metastases (BM), are the most common form of brain tumours in adults. A team of Ontario-based researchers recently identified two genes that seem to play a central role in BM in lung cancer patients – findings that could lead to improved biomarkers and treatments for BM.

In a study published in the journal Acta Neuropatologica, Mohini Singh and her collaborators focused on a class of cells they have termed Brain Metastases Initiating Cells (BMICs), which leave the primary site of cancer and migrate to the brain.

Singh, a biochemistry PhD candidate in the lab of Dr. Sheila Singh at McMaster University, explains the approach the team took to study these cells. “There was a lack of preclinical models that we could use to comprehensively study BMICs and understand the mechanisms behind them. To conduct our study we used brain metastases from lung cancer patients, which we cultured in conditions to enrich for BMICs, and then transplanted them into mice. This method allowed us to study BMICs within a living host, which provides a more accurate representation of the development of brain metastasis in humans.”

The researchers performed in vitro and in vivo RNA interference screens utilizing their unique BM models, and found two genes that were essential to the regulation of BMICs: SPOCK1 and TWIST2. “We discovered that SPOCK1 is a regulator of self-renewal in BMICs, playing a role in the initiation of lung tumours and their metastasis to the brain,” explains Singh. Furthermore, the results were clinically relevant. “Increased SPOCK1 expression was seen in lung cancer biopsies of patients with known brain metastases, and was correlated with poor survival.” Through protein-protein interaction mapping the researchers also identified new pathway interactors of the two genes that could be used as novel targets in treatment of BM in lung cancer patients.

“Identifying these two genes could be of great use in improving the treatment of lung cancer. In the future we could predict those patients who are most at risk of developing a brain metastasis and use drugs to target BMIC regulatory genes such as SPOCK1 and TWIST2 to destroy the initiating cells and to block the spread,” says Singh. “This would result in keeping the lung cancer locally controlled and therefore more treatable.”

OICR funding was used to establish this study with further significant funding coming from the Canadian Cancer Society and the Brain Canada Studentship.

October 23, 2017

Pathology Matters 2017 unites and informs Ontario’s pathology community

Pathology Matters attendees take part in a group discussion.

In this post, Monique Johnson shares how the Ontario Molecular Pathology Research Network’s (OMPRN) 2017 Pathology Matters Meeting provided her with new insights into the field and introduced her to Ontario’s molecular pathology community.

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