May 23, 2018

OICR’s Cancer Genome Collaboratory wins 2018 OpenStack Superuser award for contributions to the cancer research community

Vincent Ferretti's lab at work.

Based on popular vote and review by the Superuser Editorial Advisory Board, OICR’s Cancer Genome Collaboratory team has won the 2018 OpenStack Vancouver Summit Superuser Award. The Award recognizes OICR’s use of OpenStack, an open-source software platform for cloud computing, to enable cancer research worldwide. Previous winners of the Superuser Award include AT&T, CERN and Comcast.

“We’re proud to be recognized by the greater research community that we support,” Vincent Ferretti, Director and Senior Principal Investigator, Genome Informatics at OICR, says. “OpenStack has helped us contribute to the cancer research community in Ontario, across Canada and internationally.”

Continue reading – OICR’s Cancer Genome Collaboratory wins 2018 OpenStack Superuser award for contributions to the cancer research community

May 23, 2018

Bioinformatics.ca launches 2018 pan-Canadian annual workshop series to train big data talent

CBW Group

Researchers, specifically those studying cancer, require expertise to tackle increasingly complex, large datasets that are generated by rapidly developing sequencing technologies. Bioinformatics.ca has launched their 2018 Canadian Bioinformatics Workshops (CBW) series to train Canadian and international scientists on cutting-edge topics in bioinformatics – preparing them to harness the potential of big data.

Continue reading – Bioinformatics.ca launches 2018 pan-Canadian annual workshop series to train big data talent

May 17, 2018

OICR scientist recognized by AACR for early career contributions to prostate cancer research

Dr. Michael Fraser poses for a photo in front of a whiteboard

Dr. Michael Fraser, Director of the Prostate Program in the Computational Biology group at OICR, has been named a 2018 NextGen Star by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). Awarded to only eight researchers around the world, AACR’s NextGen Stars program recognizes outstanding early-career scientists who have made significant contributions to cancer research.

Continue reading – OICR scientist recognized by AACR for early career contributions to prostate cancer research

May 17, 2018

Combination of erectile dysfunction drugs and flu vaccine may help kill remaining cancer after surgery

A flu vaccine sits on top of packages of erectile dysfunction drugs

A remarkable study led by Dr. Rebecca Auer from The Ottawa Hospital (TOH) shows that the unlikely combination of erectile dysfunction drugs and the flu vaccine may boost the immune system’s ability to clean up cancer cells left behind after surgery. This method demonstrated promising results in a mouse model, where it reduced the spread of cancer following surgery by 90 per cent. Now the approach will be tested in a first-of-its-kind clinical trial involving 24 patients at TOH.

Continue reading – Combination of erectile dysfunction drugs and flu vaccine may help kill remaining cancer after surgery

May 10, 2018

Symposium offers preview of findings from the Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes project

PCAWG researchers pose for a group photo.

On April 13, researchers from around the world gathered at the MaRS Centre in Toronto to get a sneak peek at the findings from the Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes (PCAWG) project. PCAWG is an ambitious international effort to comprehensively understand the non-protein coding elements of the genome, which make up 97 per cent of the genome but have been little studied in the context of cancer.

Continue reading – Symposium offers preview of findings from the Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes project

May 1, 2018

Ontario Institute for Cancer Research welcomes new President and Scientific Director, Dr. Laszlo Radvanyi

Dr. Laszlo Radvanyi

Toronto (May 1, 2018) – Mr. Tom Closson, Chair of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research’s (OICR) Board of Directors, today welcomed to the Institute Dr. Laszlo Radvanyi, OICR’s new President and Scientific Director. Radvanyi was selected after an extensive international search and has extensive oncology-related experience from his time spent in industry, with a particular focus in immuno-oncology. Radvanyi will work with the Ontario cancer research community, and OICR’s commercialization partner FACIT, to see that Ontario’s best innovations are reaching cancer patients as quickly as possible.

Radvanyi joins OICR from EMD Serono (Merck KGaA, Darmstadt Germany), where he was a Senior Vice President, Global Senior Scientific Advisor in Immunology and Immuno-Oncology. There he played a central scientific advisory role, facilitating major academic centre alliances and ran EMD Serono’s CAR T-cell program, in partnership with Intrexon. He also served as Global Head of the Immuno-Oncology Translational Innovation Platform, where he was instrumental in rebuilding immuno-oncology research at the company, hiring new world-class scientific staff, as well as pruning and re-orienting the discovery pipeline.

Radvanyi was born and raised in Toronto and obtained a PhD in Clinical Biochemistry from the University of Toronto in 1996.

“Laszlo brings a strong oncology research background as well as leadership experience in international pharma and small biotech, making him an ideal leader for OICR,” said Closson. “We are enthusiastic about his vision for the Insitute and for cancer research and are pleased to welcome Laszlo back to Ontario after his many successes working abroad.”

“I am excited by the international reputation OICR has for scientific excellence in translational cancer research and the opportunity to achieve impact for cancer patients globally, while also working with OICR’s commercialization partner FACIT to achieve economic growth in Ontario across its diverse programs,” said Radvanyi. “I am looking forward to engaging with the Institute and the Ontario cancer research community as I get to know the inner workings and capabilities of OICR.”

On behalf of the OICR Board of Directors, Closson thanked outgoing President Mr. Peter Goodhand for stellar work providing critical leadership for the Institute over the last two years.

For more information see: https://news.oicr.on.ca/2018/03/oicr-names-dr-laszlo-radvanyi-as-new-president-and-scientific-director/

April 19, 2018

Landmark study links tumour evolution to prostate cancer severity

Largest-ever study of its kind uses a tumour’s past to accurately predict its future

Toronto (April 19, 2018) – Findings from Canadian Prostate Cancer Genome Network (CPC-GENE) researchers and their collaborators, published today in Cell, show that the aggressiveness of an individual prostate cancer can be accurately assessed by looking at how that tumour has evolved. This information can be used to determine what type and how much treatment should be given to each patient, or if any is needed at all.

The researchers analyzed the whole genome sequences of 293 localized prostate cancer tumours, linked to clinical outcome data. These were then further analyzed using machine learning, a type of statistical technique, to infer the evolutionary past of a tumour and to estimate its trajectory. They found that those tumours that had evolved to have multiple types of cancer cells, or subclones, were the most aggressive. Fifty-nine per cent of tumours in the study had this genetic diversity, with 61 per cent of those leading to relapse following standard therapy.

“By incorporating time into the context of the existing knowledge we have about where a tumour is at diagnosis we were able to very accurately identify those patients whose prostate tumours needed no treatment, those men who could be cured by existing treatments, and those men who had very aggressive tumours and may have benefitted from novel therapeutic options,” says Dr. Paul Boutros, Principal Investigator, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and leader of CPC-GENE.

“Clinical decision making in treating prostate cancer can be very difficult. These findings pave the way for a new tool to improve our ability to determine the best approach for each individual patient, including sparing patients from unnecessary treatment or over-treatment and the associated side effects,” says Professor Robert Bristow, Director of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre at the University of Manchester U.K., formerly of the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto.

“Tumours are a community of related cancer cells, and by examining their DNA using machine learning, we can gain insight into how they evolved from normal cells. In this paper, we show that the past evolutionary history of a tumour helps predict whether that tumour will progress into an aggressive form,” says Dr. Quaid Morris, Associate Professor, The Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, University of Toronto, who collaborated with the CPC-GENE team on the study.

“Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men,” says Reza Moridi, Ontario’s Minister of Research, Innovation and Science. “Ontario congratulates this research team, whose work is pointing the way toward improved testing and treatment.”

The study’s findings are not its only contributions to prostate cancer research. The sequencing data generated during the course of the study are now freely available online to researchers worldwide to carry out further analyses, becoming the largest prostate cancer genomics resource available to-date.

CPC-GENE is a team of multidisciplinary researchers from across Canada working to crack the genetic code of prostate cancer. Through funding of approximately $20 million, research of this magnitude has been made possible through a partnership between the Movember Foundation, Prostate Cancer Canada, and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research.  Dr. Stuart Edmonds, Vice-President of Research, Health Promotion and Survivorship at Prostate Cancer Canada, has released the following statement:

“From the tireless work of researchers to the selfless giving of donors, we applaud the efforts of everyone who has played a role in helping make CPC-GENE possible. Since its beginnings as an ambitious undertaking that was massive in scope, the goal of this project has been to greatly improve personalized care for men with prostate cancer. The findings published in Cell – widely considered one of the most prestigious and highest impact medical journals – represent a monumental stride towards that goal. Together, we will continue to advance this important work on behalf of the one in seven Canadian men who will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and their families.”

About Ontario Institute for Cancer Research
The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research is a collaborative, not-for-profit research institute focused on accelerating the translation of new cancer research discoveries to patients around the world while maximizing the economic benefit of this research for the people of Ontario. Funding for OICR is provided by the Government of Ontario.

About Prostate Cancer Canada
Prostate Cancer Canada is the leading national foundation dedicated to the elimination of the most common cancer in men through research, advocacy, education, support and awareness. As one of the largest investors in prostate cancer research in Canada, Prostate Cancer Canada is committed to continuous discovery in the areas of prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and support. 

For more information, please contact:

Hal Costie
Senior Communications Officer
Ontario Institute for Cancer Research
647-963-5289
hal.costie@oicr.on.ca
@OICR_News

Paulanne Jushkevich
VP, Philanthropy, Marketing and Communications
Prostate Cancer Canada
416-441-2131 ext 224
paulanne.jushkevich@prostatecancer.ca

April 12, 2018

Restorative Breast Cancer Solution Start-Up Wins the 2018 FACIT Pitch Competition

Biotechnology competition modeled after popular TV program Dragons’ Den

TORONTO, ON (April 12, 2018) – A panel of investor-judges has selected Ontario-based oncology researcher Soror Sharifpoor of Polumiros Inc. as the winner of the 2018 FACIT Falcons’ Fortunes competition. The $50,000 award is intended to support further development of their innovative cancer research. FACIT runs the annual competition as part of its broader mandate to support translating research into Ontario companies to impact the lives of patients with cancer.

Now in its fifth year, the FACIT Falcons’ Fortunes competition is open to any Ontario-based oncology researcher (academics, research institutions, research hospitals and start-ups). Entrepreneurial scientists are invited to pitch innovative research ideas to a panel of four investors in a competition that is modeled after the popular CBC television program Dragons’ Den. The winners receive the $50,000 “Ernsting Entrepreneurship Award.” After follow-up technical evaluation of the underlying innovation, the money funds product development for one year.

“We are really, truly thrilled. We put a lot of time into this technology,” says Dr. Sharifpoor. “This has been years of work and effort by our team. To have FACIT’s help to get to the next stage, this means the world of difference to us.”

Polumiros Inc. specializes in the development of ReFilx™, a polymeric soft tissue filler that provides breast cancer patients with an esthetically superior and minimally-invasive solution for the permanent restoration of breast tissue defects following lumpectomy.

FACIT received a total of 38 applications from across Ontario for this year’s Falcons’ Fortunes competition. From those initial entries, FACIT narrowed the field to six researchers to appear in-person and pitch their innovation to the investor judging panel. Since it started in 2014, the number of applications has grown by about 15% per year. The event has also grown in popularity with the community and this year’s event is at capacity.

“Without companies to develop experimental therapies and technologies, the benefits of research can be confined to the laboratory. With our partners at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, FACIT plays a leading role in supporting Ontario entrepreneurs,” says David O’Neill, acting President of FACIT. “Securing funding to bring an innovation to market is a difficult but necessary step if you want your idea to impact patients at the bedside.”

The six entrepreneurs each gave a 10-minute pitch to the panel, followed by a five-minute question and answer session. The winner was announced at a reception immediately following the competition on April 11 in Toronto.

Scott Tanner, former President and Chief Executive Officer of DVS Sciences, transformed an early breakthrough technology into a highly successful company that continues to employ a number of Ontario scientists. Dr. Tanner started DVS with funding from FACIT and returned this year to share some of his wisdom and experience as one of the panel judges.

“As a researcher, being challenged to pitch your ideas effectively is crucial,” he says. “It’s not enough to have just a great technology. You have to provide incentive for people to invest in your business. It’s a risky thing for them. FACIT helps scientists like me become businesspeople investors can trust.”

April 9, 2018

Biostatistics Training Initiative boosts Ontario’s cancer research community

Dr. Gregory Pond, Jenna Sykes, Dr. Richard Cook, Yonathan Brhane, Dr. Wei Xu

Dr. Gregory Pond, Jenna Sykes, Dr. Richard Cook, Yonathan Brhane, Dr. Wei Xu.

Cancer researchers often confront quantitative challenges and puzzles that are best addressed by biostatisticians – specialists in a field for which there is a growing demand. In a 2008 survey of Ontario oncologists, eight in 10 respondents identified the lack of trained biostatisticians as a factor limiting their progress in cancer research. OICR has recently renewed funding for the Biostatistics Training Initiative (BTI) following a successful review. With this funding, the BTI will continue to benefit Ontario’s cancer research community and  develop the next generation of cancer biostatisticians. The BTI is run in partnership with in the University of Waterloo and McMaster University.

Continue reading – Biostatistics Training Initiative boosts Ontario’s cancer research community

March 29, 2018

Q and A with Dr. Philip Awadalla, Scientific Director of the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project

Dr. Philip Awadalla poses for a photo in a hallway

Since 2008, the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project (CPTP) has collected health data and biological samples from more than 300,000 volunteer participants across Canada. Now that its primary data collection phase has concluded, the Project is sharing this data with qualified researchers to help uncover the factors behind cancer and other diseases. It was recently announced that OICR’s Dr. Philip Awadalla will serve as the Project’s National Scientific Director and that OICR will host the Project’s national database and other scientific activities. We sat down with Awadalla to learn more about his vision for CPTP’s future. Continue reading – Q and A with Dr. Philip Awadalla, Scientific Director of the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project

March 29, 2018

Canada’s largest health research platform teams up with University of Toronto to accelerate cancer and chronic disease research

The leaders of the CPTP stand in front of servers storing the Project's data.

Pictured (left to right): Dr. John Mc Laughlin, Executive Director of CPTP; Cindy Morton, Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer.; and Dr. Philip Awadalla, National Scientific Director of CPTP.

Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project (CPTP) enters a new era of scientific activity under the leadership of newly appointed National Scientific Director, Dr. Philip Awadalla

March 29, 2018 (Toronto) – The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (“the Partnership”) today announced The University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health will be the new national scientific partner of the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project (CPTP) – Canada’s national population cohort for precision health. This new scientific partner will enable a strong national scientific vision for CPTP and support leading-edge research on the possible causes of cancer and chronic diseases, leading to more made-in-Canada discoveries and breakthroughs. In addition, the University has announced that Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) will be its strategic partner to deliver the expertise and services needed to lead this key research platform.

Continue reading – Canada’s largest health research platform teams up with University of Toronto to accelerate cancer and chronic disease research

March 28, 2018

OICR names Dr. Laszlo Radvanyi as new President and Scientific Director

 

A photo of the MaRS Centre with an inset photo of Dr. Laszlo Radvanyi

Following an extensive international search, I am very pleased to announce on behalf of the Board of Directors the appointment of Dr. Laszlo Radvanyi as the new President and Scientific Director of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) effective May 1, 2018. Dr. Radvanyi was born and raised in Toronto and obtained his PhD in Clinical Biochemistry from the University of Toronto in 1996. After obtaining his PhD, he performed post-doctoral work at Harvard University (Joslin Diabetes Center) and then worked for four years at Sanofi Pasteur Canada as a Senior Scientist in the Immunology Platform. Dr. Radvanyi brings a strong oncology research background as well as leadership experience in international pharma and small biotech. We are pleased to welcome him back to Ontario.

Dr. Radvanyi has joined OICR from EMD Serono (Merck KGaA, Darmstadt Germany) where he was a Senior Vice President, Global Senior Scientific Advisor in Immunology and Immuno-Oncology playing a central scientific advisory role, facilitating major academic center alliances, and running EMD Serono’s CAR T-cell program in partnership with Intrexon. He also served as Global Head of the Immuno-Oncology Translational Innovation Platform where he was instrumental in rebuilding immuno-oncology research at the company, hiring new world-class scientific staff as well as pruning and re-orienting the discovery pipeline.

Continue reading – OICR names Dr. Laszlo Radvanyi as new President and Scientific Director