December 13, 2018

What can we gain from looking at the outliers?: An investigation into long and short-term ovarian cancer survivors

Kayla Marsh, a Research Technician, wiorks at a bench in the OICR-PM Translational Genomics Laboratory.

Researchers investigate the clinical, molecular and microenvironment factors that contribute to extreme therapy response and resistance in ovarian cancer patients

Some patients with high-grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSOC) respond exceptionally well to therapy, while others experience rapid disease relapse. The mechanisms behind these disparate outcomes are poorly understood, but a group of researchers based at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (PM) supported by OICR’s Ovarian Cancer Translational Research Initiative (TRI) are working to change that.

Continue reading – What can we gain from looking at the outliers?: An investigation into long and short-term ovarian cancer survivors

December 11, 2018

Using living avatars to predict the severity of oral cancers

Dr. Laurie Ailles poses for a photo in her laboratory.

Animal models are often used to study how a cancer evolves or how effective a treatment could be, but Dr. Laurie Ailles, Scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and OICR Investigator, has recently found that certain animal models could be used to predict the aggressiveness of a patient’s oral cancer and help inform treatment decisions in the clinic.

Continue reading – Using living avatars to predict the severity of oral cancers

December 10, 2018

A holiday message from the President and Scientific Director

As we approach the holidays, I want to wish you all the best of the season. The remarkable achievements of OICR and the cancer research community over the last year would not have been possible without your dedication, support and collaborative spirit. Together we are continuing to make OICR a huge success with tangible impacts on the lives of cancer patients across the province.

Earlier this year I returned home to Ontario to begin my new position to lead OICR after 15 years in the U.S.. While I was aware of Ontario’s great strengths in cancer research, coming back in a leadership capacity has opened my eyes even more to the immense talent and world-leading cancer research happening right here at home.

This year we have been able to make great strides on multiple fronts in the prevention, detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. New discoveries on novel mechanisms driving cancer growth have provided new targets for therapies that are improving the lives of cancer patients and their families. This is also creating significant benefits for Ontario’s society and economy. For this, Ontarians can be thankful and proud.

Some highlights, among OICR’s many achievements this year, include the success of our Translational Research Initiatives in major cancers of unmet medical need linking basic scientists and clinicians together to develop new precision medicine tools. We have continued major initiatives like our Collaborative Research Resources program as well as the Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Network and the Ontario Cancer Research Ethics Board, which are supporting and enabling cutting-edge clinical trials for patients.

This year marked an unprecedented interest in the OICR-Cancer Care Ontario Health Services Research Network, with a record number of letters-of-intent submitted for our current grant program. OICR’s Adaptive Oncology Program has made outstanding contributions in cancer genomics on multiple fronts, helping guide physicians in better managing early-stage cancer for improved patient outcomes and quality of life.

One notable accomplishment made with our international partners was the completion of an analysis of more than 20,000 tumours comprehensively characterizing most known classes of genetic changes that over time lead to cancer. This work is critical in our efforts to develop new tools for cancer prevention and early detection. OICR has continued to lead the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC). Together, we are now moving ahead with an even more ambitious project with our international partners to sequence 100,000 patient tumours, linking this to clinical databases in the next phase of ICGC called Accelerated Research in Genomics and Oncology (ICGC ARGO).

This year also saw the continued implementation of Ontario’s first multi-center genomic medicine program called OCTANE that is establishing standards to incorporate clinical-grade genetic sequencing of tumours to identify better treatment paradigms for our patients. Lastly, we cannot forget the excitement and growing success that has been generated by OICR’s Cancer Therapeutics Innovation Pipeline, which is supporting the discovery and development of novel first-in-class drugs. Working with FACIT, our commercialization partner, the CTIP program and OICR’s Drug Discovery Group, we continue to make significant strides towards bringing novel medicines into the clinic for our patients. FACIT’s investments in promising cancer innovations are beginning to reap tangible economic benefits for the province of Ontario.

It is important to recognize that these advances have come about through our strong partnerships with Ontario’s cancer centres and other collaborators in the province. OICR’s success is also being driven by our joint efforts with like-minded organizations around the world. This cooperation has advanced our shared goal of reducing the burden of cancer.

Again, I would like to thank everyone in the OICR family: our scientific and support staff, funded investigators, and research collaborators across Ontario, Canada, and the world for the successes of the past year. I also thank our colleagues at the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade and the Government of Ontario for their continued support.  I wish you all a safe and happy holiday and a happy new year. I hope that you enjoy a well-deserved break with your family and friends. I look forward to working with all of you to continue our important work in 2019.

Happy holidays everyone and a happy new year!

Dr. Laszlo Radvanyi

President and Scientific Director

November 22, 2018

Research examines healthcare experience for cancer patients who also have diabetes

Hospital waiting room

Dr. Lorraine Lipscombe investigates why the 20 per cent of cancer patients with diabetes often experience worse outcomes

Several studies show that health outcomes – such as overall survival and preventable hospitalizations – are worse for cancer patients who also have diabetes. However, the reasoning behind this disparity is unclear. Dr. Lorraine Lipscombe, an endocrinologist at Women’s College Hospital and Diabetes Canada Investigator Award holder, is investigating why these differences exist and what we can do to avoid preventable complications.

Continue reading – Research examines healthcare experience for cancer patients who also have diabetes

November 21, 2018

The buzz about Beacon: A look into the Global Alliance’s newest standards for the Beacon API

 

Beacon logo resembling a lighthouse

GA4GH releases its latest standards for genomics search engines, a project co-led by OICR Associate, Dr. Marc Fiume

While we are generating genomic data at an unprecedented rate, it is collected and studied in academic and clinical settings around the world with different data privacy requirements, making it difficult to share this knowledge. Researchers must undergo a lengthy process to request access to data and until now there has been no way to know if a data set contains information that is relevant to the research being conducted.

Continue reading – The buzz about Beacon: A look into the Global Alliance’s newest standards for the Beacon API

November 15, 2018

Meet the researchers – Nicholas Khuu

What does a ball of elastic bands have to do with cancer research? Watch Nick Khuu explain. Nick is a Quality Assurance Coordinator in OICR’s genomics lab working on sequencing for OICR’s COMPASS clinical trial. He uses an #elasticbandball to explain #sequencingcoverage and how this sequencing technique can provide extra information to health care providers when treating patients with pancreatic cancer.

November 14, 2018

Blood samples over biopsies: Developing a less invasive way to find and track cancers

A lab technician works to extract DNA from a sample in OICR's Genomics lab.

Researchers find a new way to detect small traces of tumour DNA in blood and determine the tumour’s tissue of origin

A blood sample can be used to detect and monitor certain cancers in select patients, but there are significant technical barriers that prevent the widespread adoption of this “liquid biopsy”. This type of blood test analyzes the rare traces of tumour DNA that are circulating in the blood, but distinguishing tumour DNA from healthy DNA is both difficult and expensive. New methods are needed to improve the accuracy, sensitivity and cost-effectiveness of liquid biopsies so that more patients can benefit from this less-invasive test.

Continue reading – Blood samples over biopsies: Developing a less invasive way to find and track cancers

November 8, 2018

Gene signature discovery may predict response to immune therapy

Dr. Daniel De Carvalho discusses his study published in Nature Communications, which found a gene signature biomarker that may help predict which patients will respond to immune therapy.

Continue reading – Gene signature discovery may predict response to immune therapy

November 8, 2018

Meet the researchers: Lawrence Heisler

Lawrence Heisler, project manager of the Genome Sequence Informatics team at OICR. Talks about how new technologies are making genetic sequencing faster and cheaper – but turning data into discoveries requires the right behind-the-scenes support. That’s where Lawrence’s team comes in.

November 6, 2018

Discovering new ways to deploy the immune system against hidden cancers

Superresolution image of a group of killer T cells (green and red) surrounding a cancer cell (blue, center). When a killer T cell makes contact with a target cell, the killer cell attaches and spreads over the dangerous target. The killer cell then uses special chemicals housed in vesicles (red) to deliver the killing blow.

Researchers studying ovarian cancer identify adapter protein 3BP2 as a key component of immune system function and a powerful tool that could be used to activate the immune system against hidden tumour cells.

Continue reading – Discovering new ways to deploy the immune system against hidden cancers

October 24, 2018

Researchers investigated almost 200,000 cases of breast cancer: Here’s what they found

Dr. John Bartlett poses for a photo at a table next to a laptop computer displaying lines of code.

 

Research team finds aggressive breast cancers are less frequent than previously thought, and less aggressive breast cancers need more of our attention.

Different subtypes of breast cancer respond to treatment differently and require different treatment approaches. Understanding the distribution of these subtypes and their respective clinical outcomes allows researchers to better understand the disease and identify key research priorities that may have been previously overlooked.

Continue reading – Researchers investigated almost 200,000 cases of breast cancer: Here’s what they found

October 24, 2018

Researchers find a new way to address the challenge of brain tumour “stiffness”

Brain tumour tissue is often stiffer than normal tissue. New research funded by OICR helps to explain how this occurs – and how this knowledge can be used to help slow tumour development.

Uncontrolled cell growth in solid tumours, such as brain tumours, causes tumour tissue to be stiffer than healthy tissue, creating an advantageous environment for tumour cells to proliferate rapidly, avoid cell death and develop resistance to drugs. But how tumour tissue stiffens is not well understood. A research group based at the The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) recently discovered how tumour cells sense and respond to tissue rigidity. Their findings, recently published in Neuron, show that stopping the mechanism that drives tumour stiffness could slow cancer growth.

Continue reading – Researchers find a new way to address the challenge of brain tumour “stiffness”

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