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.”

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.

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

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.

Continue reading – Novel approach yields four robust biomarkers for breast cancer drug response

August 17, 2016

Dr. John Bartlett discusses why new retrospective breast cancer study could lead to better diagnosis and treatment for patients

Fu Yan - In the lab.

OICR has announced a new retrospective study that will help to identify mutations for breast cancer, increasing understanding of the disease and potentially leading to better diagnosis in the future. The study is led by Dr. John Bartlett, Director of OICR’s Transformative Pathology Program and Dr. Harriet Feilotter, Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, Queen’s University. We spoke to Dr. Bartlett about why this study is important for the future of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. 

Continue reading – Dr. John Bartlett discusses why new retrospective breast cancer study could lead to better diagnosis and treatment for patients