March 6, 2018

Canadian pancreatic cancer research team provides personalized medicine, new hope to patients

VANCOUVER – Canadian pancreatic cancer researchers are joining forces under a Terry Fox initiative bringing new hope for patients with this deadly disease.

“For many years it’s been hopeless from a patient perspective, and we are hoping to help shift this,” says Dr. Daniel Renouf (BC Cancer, University of British Columbia) who, along with Dr. David Schaeffer (UBC, Vancouver General Hospital), is leading a $5-million pan-Canadian, precision medicine initiative recently funded by the Terry Fox Research Institute.

A lack of early detection tests. Few known symptoms. Very limited treatment options. No known biomarkers that can be used to direct therapy.  These are among the clinical challenges team EPPIC, short for Enhanced Pancreatic Cancer Profiling for Individualized Care, is tackling over the next five years to improve personalized treatments for patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), a disease with just a nine per cent five-year survival rate.

“Our project focuses on metastatic cancer versus surgically resectable primary tumours, because this is the clinical problem we see most often,” says Dr. Schaeffer, noting a priority is to discern if the metastatic and primary tumour differ in their genetic make-up. Four out of five patients have metastatic cancer at the time of diagnosis and most will succumb within a year.

Patients are very keen to participate in the research study. “My push is to keep the support coming for the research, and to bring hope to other pancreatic cancer patients. This is a disease that needs more hope,” says Susan Stewart, 57, a North Vancouver resident who was diagnosed with Stage IV terminal pancreatic cancer in January 2017. She was enrolled immediately in EPPIC as well as a clinical trial where she received an experimental therapy. Although it is early days yet, her results today are promising.  Her pancreatic cancer tumour is no longer visible on CT scans, and the metastatic cancer on her liver has shrunk considerably. Her doctors are using the EPPIC results to try and understand why her tumour has had such an incredible response to the experimental treatment.

The EPPIC team aims to sequence metastatic pancreatic tumours of 400 patients in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.  They hope to improve understanding of pancreatic cancer biology to individualize treatment strategies, and to facilitate the development of new treatment options.

This project is currently under way in Toronto and Vancouver, through two clinical trials (COMPASS and PanGen), and will be expanded shortly to include eligible patients in Kingston, Ottawa, Calgary, and Edmonton. The Montreal site opens this week. Genomic sequencing and bioinformatics analyses of patient tumours will be conducted at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) and the BC Cancer Genome Sciences Centre.

“This funding will allow us to bring leading-edge pancreatic cancer research to more Canadian patients and further advance our understanding how to best treat advanced pancreatic cancer,” says Dr. Steven Gallinger, Leader of OICR’s PanCuRx Translational Research Initiative, which supports the COMPASS trial. “Collaborating with the other research groups will more rapidly result in more robust findings that can help us accelerate the development of new treatment options.”

The team will also store and analyze the genomic and clinical data collected in a knowledge bank that will be shared by Canadian and international researchers seeking ways to improve treatment.  The bank will be the first of its kind in Canada.

Dr. Victor Ling, TFRI president and scientific director, is thrilled TFRI is funding this high-calibre precision medicine team to tackle such a hard-to-treat cancer. “Pancreatic cancer research has been historically underfunded, and we are very excited to be expanding such a successful personalized medicine project to patients across Canada.  We hope precision medicine may hold the key to finding better treatments for this incurable disease.”

EPPIC’s multidisciplinary team comprises clinicians and scientists from BC Cancer, Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, University of British Columbia, University of Calgary, University of Alberta, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network, OICR, McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and the Research Institute of MUHC, Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, Queen’s University and the Ottawa Hospital.

In addition to Drs. Renouf and Schaeffer, other principal investigators of EPPIC and the COMPASS and PanGen trials are: Dr. Jennifer Knox and Steven Gallinger (Princess Margaret Cancer Centre/UHN/ OICR), Dr. George Zogopoulos (MUHC/Research Institute of MUHC/McGill University), and Dr. Oliver Bathe (Tom Baker Cancer Center, University of Calgary). Many of the team’s investigators are members of PancOne™, an initiative of Pancreatic Cancer Canada (PCC).

TFRI’s investment in EPPIC also builds on funding from BC Cancer Foundation, OICR, Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, PCC and VGH and UBC Hospital Foundation. 

About The Terry Fox Research Institute (TFRI)

Launched in October 2007, The Terry Fox Research Institute is the brainchild of The Terry Fox Foundation and today functions as its research arm. TFRI seeks to improve significantly the outcomes of cancer research for the patient through a highly collaborative, team-oriented, milestone-based approach to research that will enable discoveries to translate quickly into practical solutions for cancer patients worldwide. TFRI collaborates with more than 80 cancer hospitals and research organizations across Canada. TFRI headquarters are in Vancouver, B.C. For more information please visit www.tfri.ca and follow us on Twitter (@tfri_research).

Media Contacts

Katelyn Verstraten, 604-675-8000 ext. 7630; 604-358-8898 (cell) kverstraten@tfri.ca

Kelly Curwin, 604-675-8223; 778-237-8158 (cell) kcurwin@tfri.ca

EPICC Backgrounder

September 6, 2017

Innovative study brings next-generation genomic sequencing to more Ontario cancer patients

Toronto (September 6, 2017) – Understanding a cancer’s genetics is key to selecting targeted therapies that are likely to be of the most benefit to a patient. The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) today announced a new study, called Ontario-wide Cancer TArgeted Nucleic Acid Evaluation (OCTANE). OCTANE will use next-generation genome sequencing technology to bring a unified molecular profiling approach to five Ontario cancer centres.

Continue reading – Innovative study brings next-generation genomic sequencing to more Ontario cancer patients

May 3, 2017

Study bringing more precision medicine to Ontario’s cancer patients

 

A technician holds a blood sample and writes down information.

The advent of genomic sequencing and targeted therapies has opened the door to new ways of diagnosing and treating cancer. The Ontario-wide Cancer Targeted Nucleic Acid Evaluation (OCTANE) program is a new, province-wide initiative supported by OICR that will allow more patients to benefit from these innovations while also helping to advance cancer research in Ontario.

Continue reading – Study bringing more precision medicine to Ontario’s cancer patients

October 21, 2016

OICR-led study finds four unique genomic signatures in pancreas cancer, uncovers potential of immunotherapies

The pancreas cancer puzzle

Pancreas cancer is one of the most aggressive and deadly forms of the disease. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, only 8 percent of pancreas cancer patients survive more than five years after diagnosis. OICR’s PanCuRx Translational Research Initiative has recently published the results of an international collaboration that increases understanding of this complex disease and how to treat it based on a patient’s unique profile.

Continue reading – OICR-led study finds four unique genomic signatures in pancreas cancer, uncovers potential of immunotherapies

June 21, 2016

Ask an expert: How are new cancer drugs created?

Dr. David Uehling in the Lab.

Cancer drugs help millions of people every year by assisting them in living longer or by reducing side effects or symptoms. In some cases, cancer drugs can even prevent cancers from developing. But cancer drugs take a long time to carefully develop and test, and the process is expensive. We asked Dr. David Uehling, Scientific Advisor and Group Leader, Medicinal Chemistry Group in the Drug Discovery Program at OICR, to help explain the process and its challenges.

Continue reading – Ask an expert: How are new cancer drugs created?

June 1, 2016

Making prostate cancer diagnosis more PRECISE

Dr. Laurence Klotz of the Sunnybrook Research Institute

Dr. Laurence Klotz of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre is a world leader in the field of prostate cancer research. He has been a champion of active surveillance (also known as watchful waiting) for over 20 years, an approach to prostate cancer treatment that has allowed thousands of men with low-risk prostate cancer to avoid or delay therapy by monitoring it closely instead of immediately treating it.

Now Klotz has launched a new clinical trial called PRECISE, funded with $3 million in support by the Movember Foundation, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and Prostate Cancer Canada, that will use MRI to help to better diagnose prostate cancer without invasive biopsy.

Continue reading – Making prostate cancer diagnosis more PRECISE

May 20, 2016

The little-known connection between citrus fruit and the first clinical trial

sliced limes

The first clinical trial was not carried-out in a hospital or clinic; rather it was conducted on the ships of the British Royal Navy while at sea. On May 20, 1747, Dr. James Lind, a Scottish naval surgeon, published his findings on several remedies for scurvy and with that established one of the most important tools in health research today – the clinical trial.

Continue reading – The little-known connection between citrus fruit and the first clinical trial

May 19, 2016

Ask an expert: All about clinical trials

Karen ArtsClinical trials are an essential part of the healthcare system, giving patients access to cutting-edge treatments and providing researchers with concrete information about how these new treatments work in the clinic. To mark International Clinical Trials Day tomorrow, we spoke with Karen Arts, Executive Director of the Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Network (3CTN) about the importance of clinical trials and how patients and their families can find out more about them.

What are clinical trials?
Clinical trials are a formal way to evaluate if a new treatment, which could be a medication or other type of therapy, is better than what is currently used to treat a condition or disease. Cancer clinical trials are important because that is how the effectiveness of new cancer treatments are tested and establish whether they should be adopted as new standard treatments for cancer patients.

Continue reading – Ask an expert: All about clinical trials

May 4, 2016

It’s time to start talking about clinical trials

Clinical trials have helped millions. Yet most patients still aren’t aware that they may be eligible for a clinical trial and that enrolling in a trial could help them.

CCCTN News banner

The first step in addressing this problem is to get a conversation started between patients and their health care providers, which is why this month the Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Network (3CTN) launched the Ask Me Campaign in hospitals across Canada.

The Ask Me Campaign takes a low-tech, one-on-one approach to the problem. Using posters in clinics and buttons for health care providers to wear when seeing patients, the program has a simple goal: to let people know that asking questions about trials is OK.

Continue reading – It’s time to start talking about clinical trials

May 4, 2016

The Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Network launches Ask Me Campaign to raise awareness of cancer clinical trials

TORONTO, ON (May 4, 2016) — Dr. Janet Dancey, Scientific Director of the Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Network (3CTN) announced today the roll out of a new national campaign to raise awareness of cancer clinical trials in Canada ahead of International Clinical Trials Day on May 20.

The Ask Me Campaign will be introduced at more than 60 cancer centres across Canada and include hospital staff wearing “Ask Me” buttons, as well as posters and brochures placed in hospitals. These will be used to encourage patients to engage their healthcare team in a conversation about clinical trials and see if a trial may be a treatment option for them. The ultimate goal is to increase awareness about, and enrolment in, cancer clinical trials in Canada.

Continue reading – The Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Network launches Ask Me Campaign to raise awareness of cancer clinical trials

January 9, 2016

3CTN-funded clinical trial to test new method of finding genomic changes in patients with aggressive prostate cancer

3CTN - Plasma vialsThe Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Network (3CTN) is pleased to announce, in collaboration with Janssen Canada, funding of $500,000 to a study led by Dr. Kim Chi of the Vancouver Prostate Centre and the BC Cancer Agency. The study will evaluate the use of cell-free (or cfDNA) profiling to identify genomic alterations in patients with castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC), the lethal form of prostate cancer that has become resistant to hormone treatments.

Continue reading – 3CTN-funded clinical trial to test new method of finding genomic changes in patients with aggressive prostate cancer

February 25, 2015

OICR extends collaboration with Janssen Inc. to develop clinical trials for prostate cancer

TORONTO, ON (February 25, 2015) — The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) is extending its collaborative research partnership with Janssen Inc. to develop more multi-centre clinical trials and other translational research projects that address important clinical questions in prostate cancer, announced Dr. Tom Hudson, President and Scientific Director of OICR.

The new funds will be made available to qualifying researchers at cancer centres across Canada who are addressing important clinical questions in prostate cancer. The funding will be dispersed to researchers through the Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Network, which is based at OICR, through an open application process.

“We are proud to extend this successful collaboration with our partners at Janssen,” said Dr. Hudson. “Our work together is already supporting some of the most promising translational prostate cancer research in Canada. The continuation of this partnership will help extend this collaboration further, and ultimately help bring the discoveries made in research to patients sooner.”

Janssen Inc. is a leading healthcare company that offers innovative products in areas of high unmet medical need like oncology, immunology, neuroscience, infectious diseases and vaccines, and cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

“Prostate cancer places a significant burden upon the men who are diagnosed with the disease and their loved ones,” said Dr. Janet Dancey, Scientific Director of 3CTN. “Working with Janssen to identify and support the most promising translational research in Canada for prostate cancer will help us to find improved treatment for these men with fewer and less serious side effects.”

“OICR’s partnership with Janssen is an exciting example of how collaborative, innovative research has the ability to bring very tangible benefits for Ontarians. The Ontario government is proud to support this partnership, which not only leads to critical advances in prostate cancer treatment, but also spurs economic growth in the province,” said Reza Moridi, Minister of Research and Innovation.

OICR and Janssen first entered into partnership in 2012 and first extended the agreement in 2013. There are currently three projects underway as part of the collaboration. These projects are studying ways to better predict the development of castrate resistant prostate cancer in hopes of providing more targeted treatment with fewer side effects for patients.

Utility of miRNA signatures to predict rapid versus delayed onset of castrate resistance in prostate cancer
Dr. Christina Addison, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

Dr. Addison’s lab is validating the use of miRNA expression to help doctors to better monitor disease progression and target treatment for patients.

Assessment of CRPC response through comprehensive characterization using novel biomarkers
Dr. Eric Winquist, Lawson Health Research Institute

Dr. Winquist is leading a multicentre clinical trial studying novel blood and imaging biomarkers that can be used prior to therapy to better guide treatment and evaluate how patients respond.

Assessment of new molecular imaging strategies for prostate cancer
Dr. Katherine Zukotynski, Sunnybrook Health Research Institute

Dr. Zukotynski is running a clinical study examining novel imaging biomarkers that could provide a more accurate early measure of response to therapy and have a higher prognostic value than standard imaging.

The new agreement announced today extends the initiative through 2015 and opens the eligibility for funding beyond Ontario to cancer sites across Canada.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian men, excluding non-melanoma skin cancer. An estimated 26,500 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and 4,000 will die of the disease each year.