September 11, 2019

Using the “window of opportunity” to understand biomarkers and tumour biology

OICR researchers have recently teamed up with a team of medical oncologists and surgeons at The Ottawa Hospital to launch a new breast cancer clinical trial – one that begins before a patient undergoes surgery. 

“There’s a gap between when a patient is diagnosed with cancer and the start of their surgery,” explains Dr. Melanie Spears, trial co-investigator and Principal Research Scientist at OICR. “A window of opportunity study allows us to use this gap to look at novel targeted therapies.”

May 17, 2019

What could we do if we had a clearer picture of prostate cancer?

OICR-supported trial finds new, more sensitive imaging technique can inform treatment decisions and benefit those with recurring prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer found in men, but managing the disease is difficult because not all prostate cancers are aggressive and overtreatment can lead to unnecessary side effects, such as hormone imbalances, bowel function issues and erectile dysfunction. After initial treatment, prostate cancer patients are often monitored with a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test, but this test provides no information about the location and the extent of the disease. Even with traditional bone scans and CT scans, remnant traces of the disease are difficult to find and often go undetected.

Dr. Glenn Bauman, Radiation Oncologist and Chief/Chair of the Department of Oncology at the London Health Sciences Centre and lead of the PICs study.

A few years ago, a new, more sensitive type of imaging technique had shown promise in early clinical studies abroad and Dr. Glenn Bauman, Radiation Oncologist at the London Health Sciences Centre, wanted to bring this technique into his practice. He recognized the potential benefits of this method, but didn’t realize how much it could impact the lives of his patients.

Bringing advances to local patients

The new technique, which was originally developed at the John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, consisted of a chemical probe, called [18-F]-DCFPyL, which would attach only to prostate cancer cells and light up in positron emission tomography (PET) scans. It can detect very small traces of a tumour that has returned after treatment or spread to a different part of the body.

Bauman teamed up with the co-inventor of [18-F]-DCFPyL, Dr. Martin Pomper, and the Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization (CPDC) to bring this probe to patients in Ontario. CPDC implemented the stringent manufacturing processes needed to create this probe and in March of 2016, Lawson’s researchers were the first to use this technique to scan a patient at St. Joseph’s Hospital in London.

A copy of the first [18-F]-DCFPyL PET/MRI (top) and PET/CT images (bottom) captured in Canada. (Photo: Lawson Health Research Institute)

“We teamed up with experts in [18-F]-DCFPyL from the U.S. and experts in prostate PET/CT from Australia to adopt this new technique, benchmark our methods and learn from their experience,” says Bauman. “It’s with collaborations like these that we can accelerate the implementation of new methods to help patients in Ontario.”

Evaluating the benefits for those with prostate cancer

Clinical studies are needed to evaluate the effectiveness new medical techniques in practice. For this technique, Bauman and collaborators needed to test whether it’s improved accuracy and sensitivity could help make better treatment decisions.

“Treatment plans for prostate cancer differ depending on the cancer’s size and location. Whether a cancer returns in the prostate, the pelvic area or elsewhere makes a big difference,” says Bauman. “We needed to test if more sensitive imaging techniques could help patients make better treatment decisions.”

Bauman led the design and development of the Advanced Prostate Imaging of Recurrent Cancer After Radiotherapy (PICs) study to evaluate [18-F]-DCFPyL PET/CT imaging. With OICR’s support over the following two years, PICs enrolled 80 men and scanned them with both traditional imaging methods and with [18-F]-DCFPyL PET/CT.

The study group found that not only can [18-F]-DCFPyL PET/CT detect smaller traces of the disease earlier when it is more manageable, this technique changed treatment recommendations for two in every five patients.

“With this technique, we were able to clarify and reclassify a lot of the traditional scans that were previously uncertain,” says Bauman. “This means that we were able to give prostate-directed treatment with confidence for patients whose cancers reemerged in their prostate and avoid the negative side effects of systemic hormone therapy for these patients.”

Bauman says that the technique also detected double the number of cancers outside of the prostate which were too small to be detected using traditional imaging alone.

Translating clinical findings into practice

Just three years after the first [18-F]-DCFPyL PET/CT scan was taken in Canada, Bauman has embarked on the next stage in translating these findings into routine practice. He and collaborators have teamed up with Cancer Care Ontario to provide access to the [18-F]-DCFPyL PET/CT technique in Toronto, London, Hamilton, Ottawa and Thunder Bay as part of a provincial registry program.

[18-F]-DCFPyL PET/CT can be applied to other challenges that patients and clinicans face with managing prostate cancer, including monitoring how patients respond to treatments. Notably, investigators in Hamilton are investigating how these scans can help predict a patient’s response to treatment in the OICR-supported MISTR trial.

“We have been sufficiently encouraged by our results from the PICs study, through which we have demonstrated the value of this intervention and how it can benefit men with prostate cancer,” says Bauman. “I’m proud to help bring better technologies to our patients in need and enable the adoption of these technologies throughout the province.”

Read more about our trials on OICR News.

January 29, 2019

First-in-class drug for blood cancers discovered by Ontario researchers receives record-setting industry investment

Years of hard work by OICR’s Drug Discovery group and Ontario partners moves potential new treatment for leukemia towards clinical trials

On January 29, 2019, Celgene Corporation made an investment of up to US$1 billion that will facilitate further research and development of the potential drug and support clinical trials in Ontario. The potential drug was designed to exploit a weakness in leukemia centred on the protein WDR5 that was discovered by Ontario researchers. If all options under the investment are exercised, the deal will be the largest transaction to date for a preclinical asset discovered in Canada.

“The progress of this pre-clinical drug towards the clinic is an example of how OICR, working with its partners, is accelerating cancer research in Ontario and increasing investment so that new innovations can help patients as soon as possible,” says Dr. Laszlo Radvanyi, President and Scientific Director of OICR. “This announcement shows how OICR and FACIT’s unique model for research and commercialization can generate long-term impact for the province of Ontario.” FACIT is OICR’s strategic commercialization partner.

The WDR5 project’s development demonstrates the unique expertise of OICR DD, the advantages to the OICR-FACIT model, and how OICR effectively harnesses the strengths of Ontario’s diverse cancer research ecosystem by collaborating with groups such as the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC), the group that initially identified the potential of targeting WDR5 as a treatment for cancer.

Continue reading – First-in-class drug for blood cancers discovered by Ontario researchers receives record-setting industry investment

December 14, 2018

Pan-Canadian radiotherapy group advancing care by reducing barriers to conducting clinical trials

Stereotactic radiation for treatment of a lung cancer: This precise technique delivers high doses of very conformal radiation in only a few sessions and is being tested in a CAPRI trial. Areas receiving high doses of radiation are shown in red, and lower doses of radiation are shown in blue.

As a radiation oncologist at the London Health Sciences Centre, Dr. David Palma is on the front lines of treating cancer patients with radiotherapy. Despite huge advances in radiation technology over the past few decades, Palma and his colleagues have noticed that clinical trials proving the benefits of these new technologies are not keeping pace – meaning these advances are not always reaching patients. To overcome these challenges and advance treatment, Palma formed the Canadian Pulmonary Radiotherapy Investigators Group (CAPRI) to support radiotherapy clinical trials and get them up and running as quickly as possible.

Continue reading – Pan-Canadian radiotherapy group advancing care by reducing barriers to conducting clinical trials

July 11, 2018

New funding for the Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Network will help more cancer patients access clinical trials

Toronto (July 11, 2018) – The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (the Partnership) today announced renewed funding for the Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Network (3CTN). The funding will ensure Canada remains a world leader in academic cancer clinical trials, help to increase opportunities for patients to receive promising new treatments and continue to improve outcomes for cancer patients through research.

Continue reading – New funding for the Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Network will help more cancer patients access clinical trials

June 14, 2018

New OICR President and Scientific Director comments on breakthrough in breast cancer T-cell immunotherapy

Dr. Laszlo Radvanyi

For the first time, a patient’s late-stage breast cancer has been successfully treated with T-cell immunotherapy. This cutting-edge approach, which is currently in clinical trials in the U.S., modified the patient’s naturally-occurring immune cells to fight her tumours that had spread throughout her body. The patient has been cancer free for the past two years and her remarkable tumour regression represents the potential impact of this new immunotherapeutic approach.

Continue reading – New OICR President and Scientific Director comments on breakthrough in breast cancer T-cell immunotherapy

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.

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

January 30, 2018

Early results from COMPASS trial demonstrate benefits of using genomic sequencing to guide treatment for pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic Cancer and compass icon

Genomic profiling has allowed physicians to customize treatments for patients with many types of cancer, but bringing this technology to bear against advanced pancreatic cancer has proven to be extremely difficult. OICR’s pancreatic cancer Translational Research Initiative, called PanCuRx, has been conducting a first-of-its-kind clinical trial called COMPASS to evaluate the feasibility of using real time genomic sequencing in pancreatic cancer care. The research team recently reported early results from the trial, which show how they overcame the challenges of genomic profiling specific to pancreatic cancer and gained new insights about the disease.

PanCuRx is focused on improving treatment for pancreatic adenocarcinoma (PDAC), the most common form of pancreatic cancer and the fourth leading cause of cancer death in Canada. The group’s approach centres around understanding the genetics and biology of PDAC to inform the selection of therapies, as well as the development of new treatments.

Continue reading – Early results from COMPASS trial demonstrate benefits of using genomic sequencing to guide treatment for pancreatic cancer

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

April 26, 2017

Clinical trial opens for promising combination therapy

Rhabdovirus

The first patient has been treated in what has been named the Sandpiper Trial. The Phase I/II clinical trial will evaluate a therapy that combines a novel oncolytic viral immunotherapy agent called MG1-MAGEA3 with pembrolizumab, which is an approved checkpoint inhibitor. The Sandpiper Trial will study the use of this combination therapy in patients with non-small cell lung cancer who are no longer responding to chemotherapy.

Continue reading – Clinical trial opens for promising combination therapy

November 2, 2016

FACIT start-up Turnstone Biologics closes USD $41M financing

OrbiMed, Versant-led round continues commercialization success for Turnstone’s cancer therapies

John Bell and contributorsTORONTO, Nov. 2, 2016 /CNW/ – Turnstone Biologics Inc. (“Turnstone”), an Ontario-based developer of novel oncolytic viral immunotherapies, announced the closing of a USD $41.4 million Series B financing led by OrbiMed Advisors LLC (“OrbiMed”) and Versant Ventures (“Versant”), which led Turnstone’s Series A round in October 2015. New investor F-Prime Capital Partners (“F-Prime”) and existing founding investor FACIT also participated. Proceeds from the financing will support an ongoing Phase I/II clinical trial in patients with advanced or metastatic solid tumours as well as accelerate and expand Turnstone’s pipeline, funding the development of three additional programs into the clinic. In connection with the financing Orbimed’s Rishi Gupta, JD and F-Prime’s Ben Auspitz will join Turnstone’s board of directors alongside Versant’s Brad Bolzon, PhD and Jerel Davis, PhD as well as FACIT’s Jeff Courtney.

Continue reading – FACIT start-up Turnstone Biologics closes USD $41M financing

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