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

January 5, 2016

OICR funds world-first clinical trial using cancer-fighting viruses

Oncology Viruses - Image of a cell.

Drs. John Bell, David Stojdl and Brian Lichty have together been investigating viral therapies for over 15 years. On July 10 in Ottawa they announced that this work has now moved to the clinic, with the launch of a world-first clinical trial using their custom-made cancer-fighting viruses.

Dr. Bell is leader of OICR’s Immuno- and Bio-therapies Program (ORBiT), based at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute.

Continue reading – OICR funds world-first clinical trial using cancer-fighting viruses

October 28, 2015

FACIT Startup Turnstone Biologics Closes $11M Financing, Secures Additional Capital Commitment, and Adds Strong Management

Versant Ventures-led investment accelerates development, broadens oncolytic viral immunotherapy potential
TORONTO, Oct. 28, 2015 /CNW/ – Turnstone Biologics Inc. (“Turnstone” or the “Company”), a FACIT-incubated startup, has completed its $11.3 million Series A financing round led by Versant Ventures (“Versant”) with follow-on capital committed in excess of $20.0 million. The financing enabled the Company to appoint Sammy J. Farah, PhD, MBA as Chief Executive Officer and Brian D. Lichty, PhD as Chief Technology Officer. Turnstone develops novel oncolytic viral immunotherapies that both attack tumour cells in a targeted manner and enable the patient’s own immune system to be harnessed to fight cancer. The Company previously announced an ongoing landmark Phase I/II clinical trial in patients with advanced or metastatic solid tumours. Proceeds from the financing will enable expansion of operations in Ontario and a broader clinical development strategy.

Bolstering Turnstone’s leadership team with talented and highly qualified management, Dr. Farah is an experienced vaccine executive, while as a founding scientist of the Company Dr. Lichty possesses leading expertise in oncolytic viral therapies. In conjunction with this investment, Versant Partner Jerel Davis, PhD and Managing Director Brad Bolzon, PhD will join the Company’s board of directors. Founding investor FACIT also participated in the round.

“I am delighted to join Turnstone’s dedicated team in helping to advance a transformative technology that will positively impact a broad range of cancer patients,” said Dr. Farah. “With an established leadership in oncolytic viral immunotherapy, and a high content clinical trial for the first product candidate already in progress, Turnstone is in an advantaged position to significantly influence the immuno-oncology landscape.”
Turnstone’s platform is a unique and first-in-class approach that combines the benefits of oncolytic viral therapy with a tumour-targeted vaccine, into a single intravenously-delivered treatment to stimulate and direct a patient’s immune response to tumours. The platform possesses many distinguishing qualities that previous oncolytic virus and vaccine products have lacked, including systemic administration, production of significant durable T-cell responses, and ease of manufacturing. Importantly, preclinical studies in mice and primates have demonstrated unprecedented immune responses against a range of tumours. In expanding the clinical strategy, the Company will advance development in multiple disease indications and in combination with other cancer immunotherapies.

The completed financing underscores the strength and quality of the developmental work completed to date, the opportunities associated with expanding the boundaries of immuno-oncology therapies, and the recent clinical validation of oncolytic viruses. The investment is also another important example building on the translational vision of FACIT to cultivate and promote growth in Ontario’s economy, support improvements in patient care and attract world-class investors to the province’s innovative oncology assets.

“We are very pleased to have concluded this financing with an experienced venture capital firm of Versant’s calibre, and to be able to enhance the Company’s leadership with compelling management,” said Jeff Courtney, Chief Commercial Officer of FACIT and Turnstone’s founding investor. “Versant’s commitment provides valuable development and commercialization resources given the depth of its extensive network and expertise. This investment enables an aggressive growth strategy to be pursued to fully exploit the commercial potential of the Company’s pipeline.”

About FACIT
FACIT is an independent business trust established by the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research to undertake development and commercialization activities related to cancer research, products and drug discovery. For more information, please visit the website at facit.ca or email info@facit.ca.

About Turnstone Biologics
Turnstone Biologics Inc. is a biotechnology company focused on developing novel oncolytic viral immunotherapies for cancer. Turnstone’s therapeutic platform is a first-in-class tumour-targeted oncolytic vaccine that combines potent tumour-killing effects of oncolytic viruses with the benefits of a cancer vaccine that harnesses the patient’s own immune system to fight disease in a sustainable manner. The Company’s platform leverages the innovations and expertise of its renowned founding scientists, Drs. John Bell, Brian Lichty and David Stojdl. Turnstone is also developing additional oncolytic virus strategies and immunotherapy combination treatments. For more information, please visit www.turnstonebio.com or email info@turnstonebio.com.

For further information:
Jeff Courtney, Chief Commercial Officer, jeff.courtney@facit.ca

July 10, 2015

Cancer patients treated in world-first clinical trial of Canadian viral therapy

OTTAWA, July 10, 2015 /CNW/ – Canadian researchers have launched the world’s first clinical trial of a novel investigational therapy that uses a combination of two viruses to attack and kill cancer cells, and stimulate an anti-cancer immune response. Previous research by this team and others worldwide suggests that this approach could be very powerful, and could have fewer side effects than conventional chemotherapy and radiation, although it will take years to rigorously test through this trial and others.

The therapy was jointly discovered and is being developed by Dr. David Stojdl (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, University of Ottawa), Dr. Brian Lichty (McMaster University) and Dr. John Bell (The Ottawa Hospital, University of Ottawa), and their respective research teams and colleagues. The clinical trial, which is funded by the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and coordinated by the NCIC Clinical Trials Group, is expected to enroll up to 79 patients at four hospitals across Canada. Up to 24 patients will receive one of the viruses and the rest will receive both, two weeks apart.

Christina Monker, 75, a former nurse from Rockland, Ontario, is one of the first patients treated in the trial. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2012 and, despite six weeks of radiation therapy and two rounds of chemotherapy, the cancer spread to both her lungs. After completing another 30 rounds of chemotherapy, she enrolled in the trial at The Ottawa Hospital and was treated on June 2, 2015.

“The nausea of chemotherapy was worse than I ever could have imagined, but with the viral therapy I just felt like I had the flu for a couple of days, and the symptoms were easily managed,” said Ms. Monker. “It is too soon to know if I may have benefited from this therapy, but I’m very glad to contribute to this important research that could improve care for others.”

The idea of using viruses to treat cancer has been around for more than a century, with sporadic reports of cancer patients experiencing remarkable recoveries after viral infections. However, it is only in recent years that viral therapy has begun to be developed and tested in a rigorous way. Drs. Bell, Lichty and Stojdl began investigating viral therapies for cancer nearly 15 years ago when they worked together at The Ottawa Hospital.

“We found that when normal cells become cancerous, it’s like they are making a deal with the devil,” explained Dr. Bell, a senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and professor at the University of Ottawa. “They acquire genetic mutations that allow them to grow very quickly, but these same mutations also make them more susceptible to viruses.”

The two viruses being tested in this clinical trial are called MG1MA3 and AdMA3. MG1MA3 is derived from a virus called Maraba, which was first isolated from Brazilian sandflies, while AdMA3 is derived from a common cold virus called Adenovirus. Both of these viruses have been engineered to stimulate an immune response against cancer cells that express a protein called MAGE-A3, but the Maraba virus also achieves an extra layer of anti-cancer activity by replicating inside many kinds of cancer cells and killing them directly. These viruses are manufactured in specialized facilities at The Ottawa Hospital and McMaster University.

“The idea behind this trial is to use the Adenovirus to prime the patient’s immune system to recognize their cancer, and then use the Maraba virus to directly kill their cancer and further stimulate their immune system to prevent the cancer coming back,” said Dr. Brian Lichty, associate professor at McMaster University. “We’re enthusiastic about the potential of this unique therapy.”

“We’re very excited about this first clinical trial,” said Dr. Stojdl, senior scientist at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and associate professor at the University of Ottawa. “We’re continuing to push very hard to develop a suite of biological therapies with the goal of launching similar trials tailored to other types of tumours, including brain cancer and several devastating childhood cancers.”

Viral therapies are one component of a growing field of cancer research that seeks to use biological materials (including cells, genes, antibodies and viruses) to attack cancer cells and stimulate an anti-cancer immune response. This field of research has been called biotherapy or immunotherapy. Dr. Bell and his colleagues recently launched the $60M BioCanRx network to advance this area of research.

The Maraba virus is an important part of a broad biotherapeutics clinical trial development program in Canada that is combining viruses and vaccines with standard and emerging therapies to treat different types of tumours. Drs. Lichty, Bell and Stojdl and their institutions, in cooperation with the Fight Against Cancer Innovation Trust, have formed Turnstone Biologics in order to engage the private sector and to help fund further clinical trials.

“Immunotherapy is a very exciting field of cancer research, with antibody-based therapies showing the most promise in clinical trials so far,” said Dr. Derek Jonker, the overall lead for the clinical trial, a medical oncologist at The Ottawa Hospital and a professor at the University of Ottawa. “Viral therapies have also shown promise in laboratory studies, but it is too soon to know what impact they may have on patients. This clinical trial will help us find out and we’re very grateful to the patients who have participated.”

Ontario is pleased to support innovative research through the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research,” said Reza Moridi, Ontario Minister of Research and Innovation. “Our investments have enabled our researchers to be at the forefront of this new therapy. Immunotherapy has the potential to vastly improve the way cancer is treated, and is another example of how research investment brings tangible benefits to Ontarians and people around the world.”

“The NCIC Clinical Trials Group is very pleased to conduct this trial, which offers a potential new therapeutic approach for cancer patients that has been developed by Canadian researchers,” said Dr. Janet Dancey, director, NCIC Clinical Trials Group and professor at Queen’s University in Kingston.

“Our Government is committed to investing in research that will accelerate efforts to find a cure for cancer, a disease that kills thousands of Canadians each year. The clinical trial announced today represents an innovative approach to treating cancer. We are proud to have contributed to the development of this therapy and wish the researchers and clinicians every success as they carry out this important study,” said the Honourable Rona Ambrose, Canada’s Minister of Health.

In addition to The Ottawa Hospital, the clinical trial is also taking place at the Juravinski Cancer Centre of Hamilton Health Sciences (under the leadership of Dr. Sebastien Hotte), Princess Margaret Cancer Centre of the University Health Network in Toronto (under the leadership of Dr. Albiruni R A Razak) and the Vancouver Centre of the BC Cancer Agency (under the leadership of Dr. Daniel Renouf). The trial was approved by Health Canada, the Ontario Cancer Research Ethics Board and the BC Cancer Agency Research Ethics Board. Further details about the trial are available at clinicaltrials.gov. Patients wishing to participate in the trial should speak with their own oncologist and ask for a referral to one of the participating hospitals. Further details for patients at The Ottawa Hospital are available online.

While this trial is primarily funded by the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, many other funding organizations have also supported the research of Drs. Bell, Lichty and Stojdl, including The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, CHEO Foundation, Canadian Cancer Society, Terry Fox Research Institute, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, Canada Foundation for Innovation, Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, Hair Donation Ottawa, Angels of Hope, BioCanRx, Pancreatic Cancer Canada, NAV Canada and several philanthropic donors.

Editors: Pictures of the scientific team members and graphics related to this media release are available for downloading at: http://bit.ly/cancer-viral-therapy

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.

January 13, 2015

Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Network receives new funding, launches online service to connect patients to clinical trials

TORONTO, ON (January 13, 2015) – Dr. Janet Dancey, Scientific Director of the Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Network (3CTN), today announced that 3CTN has received funding support from the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR), the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (the Partnership), the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF) and CancerCare Manitoba. These contributions are the first from 3CTN’s coalition of cancer research funding organizations. 3CTN is in the process of finalizing additional funding commitments.

The funding will be used to establish the Network’s sites at cancer centres conducting clinical trials across Canada. Network sites will receive financial support and other resources to be able to increase trials available to patients. Dancey also announced that 3CTN has also launched a new online service that will assist patients and clinicians in finding cancer clinical trials that may be of benefit.

“This funding is great news for Canada’s cancer clinical trials infrastructure, which is essential for bringing the most promising therapies and technologies to the clinic,” says Dr. Tom Hudson, President and Scientific Director of OICR. “Connecting patients to clinical trials is important in moving the science forward, but also allows us to provide avenues of treatment for those patients who have exhausted standard treatment options.”

3CTN is a pan-Canadian initiative to improve patient access to trials and the efficiency and quality of clinical trials activities in Canada. Its aim is to provide support and coordination for a network of teams at cancer treatment centres and hospitals and enable the sites to increase their capacity and capability to conduct academic trials and increase access for patients to participate in trials.

Seven Network Regional Coordinating Centres and 15 Network Cancer Centres will be established by 3CTN with the funding. In the future 3CTN will expand to include many Network Affiliated Cancer Centres. Currently 3CTN has 229 clinical trials in its portfolio including 60 pediatric trials, with more to be added as they are ready to be opened for patients. These academic trials supported by 3CTN reflect the priorities of clinicians, researchers, patients, ministries of health and funders.

“Connecting cancer patients with clinical trials may help to improve their chances of better treatment and outcomes, two key elements of Canada’s national cancer strategy. By strengthening the environment for cancer clinical trials in our country, 3CTN will improve the quality of cancer care for all Canadians,” says Ms. Shelly Jamieson, CEO of the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer.

“With approximately 24,000 individuals diagnosed with breast cancer each year, the investment by CBCF to 3CTN reflects our commitment to bring new breast cancer treatments to patients sooner. Supporting the breast cancer clinical research community is critical for ensuring that innovative Canadian research has an opportunity to improve outcomes and the quality of life for all Canadians affected by breast cancer,” says Ms. Sandra Palmaro, Co-CEO Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

The funding contribution from CancerCare Manitoba comes as the Government of Manitoba highlighted supporting academic clinical trials as a priority in its Speech from the Throne on November 20, with the specific goal of increasing patient participation in clinical trials.

“Ontario is thrilled that organizations from across Canada have come together to fund this important initiative. This network will give researchers the ability to bring life-saving innovations into cancer centres sooner and offer more patients the opportunity to join clinical trials. Both may lead to better treatments and healthier outcomes for people in Ontario and around the world,” says Reza Moridi, Ontario’s Minister of Research and Innovation.

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