October 9, 2019

Researchers discover a new cancer-driving mutation in the “dark matter” of the cancer genome

Change in just one letter of DNA code in a gene conserved through generations of evolution can cause multiple types of cancer

Toronto – (October 9, 2019) An Ontario-led research group has discovered a novel cancer-driving mutation in the vast non-coding regions of the human cancer genome, also known as the “dark matter” of human cancer DNA.

The mutation, as described in two related studies published in Nature on October 9, 2019, represents a new potential therapeutic target for several types of cancer including brain, liver and blood cancer. This target could be used to develop novel treatments for patients with these difficult-to-treat diseases.

“Non-coding DNA, which makes up 98 per cent of the genome, is notoriously difficult to study and is often overlooked since it does not code for proteins,” says Dr. Lincoln Stein, co-lead of the studies and Head of Adaptive Oncology at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR). “By carefully analyzing these regions, we have discovered a change in one letter of the DNA code that can drive multiple types of cancer. In turn, we’ve found a new cancer mechanism that we can target to tackle the disease.”

Continue reading – Researchers discover a new cancer-driving mutation in the “dark matter” of the cancer genome

May 1, 2019

The unanticipated early origins of childhood brain cancer

Study identifies earliest traces of brain cancer long before the disease becomes symptomatic

Toronto (May 1, 2019) – Brain tumours are the leading cause of non-accidental death in children in Canada, but little is known about when these tumours form or how they develop. Researchers have recently identified the cells that are thought to give rise to certain brain tumours in children and discovered that these cells first appear in the embryonic stage of a mammal’s development – far earlier than they had expected.

Their findings, published today in Nature, could lead the way to the discovery of better treatments to attack these lethal tumours.

“Progress in the development of more effective brain cancer treatments has been hampered in large part by the complex heterogeneity – or the variety of cells – within each tumour,” says Dr. Michael Taylor, Paediatric Neurosurgeon and Senior Scientist in Developmental and Stem Cell Biology at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and co-lead of the study. “We recognized that new technologies could allow us to unravel some of this complexity, so we combined our expertise with McGill and OICR to approach this problem together.”

Using mouse models, the research group investigated the different types of normal brain cells and how they developed at various timepoints in the cerebellum of the brain – the most common location for childhood brain tumours to appear. They mapped the lineages of over 30 types of cells and identified normal cells that would later transform into cancerous cells, also known as the cells of origin.

To pinpoint these specific cells, the group relied on single cell sequencing technology, which allows researchers to look at individual cells more clearly than traditional sequencing methods.

In their investigation, the cells of origin were observed much earlier in fetal development than one would expect, says Taylor, who is also a Professor in the Departments of Surgery and Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at the University of Toronto and Co-lead of OICR’s Brain Cancer Translational Research Initiative.

“Our data show that in some cases, these tumours arise from cell populations and events that would occur in humans at six weeks in utero,” says Dr. Lincoln Stein, Head of Adaptive Oncology at OICR and co-lead of the study. “This means that the brain tumours may be starting long before they show in clinic, even before a woman may know she is pregnant.”

“The brain is extraordinarily complex. These findings are not only important for better understanding brain tumours but they will also allow us to learn more about these cells and how they work, in order to help children with neurodevelopmental delays. What we have accomplished as a team in this study brings hope for patients,” adds Dr. Nada Jabado, Paediatric Hemato-Oncologist and Senior Scientist in the Child Health and Human Development Program at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre and co-lead of the study. Dr. Jabado is also a professor of Pediatrics and Human genetics at McGill University.

“If we can understand where these tumours originate, we can better understand which cells to target and when to target them to create more effective and less toxic therapies for children,” says Ibrahim El-Hamamy, PhD candidate at OICR and co-first author of the study. “We’ve found new avenues and opportunities in a very complex disease and we look forward to actualizing this potential.” 

With this knowledge, researchers can now study the differences between the development of normal, healthy cells and the cells that will eventually give rise to cancerous cells.

Continue reading – The unanticipated early origins of childhood brain cancer

August 22, 2018

Heliotrope: Personalizing cancer treatment decisions

Justin Cook poses for a photo in his office

OICR-developed software tool, Heliotrope, gains attention from the private sector for its potential to analyze large amounts of genomic information and inform clinical decision making

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June 27, 2018

Healthcare Software Start-Up Ziliomics Financed by FACIT

World-leading genomics cloud computing group builds clinical tool for cancer care in Ontario

TORONTO, ON (June 27, 2018) – Ziliomics Inc., a start-up created by FACIT, received seed financing from the Prospects Oncology Fund. Derived from a leading oncology bio-computing group and leveraging insights from the world’s largest cancer genomics projects, Ziliomics develops web-based, modular software platforms that help physicians make actionable treatment decisions for patients living with cancer. Together with FACIT’s interim executive management model, the capital advances the development of Heliotrope, Ziliomics’ lead software product, and positions the company for corporate partnerships and additional financing. Financing terms were not disclosed.

Continue reading – Healthcare Software Start-Up Ziliomics Financed by FACIT

May 10, 2018

Symposium offers preview of findings from the Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes project

PCAWG researchers pose for a group photo.

On April 13, researchers from around the world gathered at the MaRS Centre in Toronto to get a sneak peek at the findings from the Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes (PCAWG) project. PCAWG is an ambitious international effort to comprehensively understand the non-protein coding elements of the genome, which make up 97 per cent of the genome but have been little studied in the context of cancer.

Continue reading – Symposium offers preview of findings from the Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes project

January 25, 2018

The Canadian Data Integration Centre receives new funding to help cancer researchers translate findings to patients

CDI - LogoToronto (January 25, 2018) – The Canadian Data Integration Centre (CDIC) has received $6.4 million in funding from Genome Canada to help the research community translate the biological insights gained from genomics research into tangible improvements for cancer patients.

CDIC is a “one-stop shop” service delivery platform for cancer researchers, helping streamline research by providing coordinated expertise on a broad range of services, including data integration, genomics, pathology, biospecimen handling and advanced sequencing technologies. It is an international leader in genomics, bioinformatics and translational research, supporting some of the world’s largest programs in genomic data analysis, genomic and clinical data hosting, cancer data analyses and access, and the development of algorithms for advanced sequencing technology.

Continue reading – The Canadian Data Integration Centre receives new funding to help cancer researchers translate findings to patients

October 23, 2017

Pathology Matters 2017 unites and informs Ontario’s pathology community

Pathology Matters attendees take part in a group discussion.

In this post, Monique Johnson shares how the Ontario Molecular Pathology Research Network’s (OMPRN) 2017 Pathology Matters Meeting provided her with new insights into the field and introduced her to Ontario’s molecular pathology community.

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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

August 15, 2017

New data resource centre will help better understand links between birth defects and childhood cancer

Researchers from the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research playing major role in the design and development of the new initiative.

Toronto (August 15, 2017) – Children with structural birth defects are at a much higher risk of developing certain types of childhood cancers but scientists currently lack vital information about why this occurs.

Continue reading – New data resource centre will help better understand links between birth defects and childhood cancer

August 9, 2017

Importance of large database of genetic variants reinforced in a new study

A newly published paper in Genetics in Medicine has reinforced the fundamental importance of collecting information about genetic variances in a single large database.  With so much important genetic information being used globally to understand the underlying genetic influences of diseases, researchers and clinicians need an accessible repository to share this information.

Continue reading – Importance of large database of genetic variants reinforced in a new study

June 7, 2017

EAGLE will help cancer research soar

Dr. Hilary Edgington

 Researchers from OICR and other institutions have created a new software program called EAGLE that mines data to understand the interactions between a person’s environment and their genetics. The tool has far-reaching uses, including oncology, and can provide researchers and clinicians with important information that can help personalize treatments for patients.

To learn more we spoke to Dr. Hillary Edgington, a Postdoctoral Fellow in OICR’s Informatics technology platform, which is led by Dr. Lincoln Stein. Edgington and her collaborators recently shared their research in the journal Nature Methods.

Continue reading – EAGLE will help cancer research soar

March 22, 2017

FACIT Launches The Prospects Oncology Fund

New evergreen fund to help Ontario discoveries reach seed-stage funding faster

Prospects Fund LogoTORONTO, March 21, 2017 /CNW/ – Fight Against Cancer Innovation Trust (“FACIT”) is pleased to announce the launch of The Prospects Oncology Fund (“Prospects Fund”), designed to advance early-stage Ontario cancer discoveries by supporting the proof-of-concept studies needed to attract seed-stage investment. Managed by FACIT, this is an evergreen fund to which capital is allocated annually.

Continue reading – FACIT Launches The Prospects Oncology Fund

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