August 29, 2019

Meet OICR’s summer students

Photo collage of featured students

Did you know that in addition to conducting and enabling cancer research, OICR plays a key role in training the next generation of cancer researchers? Several postsecondary students spent the summer at OICR and gained valuable experience in, and exposure to, the world of cancer research. In this series of videos, five of these students share what they learned during their time at OICR and how their experiences have helped shape their plans for the future.

January 23, 2019

Powering the future of pathology

Ontario Molecular Pathology Research Network (OMPRN) helps establish new training standards for pathologists across Canada

Personalized medicine presents a tremendous opportunity for molecular pathologists to contribute to improvements in detecting, diagnosing and selecting treatments for cancer patients. As new diagnostic and prognostic tools continue to emerge, it is becoming increasingly important for pathologists to engage in cancer research and understand new developments across scientific disciplines. Fostering this engagement begins with education.

OMPRN is championing the advancement of molecular pathology training across Canada through its engagement with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (Royal College), Canada’s governing body for medical education. Together, they are developing a new curriculum for pathology residents based on competencies – the proficiency or ability to perform a skill – rather than the traditional time-based training approach where residents are evaluated based on the amount of time spent acquiring knowledge or practicing a skill.

Dr. David LeBrun, Principal Investigator at Queen’s Cancer Research Institute and Leader of OMPRN.

“The existing competencies around molecular pathology were not adequate in detail, nor were they adequate in rigour,” says Dr. David LeBrun, Principal Investigator at Queen’s Cancer Research Institute and Leader of OMPRN. “So we harnessed the opportunity to improve these training standards for the future of pathology in Canada.”

OMPRN developed a list of molecular pathology competencies, priorities and training strategies to inform a new national curriculum. These suggestions were presented to the Anatomical Pathology Specialty Committee of the Royal College, who accepted several of the proposed strategies and recognized OMPRN’s submission as an official Royal College Curricular Document – a curriculum guide for educators.

One of OMPRN’s major contributions to the new curriculum, which is currently being implemented across Canada, was a competency focused on synthesizing a unified, clinically-actionable report based on results from non-traditional diagnostic tests, such as liquid biopsies or genomic profiling. With this ability, pathologists can better inform clinicians while ensuring that there are no opportunities missed in the detection or diagnosis a patient’s disease.

“With proper training, pathologists can play a key role in bringing the benefits of new research discoveries into the patient experience,” says LeBrun. “These competencies will help ensure that treatment decisions in the clinic are well informed by both conventional pathology techniques and novel tools and resources.”

One of the key challenges of competency-based education is that some training centres may not have the expertise to train their residents on highly-specialized skills. OMPRN is working to address the gap in expertise by developing online education materials to complement the molecular pathology competencies and offering training courses like their inaugural Applied Molecular Pathology Course, which was held January 9-10 in Mississauga.

“Our mission is to create a vibrant community of cancer research-oriented pathologists in Ontario,” says LeBrun. “Through our educational initiatives, OMPRN is helping to build the next generation of pathologists and – in turn – driving the future of cancer innovation.”

For more information on the Ontario Molecular Pathology Research Network, please visit its website.

Learn more about the Royal College’s Competence by Design program in the video below.

July 27, 2018

BioLab helps scientists get the most out of Ontario’s cancer research infrastructure

A technician works in OICR pathology lab

Over the past decade, OICR’s laboratories have procured state-of-the-art equipment and developed leading-edge technologies to help answer pressing cancer research questions. The effective and proper use of advanced laboratory tools is dependent on specialized knowledge and skills on the part of the operator. OICR’s platform for laboratory training, BioLab, is ensuring that Ontario’s cancer researchers have the knowledge they need to explore the full potential of some of the province’s most advanced cancer research equipment.

Continue reading – BioLab helps scientists get the most out of Ontario’s cancer research infrastructure

May 23, 2018 launches 2018 pan-Canadian annual workshop series to train big data talent

CBW Group

Researchers, specifically those studying cancer, require expertise to tackle increasingly complex, large datasets that are generated by rapidly developing sequencing technologies. has launched their 2018 Canadian Bioinformatics Workshops (CBW) series to train Canadian and international scientists on cutting-edge topics in bioinformatics – preparing them to harness the potential of big data.

Continue reading – launches 2018 pan-Canadian annual workshop series to train big data talent

April 9, 2018

Biostatistics Training Initiative boosts Ontario’s cancer research community

Dr. Gregory Pond, Jenna Sykes, Dr. Richard Cook, Yonathan Brhane, Dr. Wei Xu

Dr. Gregory Pond, Jenna Sykes, Dr. Richard Cook, Yonathan Brhane, Dr. Wei Xu.

Cancer researchers often confront quantitative challenges and puzzles that are best addressed by biostatisticians – specialists in a field for which there is a growing demand. In a 2008 survey of Ontario oncologists, eight in 10 respondents identified the lack of trained biostatisticians as a factor limiting their progress in cancer research. OICR has recently renewed funding for the Biostatistics Training Initiative (BTI) following a successful review. With this funding, the BTI will continue to benefit Ontario’s cancer research community and  develop the next generation of cancer biostatisticians. The BTI is run in partnership with in the University of Waterloo and McMaster University.

Continue reading – Biostatistics Training Initiative boosts Ontario’s cancer research community

October 23, 2017

Boost your bioinformatics knowledge at TorBUG

Torbug - Lecture illustration

The Toronto Bioinformatics User Group’s (TorBUG) 2017-2018 season continues this Wednesday, October 23 with two presentations that promise to be of interest to anyone involved in bioinformatics. Dr. Quaid Morris, Associate Professor at the University of Toronto (U of T) will present “The Genetic Archaeology of Individual Cancers”. Brendan Innes, a PhD Candidate in the Bader Lab at U of T will cover “Cell types in single-cell RNAseq.”

Continue reading – Boost your bioinformatics knowledge at TorBUG

June 7, 2017

New grant program boosts molecular pathology research in Ontario

Two lab technicians work in a lab.

The Ontario Molecular Pathology Research Network (OMPRN) recently awarded $675,000 of funding to support molecular cancer pathology research in Ontario. The 11 funded projects will involve 22 investigators and seven trainees and address clinically-relevant questions in bladder, brain, breast, endometrial, cervical, renal, pediatric and hematological cancers. The 26 applications that were submitted for review demonstrate the high quality and rich diversity of cancer pathology research in the province. Please visit the Funded Projects page for more information.

OMPRN’s mission is to enhance molecular pathology research capacity across the province by fostering collaboration and cooperation between Ontario academic pathologists, increasing the participation of pathologists in high-quality translational cancer research, and providing opportunities for residents, fellows and early career pathologists to obtain training and mentorship in cancer research. In line with these objectives, all of the research projects funded through OMPRN’s Pathology Translational Research Grants (CPTRG) program are led by pathologists, address questions of clear relevance to cancer care and incorporate important elements of transdisciplinary collaboration and mentorship. Trainees and early career researchers involved in these projects will be supported in their research through attending regular meetings of OICR’s Pathology Club.

The next round of the CPTRG program will be announced in the fall of 2017. Information may be found here:

June 5, 2017

OICR donates sequencer to Fleming College for high-tech training

Individuals from OICR and Fleming College pose for a photo in front of the sequencer.

Fleming’s Biotechnology-Advanced students have received a significant boost to their career preparation with the help of The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR). Their investment in people is recognized through a very generous donation of an Illumina HiSeq DNA Sequencer to the Biotechnology-Advanced program, a benefit to Fleming College valued at $600,000. This new equipment will provide students with hands-on experience using cutting-edge automated instruments that are utilized widely across the biotechnology industry.

“Some of the best technicians in OICR’s genomic labs are Fleming College graduates. We are proud to pay-it-forward by helping the College give future life sciences researchers in Ontario hands-on training opportunities on real genomics equipment.” says Paul Krzyzanowski, Program Manager of Genome Technologies, OICR. “Illumina equipment is the backbone of most sequencing labs and it’s essential for today’s students to become familiar with the complexity around these machines with hands-on experience.”

The remarkable relationship between OICR and Fleming College has flourished over the last nine years. With its state of the art facilities and research, OICR has become a highly sought after internship agency for Fleming students since the first placement student in 2008. The support from OICR and Illumina helps Fleming College to lead the way in biotechnology training; contributing to excellence in academic programming that includes relevant experiences. The hands-on learning creates a positive impact towards the future of Fleming students and alumni, the success of employers and especially those who benefit from cancer research.

“We are very grateful for the Ontario Institute of Cancer Research for their investment in our students,” says Biotechnology Program Coordinator Ashvin Mohindra. “OICR provides a practical training component through their in-kind gifts and placement opportunities for our students. With their help, we are also pleased to meet OICRs employment needs which is proven with the hiring of more than 18 Fleming College graduates to fill their high-tech positions.”

The in-kind donation would have not been possible without the tireless effort of OICR and Illumina, the sequencer manufacturer and third party liquid handler software provider. The College would like to specifically recognize and thank everyone at OICR who made these donations possible (Lee Timms, Jessica Miller, Paul Krzyzanowski, Tom Hudson, Mike Kostiuk, Susan Hockley, Jeremy Johns, and Howard Simkevitz) and the staff at Illumina for their tireless help and expertise in setting up the equipment (Lisa Lock, Peter Ayache and Mike Ramsey).

OICR, a global leader in healthcare, research and innovation, is dedicated to exploring the prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Their commitment to exploring cancer extends beyond the lab; OICR invests in people who can make novel discoveries.

Note: This story originally appeared in the Spring 2017 edition of Fleming Ties magazine and has been reproduced with the permission of Fleming College. The original can be found here (PDF):

April 4, 2017

OICR provides students a window into possible careers over March Break

Three students pose for a photo.

For three science-obsessed high school students March Break wasn’t a time to kick back and relax. Instead the students, Cameron, Chris and Zev, spent the week at OICR gaining knowledge and hands on experience in genomics and bioinformatics as part of the Gene Researcher for a Week program.

Continue reading – OICR provides students a window into possible careers over March Break

January 18, 2017

Interested in bioinformatics? Come to TorBUG on January 25

Torbug - Lecture illustration

The Toronto Bioinformatics User Group (TorBUG) will hold its first session of the New Year on January 25. Anyone with an interest in bioinformatics is encouraged to attend and hear from Katie Pollard, Director and Senior Investigator at Gladstone Institutes and Davide Chicco from the University of Toronto.

Event details

January 25, 2017

4-4:15 p.m. Trainee Speaker: Davide Chicco, University of Toronto: “Siamese neural network for prediction of long-range interactions in chromatin”

4:15-5 p.m. Guest Speaker: Katie Pollard, Gladstone Institutes: “Most transcription factors recognize DNA shape”

5-7 p.m. Reception

Location: 160 College St., Toronto, Red Room, Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, University of Toronto

A calendar of upcoming TorBUG events can be found at:

Missed a session? Videos of the latest TorBUG talks are below.

November 23, 2016

OICR and OMPRN celebrate International Pathology Day with educational events

A technician works in OICR pathology lab

On November 16 OICR and the Ontario Molecular Pathology Research Network (OMPRN) joined other organizations around the world celebrating International Pathology Day.

Continue reading – OICR and OMPRN celebrate International Pathology Day with educational events

October 26, 2016

TorBUG continues tonight with speaker Dr. Laura Hug from the University of Waterloo

Torbug - Lecture illustration

The Toronto Bioinformatics User Group (TorBUG) continues this evening with another session of leading-edge bioinformatics topics and speakers. TorBUG sessions encourage learning, sharing and networking with colleagues in bioinformatics. Anyone who is interested is welcome to attend.

Continue reading – TorBUG continues tonight with speaker Dr. Laura Hug from the University of Waterloo

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