Montreal, QC – Three Quebec researchers have won Terry Fox New Investigator Awards and are receiving a total of $1.35 million in funding. Two of the three researcherswill pursue new ways to help children in hospital who are battling a deadly form of leukemia, and the third will test a recent molecular finding to see how the immune system might help kill prostate cancer tumour cells.
Drs. Sonia Cellot and Brian Wilhelm, researchers at CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center and Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer, respectively, are studying acute myeloid leukemia (AML) with the goal of helping to improve survival for children diagnosed as well as determining less-damaging treatments. At the Centre de Recherche de Centre Hospitalier de l’Universite de Montreal (CRCHUM), Dr. John Stagg will test a recent molecular finding to see how the immune system might more effectively kill prostate cancer tumour cells. The three investigators are professors at the Université de Montréal.
The three scientists are receiving a total of $1.35 million from the Terry Fox Research Institute and its new partners in Quebec during the 35th anniversary milestone year for the Terry Fox Foundation. Each researcher will receive a total of $450,000 as result of their success in the annual peer-reviewed, country-wide competition.
Joining TFRI in the cancer fight in Quebec with a total contribution of $615,000 to the funded investigators are new partners: the Fonds de recherche du Quebec – Santé (FRQS) ($330,000), The Cole Foundation ($142,500), The CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation ($62,500), Fondation Centre de cancérologie Charles-Bruneau ($50,000), and L’Institut de Recherche en immunologie et cancérologie (IRIC) ($30,000)
While there have been rapid advancement in some forms of leukemia, the prognosis for children diagnosed with AML is grim: only about six out of ten children diagnosed with this disease will survive. Drs. Cellot and Wilhelm will both study ways to improve the outcomes for these young cancer patients. Dr. Cellot’s funded project will generate new knowledge on the role of chromatin structure changes in childhood acute myeloid leukemia. The outcome of this project will lead to novel therapeutic strategies to treat this high risk group of leukemia patients.
“We don’t have the cure rates as high as in other areas of leukemia, so this is a big focus for me, and I’m extremely grateful to the TFRI and the contributing partner foundations for their financial support” says Dr. Cellot. She is interested in developing ways in which drugs might be able to target leukemic stem cells while preserving the normal blood stem cells.
Dr. Wilhelm will further study a small group of genes identified with the disease to enable the development of new ways to treat the disease. “We have to think of new ways to specifically target the leukemia without causing the damaging secondary effects seen with standard chemotherapy,” he says.
Third award recipient Dr. John Stagg will examine new ways in which immunotherapy – where the patient’s own immune system is stimulated to destroy cancer cells – can be used to treat prostate cancer. He says “things are evolving rapidly and there’s more hope now than a year ago for cancer patients.”
TFRI has announced New Investigator awards to three other Canadian researchers: two in British Columbia and one in Ontario to pursue their research under Terry Fox’s name. TFRI invests funds raised by the Terry Fox Foundation through the annual Terry Fox Run, which this year will be held on Sunday, September 20, 2015.