Lab Canada

$12.7M from Terry Fox Foundation supports 3 research projects

Vancouver, BC – Multi-million dollar funding from the Terry Fox Foundation through its flagship New Frontiers Program Project Grants program will support new and breakthrough research by scientists and clinicians at health and research centres and institutions in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.

“The Terry Fox Foundation is providing a total of $12.7 million for three significant research programs led by the nation’s top cancer scientists,” says Dr Victor Ling, president and scientific director of the Terry Fox Research Institute (TFRI). “We are confident their work will open doors to new discoveries that advance our understanding of this disease and enable new and innovative ways to diagnose and treat cancer in its many forms.”

Just over $6 million will support new research into advanced prostate cancer at the Vancouver Coastal Health’s Vancouver Prostate Centre. The lead investigator of the Terry Fox New Frontiers Program on Prostate Cancer Progression is Dr Martin Gleave, executive director of the Vancouver Prostate Centre and lead investigator. With the five-year funding, Dr Gleave and a team of 20 co-investigators will delve deeper into understanding why patients with advanced cancer become resistant to hormone therapy.

“Our research defines changes in gene and cell function that enables prostate cancer cells to become resistant to hormone therapy,” he says. “After identifying these changes, we then use this information to develop new therapies to delay disease progression. Our long-standing Terry Fox program serves as a major catalyst for translational research that has already enabled us to bring several new therapies from bench-to-bedside.”

Dr Greave is distinguished professor in the Department of Urologic Sciences at UBC and holder of the Liber Ero BC Leadership Chair in Prostate Cancer Research.

At the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, Dr Sean Egan, senior scientist in the Developmental & Stem Cell Biology Program, and associate professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto, heads an investigative team that will receive $2.8 million over three years to find the “Achilles’ heel” responsible for tumour metastases of the breast and brain.

“Recent cancer DNA sequencing efforts have shown that cancer-associated mutations can be quite different between primary tumours and their metastases, which have spread throughout the body. This is particularly true in some forms of brain and breast cancer,” says Dr Egan. “These differences pose serious challenges, impeding efforts to identify therapy for advanced metastatic tumours. Our group, which aims to address tumour heterogeneity through the identification of subgroup-specific ‘shared maintenance genes,’ will use these funds from the Terry Fox Foundation to identify critical targets to treat the primary tumours and their malignant descendants.”

In Montreal, at the Rosalind and Morris Goodman Cancer Research Centre, Dr Michel Tremblay, professor, Departments of Biochemistry and Oncology and Centre director, will lead a team of investigators over the next three years to study molecular linkages between other diseases and cancer.

“The scientific and medical communities have long known that the intricate molecular control in obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases are linked to cancer,” says Dr Tremblay. “Yet this remains uncharted territory and much work needs to be done to understand these links. The New Frontiers oncometabolism team grant is an outstanding opportunity to work at understanding this interrelation and to develop novel strategies to tackle cancer management.” His team will receive a total of $3.8 million over three years.

The New Frontiers Program Project Grants program has been used by the Terry Fox Foundation to fund team science and research excellence for nearly three decades. TFRI and CIHR formed a joint partnership in 2010 to oversee the delivery of the program.

The foundation will be providing approximately $16 million in 2011-2012 for cure-oriented, biomedical discovery research and another $10 million for translational research through TFRI. The funds are raised by Canadians who participate each year in Terry Fox Runs and the National School Run Day across the country in honour of Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope.