Lab Canada

$13.6M funding for cancer research from Terry Fox Foundation

Vancouver, BC – Three cancer research teams are receiving $13.6 million from the Terry Fox Foundation to conduct cutting-edge research in several areas where there are unmet cancer needs.

In Ontario, scientists are applying new techniques using lasers and nanotechnologies to improve imaging and treatments for early-stage prostate and esophogeal cancers. In British Columbia, researchers are searching for new treatments for lymphoid cancer and rare and unusual tumours.

“For over three decades, the Terry Fox Foundation has been funding research into ‘new frontiers’ science to ensure that fundamental questions in cancer research are probed and addressed,” said Dr. Victor Ling, president and scientific director of the Terry Fox Research Institute. “Without these investigations, we would lack the knowledge and technology we have today of this complex disease. This kind of research is critical to the creation of innovative solutions within our cancer care clinics worldwide. It takes excellent scientists like those we are funding today to push forward with cutting-edge research.”

Dr. David Huntsman’s team, at the BC Cancer Agency in Vancouver is studying rare cancers – sarcomas and uterine/ovarian cancers with the aim to unlocking their genetic mutations, so that those, and eventually more common cancers, will be treated more successfully. “Rare tumours offer some real advantages because they tend to be more homogeneous [similar in structure], so it’s easier to find what mutation is actually causing that cancer,” said Dr. Huntsman, a pathologist and medical director at the Centre for Translational and Applied Genomics. “These cancers can also be keys to unlocking biology which is important for other more common cancers.”

Two emerging technologies being developed by Dr. Brian Wilson’s team, based at the University Health Network in Toronto may be able to work together to address unmet needs in cancer control. The first technology is a new technique called photoacoustic imaging which combines light and sound to make high-resolution images of tumours that can be targeted for treatment. The second technology uses their newly discovered nanoparticles to act as contrasting agents for the photoacoustic imaging. His team will apply this innovative approach to early-stage prostate and esophogeal cancers. “The combination of these two techniques is what makes this a unique opportunity,” said Dr. Wilson, a senior scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. “This funding is being used to accelerate this technology platform into human use.”

Dr. Randy Gascoyne’s team, also based at the BC Cancer Agency, is looking to catalogue genetic differences in biopsy cells in non-Hodgkin lymphomas to determine why some patients have cancers that behave more aggressively than others. “We are going to try and determine the genetic underpinnings that define those people whose primary therapy fails,” said Dr. Gascoyne, research director for the Centre for Lymphoid Cancer. The Terry Fox Foundation has been the main funding source that has allowed Gascoyne’s team to become one of the leading lymphoma genomics centres in the world.

The three scientists lead research teams that have been selected as the best groups for New Frontiers funding for their excellence and impact. Dr. Wilson is receiving a first award of $2.249 million to be paid over the next three years. The two BC Cancer Agency projects are receiving renewal funding: Dr. Huntsman’s team is awarded $7.5 million over five years. Dr. Gascoyne’s team is receiving $3.885 million over three years, with $600,000 provided by the BC Cancer Foundation.

“The BC Cancer Foundation is pleased to support Dr. Gascyone’s innovative project that has the potential to create major breakthroughs in lymphoid cancer treatments from which we all benefit. We are also excited to be the first foundation to partner with the Terry Fox Foundation and are confident that as partners in discovery we will bring significant hope to the thousands of British Columbian’s that are impacted by cancer,” said Doug Nelson, president and CEO of the BC Cancer Foundation.

The BC Cancer Foundation contribution marks the first time a partner has co-funded a Terry Fox New Frontiers Program Project Grant since the program was created over 30 years ago.

The Terry Fox Foundation funds are raised annually by school children and supporters from coast to coast who participate in or donate to the Terry Fox Run and National School Run Day.