Lab Canada

$429,000 earmarked to explore new areas of breast cancer research

Toronto,ON June 24, 2003 The Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance (CBCRA) today awarded more than C$429,000 to nine research projects based on their innovative approach to exploring a wide scope of breast cancer questions.

“IDEA grants support small-scale pilot studies or investigations of concepts to permit the investigator to test out new ideas,” says Dr Marilyn Schneider, executive director, CBCRA. “Although they are based on good science, each of these projects is in some way outside of existing conventional research paradigms and could be deemed speculative. That, however, is what makes this competition so full of possibility and therefore so important to Canadian breast cancer research.”

One-year IDEA grants of up to $50,000 each support speculative research ideas that have the potential for advancing scientific knowledge or opening significant new areas of research. Projects being funded include the following:

– Dr Mark Basik, Centre de recherche du CHUM, Pav Hotel-Dieu, Montreal, has received $49,575 to test whether levels of SDF-1 in the blood of women with breast cancer can predict whether or not the disease will metastasize.

– Dr William Foulkes, Lady Davis Institute, Montreal, has received $49,950 to examine breast cancer cell lines derived from BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 carriers. The project focuses on understanding the molecular basis of breast cancer in women who have developed the disease and carry germ-line BRCA 1 or 2 mutations.

– Dr Pamela Goodwin, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, believes that insulin may stimulate tumour growth in women with breast cancer. She and her team have been awarded $49,995 to examine the ability of a commonly used diabetes drug, metformin, to lower insulin levels in women with cancer.

– Dr Wey Liang Leong, University Health Network, Toronto, has been awarded $46,375 to use a ductoscopy to view and collect cells for detailed genetic studies from the interior of individual milk ducts and lobules from which most breast cancers originate. The study will enhance our ability to predict clinical outcomes prior to surgery.

– Dr Linda Penn, Ontario Cancer Institute/PMH, Toronto, has received $49,658 to study a potent cell growth gene, known as Myc, that is often mutated in breast cancer. Dr Penn’s research aims to determine whether there is a particular subset of Myc-regulated molecules that is responsible for causing cancer.

– Dr David Rodenhiser, London Regional Cancer Centre (CCO), London, has been awarded $34,500 to investigate how low levels of certain environmental carcinogens, specifically benzopyrene and arsenic, can act together to change the normal on-off patterns of our genes and result in breast cancer later in life.

– As breast cancer becomes metastatic, the molecular glue between the cells of the tumour breaks down and the tumour cells begin their journey to distant sites, which leads to the majority of fatalities from the disease. Dr Calvin Roskelley, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia has been awarded $48,978 to determine if, a disruptor of this glue, called podocalyxin, is upregulated in invasive human breast cancer and if it can initiate metastasis in an experimental model. These studies will determine if podocalyxin is a useful marker of cancer progression and whether it can be used in new non-toxic, rational cancer therapies.

– GPLP1 is a novel gene whose expression is lost in a high percentage of breast and ovarian cancer cell lines. Dr Christian Sirard, McGill University, Montreal, has been awarded $50,000 to investigate GPLP1 as a possible tumour suppressor and whether its absence can be used as a new, genetic tool for prognosis.

– Taxol and taxotere are effective drugs against breast cancer belonging to the family of taxanes. The therapeutic efficacy of these drugs is, however, seriously limited by severe side effects and resistant cell lines that do not respond to them. Dr Lolita Zamir, INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier, Laval, has been awarded $50,000 to explore the development of a new family of taxanes that could ultimately lead to better-tolerated and more effective chemotherapies.

The Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance (CBCRA), formerly the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Initiative, is the primary funder of breast cancer research in Canada. Since its inception in 1993, CBCRA has awarded $102 million to 319 projects spanning the spectrum of breast cancer research, including prevention, early detection, treatment and care. Members of the alliance include the Avon Flame Foundation, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, Canadian Breast Cancer Network, Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Health Canada and the National Cancer Institute of Canada.