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$9M collaboration to tackle cancer


Vancouver, BC – Pfizer is entering into a three-year, $9-million research collaboration with the BC Cancer Agency and the Vancouver Prostate Centre, a University of British Columbia (UBC) and Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) Centre of Excellence, to tackle new treatment avenues for breast, ovarian and prostate cancer.

This is the single-largest investment by Pfizer into British Columbia’s public research sector, and it recognizes the strength and world-class cancer expertise that resides in this province.

“This investment is a major step in the fight to control cancer in tumour areas that kill thousands of British Columbians and Canadians every year,” said Paul Lévesque, president, Pfizer Canada. “Pfizer is excited about the opportunity to collaborate with The BC Cancer Agency and the Vancouver Prostate Centre, as they are outstanding translational research centres with international reputations. Overall, British Columbia’s research climate, capacity and expertise are why Pfizer has brought close to $25 million of additional investment to the province since 2007.”

The research collaboration project focuses on identifying new biomarkers and treatment targets for breast and ovarian cancer, and will help Pfizer to more efficiently test new agents to delay the progression and improve survival in prostate cancer patients. The BC Cancer Agency team, led by Dr Samuel Aparicio, is investigating the genomic landscape of breast cancer using next-generation sequencing, siRNA screens and the BC Cancer Agency’s anonymous breast cancer tumour bank with detailed outcomes data on over 4,000 frozen breast cancers. The collaboration aims to identify new therapeutic targets and new biomarkers of disease and treatment. The Vancouver Prostate Centre, under the leadership of Dr Martin Gleave, has developed an early drug discovery platform that brings multiple experts together to rapidly and efficiently evaluate the mechanism of action and efficacy of new drug molecules.

In addition, as part of the breast cancer research program, ovarian cancer will also be decoded to identify new and much needed biomarkers and therapeutic targets for more personalized approaches in ovarian cancer treatment. Dr David Huntsman, director of the Ovarian Cancer Research Program at BC Cancer Agency and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute and associate professor, department of pathology and laboratory medicine, UBC, will lead that work.

“Research collaborations with experienced industry partners are vital to translating our discoveries into effective medicines for patients. Thanks to this collaboration with Pfizer, we will be able to extend our search for new therapeutic targets and biomarkers, using the BC Cancer Agency’s unique breast tumour resource,” said Dr Aparicio, who is head of the molecular oncology and breast cancer research program at the BC Cancer Agency and a professor in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine at UBC. “By combining our platforms with our anonymous, long-term data on breast cancer patients in BC, we hope to discover new drug targets and biomarkers that will be developed into new therapies.”

The research at the Vancouver Prostate Centre will be conducted through the Translational Research Initiative for Accelerated Discovery and Development (PC-TRIADD), directed by Dr Gleave, who is also a distinguished professor in the department of urologic sciences, UBC faculty of medicine, and the B.C. leadership chair in prostate cancer research.

“This partnership with one of the world’s major pharmaceutical companies supports and accelerates one of our key areas of focus, which is to identify why prostate cancer becomes hormone-resistant and to use this information to develop new treatments that improve the quality and longevity of life for patients,” he said. “We are proud to work with Pfizer and the BC Cancer Agency to continue to bring discoveries from the lab to our patient clinic and offer the best in cutting-edge treatment to British Columbians.”