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Cancer society funds more than $47M in research across Canada


Toronto, ON – A total of 78 new cancer research grants across the country, totalling $47.2 million, have been awarded by the Canadian Cancer Society.

“Thanks to the generosity of Canadians, we are able to fund some of the best cancer research in the world,” says Dr Barbara Whylie, CEO of the Canadian Cancer Society. “This research is saving lives and we are very grateful to our donors and our volunteers for ensuring that we continue to make real progress against cancer.”

A list of grants awarded in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario follows.

The five new Alberta research grants funded by the Canadian Cancer Society include:

Dr M Joan Allalunis-Turner, Alberta Cancer Board: $288,792 over three years to determine if neuroglobin, a recently discovered protein, promotes brain tumour cell survival in low-oxygen conditions. This research could suggest ways to block the protein and destroy cancer cells.

Dr Christopher Bleackley, University of Alberta: $705,000 over five years to investigate how cytotoxic T lymphocytes deliver messages to tumours. This research will help discover ways to improve cancer immunotherapies.

Dr Frank Jirik, University of Calgary: $314,862 over three years to determine whether the lack of a certain gene in mice causes them to develop more lung cancers than those where that same gene is intact. The research aims to establish why certain genes predispose people to lung cancer and may be used in the future to evaluate prevention strategies such as vitamins, drugs or food.

Dr James Stone, University of Alberta: $411,015 over five years to study Mek proteins and how mutations within them can cause cancerous cells to divide. This research may lead to new drug developments to delay cancer growth.

Dr Marcy Winget, Alberta Cancer Board: $293,346 over three years to evaluate colorectal cancer care for patients. This research will examine the entire spectrum of care in this area in order to identify ways to improve current colorectal cancer care in Canada.

The nine new Canadian Cancer Society-funded grants to British Columbia researchers include:

Dr Hugh Brock, University of British Columbia: $369,000 over three years. Dr Brocks group is investigating how ribonucleic acid, or RNA, regulates gene expression, particularly to prevent activity of a gene that can trigger leukemia. Dr Brocks research into RNAs ability to turn genes on and off could provide new ways to treat cancers with targeted drugs.

Dr David Huntsman, University of British Columbia: $759,748 over five years. Dr Huntsmans group is working to expand the understanding of how mutations in the E-cadherin gene lead to hereditary diffuse gastric cancer and lobular breast cancer. Part of this study focuses on Newfoundland, where there are twice as many cases of stomach cancers than other parts of Canada. Dr Huntsmans research hopes to further develop knowledge for clinical screening and management of cancers related to the E-cadherin gene mutation.

Dr Steven Jones, BC Cancer Agency (Vancouver): $605,066 over five years. Dr Jones team is investigating how the full repertoire of genetic changes in breast cancer cells using leading edge sequencing-by-synthesis technology. This research will help identify new ways to inhibit the proliferation of breast tumour cells and provide models for the development of new treatments.

Dr Peter Lansdorp, BC Cancer Agency (Vancouver): $615,000 over five years. Dr Lansdorps team is clarifying the critical role of telomeres (the ends of chromosomes) in maintaining genetic stability, since genetic instability can lead to cancer. These studies have the potential to lead to new treatments or preventive strategies for cancer.

Dr Torsten Nielsen, University of British Columbia: $702,345 over five years. Dr Nielsens team is applying new diagnostic tools and drugs developed using both cell cultures and lab mice to deal with synovial sarcoma (cancer of the muscle, fat, fibrous tissues and blood vessels). Based on his teams previous research, these tests and drugs will now be assessed in human cases of synovial sarcoma to prove their clinical value and possibly lead to treatment of other closely-related cancers.

Dr Peggy Olive, BC Cancer Agency (Vancouver): $396,294 over three years. Dr Olives team is carrying out a study to understand the role that certain clusters of repair proteins play in determining whether some tumours are resistant to radiation and chemotherapy. This research will lead to new ways to identify resistant tumours and may point to more effective treatments and better outcomes.

Dr Michel Roberge, University of British Columbia: $701,028 over five years. Dr Roberges team is identifying proteins and processes involved in metastasis, the invasion by tumours into normal tissue. Based on discovery of inhibitors derived from marine sponges, Dr Roberges team will screen 40,000 pure chemicals and natural extracts to find compounds to inhibit metastasis.

Dr Ivan Sadowski, University of British Columbia: $348,630 over three years. Dr Sadowskis team is studying how the CDK8 protein in yeast acts as a volume switch for specific genes such as STE12 to control cell growth. Dr Sadowskis research hopes to unravel the mechanisms by which the CDK8 protein functions. This will allow for a better understanding of the comparable wiring in human cells to develop novel means of inhibiting uncontrolled cell growth that leads to cancer.

Dr Alan So, University of British Columbia: $309,066 over three years. Dr Sos team is studying the effect of OGX-427, a new type of treatment agent, on Hsp27, a bad cell survival protein that promotes the development of tumours in bladder cancer. The goal of Dr Sos research is to develop a safe, new bladder cancer treatment to improve patient survival by reducing tumour recurrence and eliminating tumour progression.

Ontario projects awards (37 in total) include:

Dr Shabbir Alibhai, University Health Network: $338,946 over 3 years to study the long-term effects of androgen deprivation therapy, a common prostate cancer treatment that can impact physical function, cognition and bone density. Dr Alibhais research will improve the knowledge base of ADT and may also lead to ways to minimize the current side effects.

Dr Prabhat Arya, Ottawa Health Research Institute: $366,939 over 3 years to develop small molecule chemical probes that can be used to better understand the role of a family of proteins known as protein tyrosine phosphatases (PTP) which are involved in cancer growth. Using these naturally-derived chemical probes may also help point to the development of new anti-cancer agents.

Dr David Bazett-Jones, The Hospital For Sick Children: $584,510 over 5 years to study how the internal organization of a cells nucleus can contribute to either a normal or aberrant readout of DNA. This could result in a better understanding of theimportance of the positioning of genetic information into the correct neighbourhoods which, if not placed correctly, could lead to cancers. Dr Bazett-Jones team is determining whether specific genes and chromosomes located in specific neighbourhoods are responsible for tumour development, leading to new therapeutic interventions in certain cancers.

Dr John Bell, Ottawa Health Research Institute: $615,000 over 5 years to enhance the effectiveness of viruses like the Vesicular Stomatitus Virus to selectively infect and destroy cancer cells while sparing healthy cells. The research of Dr Bells team hopes to aid in the design of new strategies to use such viruses to fight cancers.

Dr Lina Dagnino, University of Western Ontario: $369,000 over 3 years to study the role of the ILK protein in skin cell development and movement which may be important in the formation of invasive skin cancers such as melanoma. Dr Dagninos research hopes to shed light on this critical gap in knowledge in order to lead to better therapies for fighting skin cancer.

Dr Laura Dawson, Princess Margaret Hospital: $159,714 over 3
years to measure the effectiveness of a new technique called individualized stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) in treating patients suffering with large liver cancers. The research team will also treat a group of patients with very advanced liver cancers with low doses of radiation. This research has the potential to significantly reduce deaths from primary and metastatic liver cancer and improve quality of life in advanced cancer patients.

Dr Peter Dirks, The Hospital For Sick Children: $564,000 over 4 years to understand how normal brain stem cells turn into brain tumour stem cells and if newly-discovered blocking agents can kill the cancerous cells. Dr Dirks investigation of the mechanism of brain tumour initiation will have important implications for tumour therapy and prevention.

Dr Daniel Durocher, Mount Sinai Hospital: $369,000 over 3 years to identify and understand mechanisms and genes which have the ability to promote or prevent chromosomes from becoming rearranged. All cancer cells have re-arranged chromosomes.

Dr Stuart F. Foster, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre: $375,519 over 4 years to speed up cancer research in mice so discoveries can be applied to human cancers more quickly. Specifically, Dr Fosters group hopes to identify molecules that control angiogenesis, the process of creating vessels supplying blood to cells by the use of high frequency ultrasound imaging.

Dr Brenda Gallie, Ontario Cancer Institute: $304,712 over 3 years to determine if the KIF14 gene is a key factor in the development of malignant retinoblastoma, the cancer of the retina that develops in infants. Dr Gallies research may identify KIF14 as a target for anti-cancer therapy for retinoblastoma and possibly breast and lung cancers.

Dr Chi-chung Hui, The Hospital For Sick Children: $414,597 over 3 years to study how the Hedgehog pathway, a key regulator of cell division, can be affected by particular proteins, leading to formation of cancers. Dr Huis research into ways to turn the Hedgehog pathway on or off may lead to more effective therapies for breast, brain, prostate and skin cancers.

Dr Meredith Irwin, The Hospital For Sick Children: $400,682 over 3 years to understand how the p73 protein is activated or frustrated by certain other proteins to cause death of cancer cells in response to chemotherapy. This research will aid in the design of ways to increase p73s ability to induce cell death in neuroblastoma and other tumours.

Dr Rama Khokha, University Health Network/Ontario Cancer Institute: $615,000 over 5 years to study spontaneous osteosarcoma, the most common primary bone tumour that mainly occurs in children and young adults. A new genetic mouse model, MOTO, developed by Dr Khokhas team will help determine how the rankl gene impacts development of this cancer.

Dr Victoria Kirsh, Cancer Care Ontario: $92,418 over 1 year to study the possible carcinogenic risks of exposing children and youth to radiation associated with CT scans. Dr Kirsh and her team will study 270,000 children under 18 in Ontario and the results of the study will inform CT-scan policy decisions in the future.

Dr Anne Klassen, University of British Columbia: $139,067 over 2 years to study the experiences of first generation South Asian families who have children with cancer. This research will lead to a better understanding of why some caregivers of children with cancer cope better with the stresses than others, and will help to improve pediatric oncology services.

Dr Murray Krahn, University Health Network: $326,774 over 3 years to study prostate cancer patients in Ontario whove received androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) over the past ten years. Dr Krahns research objective is to validate a prostate cancer policy model for use by various provincial health ministries, clinicians and patients to choose ADT treatment to give an optimal balance of benefits, side effects and costs.

Dr Henry Krause, University of Toronto: $615,000 over 5 years to broaden the knowledge base of nuclear receptors, proteins that control body size, organs and sexual identity. If inappropriately triggered by certain hormones, these proteins can cause unrestricted growth and tumours. Dr Krauses research will lead to the identification of drugs to control abnormal nuclear receptor triggering.

Dr Patricia Liaw, McMaster University. $262,695 over 3 years to identify how certain anti-cancer agents trigger adverse blood clotting events, which are the second-leading cause of death in cancer patients. Results of this research will lead to the design of better treatment strategies for the prevention of blood clots in patients receiving anti-cancer drugs.

Dr Donald Mabbott, the Hospital For Sick Children: $708,148 over 5 years to improve understanding of how white brain matter damage results in lowered intelligence potential after cranial radiation for childhood brain tumours. White matter is vital for transmitting information in the brain and develops substantially in childhood. Dr Mabbotts research hopes to help identify posttreatment children at greatest risk for learning difficulties, alter medical treatment to avoid injury and evaluate new techniques for protecting or re-growing white matter.

Dr David Malkin, The Hospital for Sick Children: $417,291 over 3 years to further investigate Li-Fraumeni syndrome (LFS, the most common form of hereditary cancer) and the role of the TP53 tumour suppressor gene in the development of certain tumours. By studying very young children with a type of brain tumour, as well as certain families with LFS, this research aims to identify new cancer surveillance strategies as well as genetic or biological targets for new therapies.

Dr Michael Ohh, University of Toronto: $705,000 over 5 years to better understand how a tumour suppressor protein called pVHL maintains the ability for cells to undergo apoptosis, our cells ability to commit normal cell suicide. Dr Ohhs team will also examine the effect of a targeted virus that selectively kills tumour cells devoid of pVHL. The lessons learned from Dr Ohhs research about pVHLs role in apoptosis will aid in the design of better anti-cancer therapies.

Dr Anthony Pawson, Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute: $705,000 over 5 years to understand how a network of interacting proteins causes our cells to become polarized, identifying their molecular makeup and functions. Dr Pawsons research will investigate how alterations in those proteins cause loss of polarization, leading to cancerous malignancy.

Dr Linda Penn, University Health Network: $704,985 over 5 years to understand Myc, a master-regulator protein that, in a tumour cell, rises to excessive levels and takes on control of a different set of genes that drive cancer development. Dr Penns research hopes to develop a diagnostic tool to identify the existence of deregulated Myc protein to contribute to the goal of customized patient diagnosis and treatment.

Dr Irving Salit, University of Toronto: $502,430 over 5 years to undertake a follow-up study of patients at risk for anal cancer, which is caused by the HPV virus, and which is much more common among people with HIV and among women with cervical cancer. Results of this study will have an impact on how we should design screening programs for anal cancer.

Dr Aaron Schimmer, Princess Margaret Hospital: $582,845 over 5 years to understand the effect of certain genes that affect caspases, the executioner proteins responsible for orderly death of our bodys cells. Blocking caspases increases the spreading capabilities of cancer cells. Dr Schimmers research will identify those inhibiting genes, leading to development of new anti-cancer drugs.

Dr Gary Shaw, University of Western Ontario: $558,625 over 5 years to understand how E2 enzymes carry out their job of signaling normal protein destruction and how the dysfunction of E2 can lead to tumours. Dr Shaws research may lead to new cancer therapies and anti-cancer drugs.

Dr Simron Singh, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre: $253,714 over 2 years to
study the impact of various wait times for radiation therapy treatment of breast, cervix or head/neck cancers in over 1300 patients. Dr Singhs study will help compare and determine what, if any, wait time is acceptable in the treatment of these cancers.

Dr Jeremy Squire, Ontario Cancer institute: $544,575 over 4 years to study the ends of abnormal chromosomes called telomeres, from prostate cancer patients to determine how damaged telomeres can trigger cancer. Dr Squires research will provide analysis applicable in clinical laboratories to improve diagnosis and treatments targeting cancer-causing pathways.

Dr Igor Stagljar, University of Toronto: $323,244 over 3 years to understand the function of various proteins in keeping DNA, our genetic material, intact. By studying one such protein family, the RecQ helicases, Dr Stagljars research hopes to learn how mutations connected with this protein hinder DNA repair and create a predisposition to various cancers.

Dr Michael Taylor, Hospital For Sick Children: $600,442 over 5 years to investigate the role of five genes in the development of medulloblastoma, the most common childhood brain tumour. Dr Taylors research could lead to more effective, less toxic chemotherapies to decrease the death rate from medulloblastoma and decrease the intellectual and physical disabilities for
survivors.

Dr Tania Watts, University of Toronto: $704,965 over 5 years to study the complex role of the TRAF1 molecule on CD8 T lymphocytes, a group of white blood cells that can kill cancer cells. Dr Watts research will help devise strategies to utilize the TRAF1 molecules to maximize the cancer-fighting ability of the CD8 T cells.

Dr David Williams, University of Toronto: $663,164 over 5 years to determine how the proteins ERp57 and Grp94 help to form target structures on the surface of tumour cells, marking them for attack by the killer T cells of our bodys immune system. Dr Williams research will help understand how certain tumours evade the immune system and, how the proteins involved in that
process can be manipulated to make tumour cells more susceptible to the killer T cells.

Dr Rudolf Winklbauer, University of Toronto: $614,440 over 5 years to understand the onset, direction and velocity of cell migration within the body and how certain molecular signals allow for cells to help each other migrate, even under crowded conditions. Dr Winklbauers study of cell migration in the frog embryo system will help design better strategies to interfere with
abnormal cell migration, which is important in trying to prevent the spread or metastasis of cancer cells in the human body.

Dr Eugene Wong, London Regional Cancer Program: $210,184 over 3 years to understand the complexity of blood-flow inside solid tumours using sophisticated new imaging technology. The researchers aim to determine which areas of a tumour are most likely to be resistant to radiation because of changes in blood flow, and this will in turn lead to customized improvements in radiation therapy.

Dr Brent Zanke, Cancer Care Ontario: $1,488,112 over 3 years, Dr Zankes team will use enormous amounts of genetic data from over 5000 individuals to identify those at highest risk for colon cancer, which can be preventable if detected early enough. Dr Zankes research will also be looking at cost-effectiveness and clinical usefulness. It aims to formulate an easy-to-use
clinical tool that will identify patients for heightened screening programs or prevention techniques.

Dr Gang Zheng, Ontario Cancer Institute, UHN. $492,000 over 4 years to design a painless photodynamic (light-sensitive) treatment for prostate cancer (the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Western men) that will selectively destroy cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed. If successful, the result will be a new, less invasive treatment that causes fewer side effects.