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Unique Genetic Pathology Centre receives $250,000 grant from Sanofi-Aventis


Vancouver, BC – Located at Vancouver General Hospital and a partner of the BC Cancer Agency, the Genetic Pathology Evaluation Centre (GPEC), led by three prominent pathologists, conducts cancer research in the area of biomarker technology. The centre recently received an additional unrestricted grant of $250,000 from Sanofi-Aventis, GPEC is ready to make even more scientific breakthroughs.

GPEC is responsible for a number of cancer-related discoveries, including a genetic change in a tumour previously thought to be an aggressive form of arthritis, that ovarian cancer is at least five distinct diseases and new methods for diagnosis of breast cancer subtypes in hospital pathology laboratories. The value and the impact of these and other accomplishments has allowed this relatively small but productive centre – which has published more than 200 peer-reviewed articles in the last five years – to establish itself as a worldwide leader in its field.

“The results of our research have changed the way cancers are either diagnosed or managed,” said Blake Gilks, one of the three lead investigators at GPEC. “However, promising discoveries are dependent on sustained sources of funding from organizations like Sanofi-Aventis, who has been behind us for seven years now. This additional funding is the lift we need to help us continue to move away from a one-size-fits-all to a personalized approach to cancer treatment.”

The centre says it now wants to focus on building on the important work it has already accomplished in the realm of breast cancer. GPEC played a leading role in defining the molecular subtypes of breast cancer in 2004 – their first paper on the topic became the fourth most cited paper ever in the Clinical Cancer Research journal. Today, they are at the cutting edge in determining the response of different breast cancer subtypes to different treatments. Subtype specific treatments for breast cancer, which are tailored to the molecular abnormalities in each subtype, are saving lives.

Another GPEC project concerns a little understood and difficult to treat tumour of the ovary. After having helped decode ovarian cancers with state-of-the-art genome sequencing technologies, in collaboration with the BC Cancer Agency’s Genome Sciences Centre, they identified a recurring mutation in granulosa-cell tumours of the ovary, and GPEC is now working on new diagnostics and treatments for this cancer.

“Sanofi-aventis believes that research into personalized medicine is a great way to deliver value to the Canadian healthcare system,” said Hugh O’Neill, president and CEO of Sanofi-Aventis Canada. “By identifying the appropriate and inappropriate patients for various treatments, organizations like GPEC are reducing costs for the Canadian healthcare system and realizing the true value of innovative medicines.”