Frequently Asked Questions

What does the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) do?

OICR is a collaborative research institute that conducts and enables high-impact translational cancer research to accelerate the development of discoveries for patients around the world while maximizing the economic benefit of this research for the people of Ontario.

How is OICR different from other cancer research institutes?

OICR is unique in many ways, including:

  • We not only conduct research, but also enable research at institutions across the province to help ensure Ontario remains a world leader in cancer research and care.
  • We have a translational focus, meaning we are structured to ensure cancer research discoveries move out of the lab and into the clinic, where they can help patients.
  • We are collaborative, meaning we see strength in working together locally, nationally and globally.
  • We have a commercialization mandate, which means that the people of Ontario will continue to see both health and economic benefits from our cancer research.
How is OICR funded?

OICR receives core funding from the Government of Ontario through the Ministry of Colleges and Universities. OICR also leverages additional support from private and public sector partners.

How long has OICR existed?

OICR was founded in 2005 by the Government of Ontario. It evolved out of the Ontario Cancer Research Network, which was established in 2002.

Why was OICR founded?

In 2003, the Cancer Initiative Working Group published a report that found Ontario was a strong contributor, but not yet a leader in the global campaign against cancer. In particular, the group identified opportunities to build infrastructure, increase collaboration and improve commercialization in the province.

OICR was established to build upon the province’s track record of success in cancer research and to seize upon these opportunities, mobilizing and reinforcing Ontario research excellence in the fight against cancer, realizing the local economic value of cancer discoveries, and making Ontario a major global address for cancer research and innovation.

What is translational research?

There are many definitions of translational research, but at its core it is research focused on efficiently moving discoveries into clinical practice (i.e., to reach patients). Sometimes described as “from bench to bedside,” it is different from basic research, which is more focused on the advancement of knowledge. Both types of research are important and key to improving care for cancer patients.

Why does OICR have a commercialization mandate?

Most new healthcare innovations in cancer research are translated to patients through partnerships with the private sector. This makes commercialization critical to OICR’s mandate.

Ontario has a long and rich history of scientific discovery, but it has not always capitalized on this investment. As a result, many of the province’s most successful discoveries have historically moved to other jurisdictions to be commercialized – taking with them talent, jobs and investments.

OICR was created to help Ontario ensure that the province is capitalizing on its investment in research by helping to ensure the success of Ontario innovations, keeping them in Ontario and bringing the full health and economic benefits of cancer research to the people of the province. Ontario has seen many successes in its life sciences sector over the past decade, and OICR, along with our commercialization partner FACIT, is proud to have been part of this success.

What is FACIT’s relationship to OICR?

FACIT is OICR’s strategic partner for commercialization. FACIT works closely with OICR researchers and staff from an early stage, providing support, advice and expertise to ensure that OICR discoveries are well positioned for commercial success.

OICR and FACIT together drive an “Ontario First” translational model ensuring that made-in-Ontario ideas become made-in-Ontario solutions. More information about FACIT can be found here: https://oicr.on.ca/commercialization/

I would like to partner with OICR. How do I get in touch?

OICR is always open to new partnerships and collaboration opportunities. We recommend searching the program and researcher sections of the website to find collaborative opportunities and contact information, or to reach out to info@oicr.on.ca if you can’t find what you’re looking for.

More information about OICR’s collaborative services can be found at Collaborative Research Resources.

Where is OICR located?

OICR’s headquarters is in the MaRS Centre in Toronto, and we support research at institutions across Ontario.

How many people work at OICR?

OICR has a staff of 300+ individuals at its headquarters in the MaRS Centre in Toronto and supports 1,700 highly qualified personnel across Ontario each year.

How do I receive services in French?

OICR communications products and services for the public are available or can be made available in French. Please visit the French section of the website for more information or email info@oicr.on.ca.

Where can I find OICR’s policy on Accessible Customer Service?

The policy can be found here: https://oicr.on.ca/accessibility/

Why is cancer so difficult to treat?

Despite decades of progress, many cancers remain incredibly difficult to both diagnose and treat. This is because cancer is not just one disease: every patient’s cancer has characteristics that make it unique. And because cancer can spread in the body and evolve over time within a person’s body to resist treatment, doctors must continually monitor and adapt treatments to help patients live longer, healthier lives.

Precision medicine is key to helping improve cancer diagnosis and treatment over the next decades – see below for more information.

What is precision medicine and why is it important?

Precision (or personalized) medicine is an approach that uses a genetic understanding of disease to help doctors select the best, most tailored tools to help diagnose and treat disease.

The overarching focus of OICR’s Strategic Plan is to develop the knowledge and tools to implement next-generation cancer precision medicine in Ontario, where cancer patients are diagnosed as early as possible, treated precisely and definitively, and monitored proactively to detect and treat cancer when it returns, dramatically improving survival and quality of life.

What roles do patients have in OICR research?

Patients are important partners in cancer research at OICR. Under OICR’s current Strategic Plan, patients are playing an even greater role in our research. For more information about our work with patient partners visit Patient Partnership.

I need advice about my current treatment or the treatment of a loved one. Who do I contact?

As a research institute, OICR doesn’t offer treatment and cannot provide medical advice. Patients should speak first to their doctor, who will have the most detailed record of their medical history. There are also excellent resources available online to help navigate cancer treatment and care, including at the Canadian Cancer Society. Information specific to Indigenous populations in Ontario can be found at Cancer Care Ontario.

How do I find out more about clinical trials?

Clinical trials are an essential part of cancer research, and discoveries made in clinical trials have advanced scientific knowledge and resulted in new, improved treatments for patients. For more information on clinical trials, visit the Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Network.

If you’re looking for help to find a clinical trial in Ontario, Clinical Trials Ontario hosts a listing of clinical trials. The Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Network offers a Clinical Trials Navigator to help patients connect with trials they may be eligible for.

I am a university student who is looking for a co-op placement. Who do I contact?

OICR offers co-operative education and internship opportunities throughout the academic calendar year. Opportunities are coordinated and posted through various university and college work placement offices. Postings and the application process follow the university term schedule, and typically begin four months before the anticipated start date.

Please speak to your college or university’s work placement office for more information.

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