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New funding from the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research supports projects developing methods for cancer detection and tools to facilitate better treatment decisions for high-risk cancer patients
December 1, 2021—Toronto— Today the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) announced renewed funding for its Adaptive Oncology (AO) research theme, which includes funding for three new research projects with the potential to have rapid clinical impact.

December 1, 2021—Toronto— Today the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) announced renewed funding for its Adaptive Oncology (AO) research theme, which includes funding for three new research projects with the potential to have rapid clinical impact.

The Adaptive Oncology theme was developed to anticipate and counter tumour evolution and heterogeneity in space and time by administering the most appropriate therapies at the right time. To achieve this, the initiative brings together OICR researchers with expertise in genomics, bioinformatics, machine learning, imaging, robotics and histopathology in the pursuit of practical approaches for deeply characterizing the diverse properties of tumours and developing clinical tools to detect and adapt treatment strategies accordingly.

“We are very optimistic about the potential of these newly-funded projects. This research uses cutting edge technologies that could have a real impact in how cancer is diagnosed and treated,” says Dr. Lincoln Stein, Head of Adaptive Oncology. “We are thrilled to see how this initiative is maturing and building momentum each year. Several teams funded during previous years have now advanced to the pre-clinical testing phase. The new funding will foster collaborations among our research teams, facilitate knowledge sharing, and accelerate the pace of this research.”

This work supports OICR’s new Strategic Plan 2021-2026, which has a focus on advancing research towards earlier cancer detection and intervention, leveraging Ontario’s global leadership in data sharing and analytics, expanding on Ontario’s robust pipeline of novel cancer therapies and navigating new therapies into clinical use as well as into new commercial opportunities in Ontario. This new group of funded Adaptive Oncology projects helps move towards realizing these goals.

The three newly funded Adaptive Oncology research projects will each receive approximately $2 million over the next four and a half years to complete their work. The funding is being awarded to:

  • Dr. Jane Bayani from OICR, for her project to determine if MRI-guided targeted biopsy, together with the PRONTO test (a molecular signature test) developed by OICR researchers, can better detect hidden, high-risk prostate cancer cases compared to the current method, which involves ultrasound and multiple biopsies and associated risks for patients.
  • Dr. Aaron Fenster from the Centre for Imaging Technology Commercialization (CIMTEC) and Drs. Saman Sadeghi and John Valliant from McMaster University, for a  project developing an optimized synergistic prostate imaging tracer and biopsy guidance system that integrates with and improves the existing prostate imaging-biopsy system. If successful, this project would provide a more sensitive and specific method to detect prostate cancer and a more accurate method for sampling the tumour for histological analysis, thus allowing for improved decisions on which therapy a patient should receive.
  • Dr. Philippe Bedard and Dr. Benjamin Haibe-Kains from the Princess Margaret Cancer Center, for their OCTANE 2.0 project. This work continues the initial OCTANE study, where more than 4,000 patients with advanced cancers received genomic testing or analysis of the DNA mutations in their cancers. This second phase will integrate this molecular data with imaging data to aid development of computational tools and models that more accurately predict whether drug treatments are likely to be effective and identify patients at increased risk for relapse.

Additional new funding will support the ongoing work of OICR’s Diagnostic Development, Genomics, Genome Informatics and Imaging Programs, as well as funding for the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health, ICGC ARGO, the Ontario Molecular Pathology Research Network and the new Ontario Hereditary Cancer Research Network (OHCRN).

“Cancer is the leading cause of death in Ontario. Currently, nearly two in five people in the province will receive a diagnosis of cancer in their lifetime. One in four of those people are expected to die from the disease,” says Dr. Laszlo Radvanyi, President and Scientific Director of OICR. “OICR is committed to funding initiatives like Adaptive Oncology, which use the latest technologies to address a common objective of developing advanced multi-omic approaches for the earlier detection of cancer and understanding how the cancer molecularly evolves in space and time so that it can be treated earlier and more effectively. This latest round of funding allows us to bring new projects and programs into the pipeline as our previously funded projects mature into translational programs—and one step closer to clinical implementation.”

“The OICR Patient and Family Advisory Committee (PFAC) was pleased to play a role in the scientific review process of the Adaptive Oncology initiative,” says Antonia Palmer, Chair of OICR’s PFAC. “We are deeply impressed by the Adaptive Oncology program and research initiatives and feel that this work will help to answer many important questions to make a difference for patients with cancer.”

“Patients and their families want to know that Ontario’s health care system is equipped to anticipate and address their evolving health care needs,” said Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities. “Ontario is proud to support the work of OICR, which has an impressive track record of helping to move oncology discoveries and innovations to real world application. Their success is reflected in this trailblazing work that is taking place through these three new adaptive oncology research projects.”

For more information or to book an interview, contact:

Christopher Needles
Director of Communications