Diagnostic Development

The Diagnostic Development Program is charged with the mission to initiate, disseminate and nurture expertise in the development of diagnostic assays and support its rapid implementation of precision medicine through personalized diagnosis and treatment. A key component of our mission is to extend support and expertise to the cancer research community through an active collaborative approach across Ontario and beyond.

The Diagnostic Development program’s objectives are to:

  • Accelerate the development of discoveries into diagnostic assays;
  • Increase access to technologies and expertise for tissue-based cancer research and for diagnostic development;
  • Actively engage with a network of clinical, academic and commercial partners;
  • Train the next generation of molecular pathologists and clinician scientists.


Dr. John Bartlett, PhD FRCPath
Director, Diagnostic Development

Program expertise and capabilities

The Diagnostic Development Program is focused on the development and validation of objective clinical assays to improve therapeutic selection for early cancers. Alongside the program’s core research deliverables, we support or have supported research in breast, prostate, ovarian, bladder and pancreatic cancers, amongst others. The program has over 100 publications with more than 150 collaborators and multiple presentations at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposia (2012-2016).


  • Evaluation of novel diagnostic approaches for early prostate cancer in partnership with Prostate Cancer Canada and Movember, funded by the PRONTO program and with researchers across Ontario including Queen’s University (Queen’s), Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre (SHSC), University Health Network, London Health Sciences Centre, OICR and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences;
  • Development and validation of novel diagnostic assays for personalized medicine in early breast cancer in partnership with Canadian Cancer Trials Group, Ontario Clinical Oncology Group and SHSC;
  • Development of both manual “macro-dissection” and focused laser capture micro-dissection techniques to support genomics analysis for the PanCuRx Translational Research Initiative (see video);
  • Pilot of novel technologies both in the research and diagnostic space at six diagnostic sites to evaluate focused CNV/mutational analysis by targeted sequencing in partnership with researchers at OICR and Queen’s/SHSC;
  • Development of strong collaborative links with OICR programs (Genomics, Informatics, Drug Discovery, Health Services Research and Imaging) and across Canada to provide access to a comprehensive pipeline of services for tissue-based cancer research.

Opportunities to collaborate

Collaborations on tissue-based research can benefit from the technology platforms currently available at Diagnostic Development. The Diagnostic Development Program provides access to a dedicated laboratory suite for molecular biology and histopathology equipped with state-of-the-art instruments that include but are not limited to:

  • NanoString nCounter;
  • Roche Benchmark XT;
  • Zeiss Laser Capture Microscope;
  • BioView Imaging and Analysis automation;
  • NanoDrop One UV-Vis Spectrophotometer;
  • Beecher Tissue Micro-arrayer for TMA Construction;
  • Aperio AT2 Whole Slide Scanner;
  • Tissue Studio (Definiens);
  • Leica Bond, microtome, embedding machine;
  • Leica CM1850 Cryostat;
  • Leica DM6000;
  • LifeTech Veriti Thermocycler.

Collaborative Research Resources

OICR enables research by providing expertise, advice and access to research services on a cost-recovery basis. Researchers can benefit from high-end technology infrastructure, world-leading research knowledge, high-quality services and support at each stage of the project development process.

Diagnostic Development program focuses on tissue-based analysis with expertise with human samples in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) and a breadth of associated technologies for complex genome analysis, nucleic acid and protein extraction, tissue microarray construction, NanoString technologies, automated immunohistochemistry and quantitative molecular pathology analysis.

Services available:

  • DNA extraction (FFPE or frozen tissue).
  • RNA extraction (FFPE or frozen tissue).
  • Dual DNA and RNA extraction (FFPE and frozen tissue).
  • Histology – Tissue sectioning (FFPE and frozen tissue).
  • Histology – Laser capture microdissection.
  • Histology – routine H&E stain.
  • Low-density tissue microarray construction (50-100 cores).
  • High-density tissue microarray construction (200 cores).
  • Multiplex qPCR (FFPE compatible).
  • Library preparation for targeted sequencing (FFPE compatible).
  • FISH (FFPE compatible).
  • Quantitative FISH analysis.
  • Multiplex CNV analysis (e.g., Multiplex ligation dependent probe amplification -MLPA).
  • NanoString-based technologies.
  • Automated immunohistochemistry (whole sections and TMA).
  • Single or multiple labeling (Chromagenic and FITC).
  • Antibody optimization and validation.
  • Automated quantitative IHC image analysis.
  • Slide scanning and archiving.

To learn how Diagnostic Development can help further your project please contact the team at diagnostic.development@oicr.on.ca.

Further opportunities to collaborate

OICR is committed to strengthening cancer research in Ontario through collaboration and broadening access to our technology infrastructure, expertise and resources. Please visit OICR’s Collaborative Research Resources directory for more opportunities to collaborate.


To find out more about what’s happening in Diagnostic Development, visit OICR News.