Ontario cancer clinical trials get $12.6 M

The search for new approaches to treat cancer has gained $12.6 million in funding in Ontario.

The search for new approaches to treat cancer has gained $12.6 million in funding in Ontario.

The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) announced the funding over four years for the institute's High Impact Clinical Trials Program.

The goal of the program is to evaluate new technologies such as imaging that could lead to more personalized medicine — more targeted treatment that works better with less toxicity using information from genes and proteins.

"Just like in infectious disease, you actually test the sensitivity of a bug to different antibiotics before you select the antibiotic," Dr. Tom Hudson, president and scientific director of the institute, said from Kingston, where the announcement was made on Monday. 

"Here this gene information is giving us drug sensitivity information because these mutations predict response to a drug in some forms of cancer."

One of the projects is the Genomics Cohort Study, led by Dr. Lillian Siu at Toronto's Princess Margaret Hospital.

The study will use information based on a set of 29 genes to characterize tumours in patients with metastatic disease. In these patients, all other known treatments haven't worked.

Siu and her colleagues hope to enroll 50 to 80 patients this year in the study and then expand it. Investigators are at cancer centres in Toronto, Ottawa, London, Hamilton and Thunder Bay.

As part of the testing, researchers will investigate "standard operating procedures," such as how to do a biopsy for this type of study, how to preserve the tissue, how to report the information back to clinicians, and the perceptions of patients and physicians during various stages, Hudson said.

Rare tumours

Another project is the Rare Tumour Clinical Trials Initiative, a partnership between OICR, Pfizer Canada and an academic clinical trials group led by Dr. Ralph Meyer at Queen's University in Kingston.

The rare tumour group includes clinical investigators, pathologists  and genomics researchers who are investigating new solutions to treat 10 rare tumours at all stages of the disease.

The 10 types of rare cancers include a form thyroid cancer, a form of adrenal cancer and angiosarcomas, Hudson said. All of the tumours have a rich blood supply, and the Pfizer drugs are designed to cut off the blood supply to the cancer.

With files from CBC's Amina Zafar