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A pilot project designed to advance precision medicine for people with cancer in Canada was launched today by a research institution and two of the country’s leading cancer centers.

The Terry Fox Research Institute (TFRI), the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, and the BC Cancer Agency in Vancouver, will contribute a combined C$12 million ($9.2 million) over the next two years—C$4 million ($3.07 million) each—toward the pilot program, the first of its kind in Canada.

The initiative is expected to cost C$70 million ($53.7 million) a year over the next 10 years, according to TFRI’s website: “We expect this funding will be generated from a variety of new funding sources, both public and private.”

Multidisciplinary teams from the institutions plan to focus on four areas of research: Genomics, immunotherapy, molecular imaging and data sharing.

The pilot will initially consist of four projects involving three types of cancers:

  • A collaborative framework for comprehensive genomic profiling of 20 patients with metastatic colorectal cancer, designed to understand response and resistance to cancer therapy;
  • Optimizing and harmonizing adoptive T-cell immunotherapy for ovarian cancer
  • Quantitative molecular imaging to improve the management of prostate cancer
  • IT infrastructure resource development, including clinical and genomic data sharing, intra-institutional communication

In addition to developing the IT infrastructure for data sharing, participating organizations plan to provide complementary analyses of specimens, such as tumor biopsies and blood samples; identify and determine ways to harmonize their research processes; and secure resources for conducting multi-center precision medicine clinical trials.

The pilot is envisioned as the first phase of a network linking cancer research centers, hospitals, and universities, as well as their clinical and laboratory programs, across Canada through the Terry Fox Designated Canadian Comprehensive Cancer Centres Network.

“Our ultimate goal through this collaboration is to create a national network of designated Terry Fox comprehensive cancer centers that will be able to deliver excellence in personalized and precision medicine from coast to coast to coast,” Victor Ling, Ph.D., TFRI's president and scientific director, said in a statement.

TFRI, the research arm of The Terry Fox Foundation, collaborates with more than 70 cancer hospitals and research organizations across Canada on translational research designed to lead to new treatments.

Princess Margaret Cancer Centre is a member of the University Health Network, which also includes Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and the Michener Institute for Education; all are affiliated with the University of Toronto.

The BC Cancer Agency, part of the Provincial Health Services Authority, carries out cancer research and care for people with the disease in British Columbia, alongside regional health authorities.

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