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Cracking cancer's code

Queen’s University to lead new cancer pathology research network.

  • David LeBrun talks to the media about the new pathology network. (Photo by Greg Black)
    David LeBrun talks to the media about the new pathology network. (Photo by Greg Black)
  • Lab workers analyze cancerous tumours and place them on slides. (Photo by Greg Black)
    Lab workers analyze cancerous tumours and place them on slides. (Photo by Greg Black)
  • Shakeel Virk explains how the National Tissue Bank, housed at Kingston General Hospital, operates. (Photo by Greg Black)
    Shakeel Virk explains how the National Tissue Bank, housed at Kingston General Hospital, operates. (Photo by Greg Black)
  • A slice of a cancerous tumour on a slide. (Photo by Greg Black)
    A slice of a cancerous tumour on a slide. (Photo by Greg Black)
  • Cancer Society volunteer Larry Cardiff talks about his experiences with cancer during the official announcement. Looking on are Dr. David LeBrun, Christine Williams,Deputy Director and Vice-President, Outreach of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, and Roger Deeley, Vice-Dean Research in the Faculty of Health Sciences, Queen's and Vice President Health Sciences Research, KGH. (Photo by Greg Black)
    Cancer Society volunteer Larry Cardiff talks about his experiences with cancer during the official announcement. Looking on are Dr. David LeBrun, Christine Williams,Deputy Director and Vice-President, Outreach of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, and Roger Deeley, Vice-Dean Research in the Faculty of Health Sciences, Queen's and Vice President Health Sciences Research, KGH. (Photo by Greg Black)
  • Christine Williams, Deputy Director and Vice-President, OICR, speaks to the media after making the announcement. (Photo by Greg Black)
    Christine Williams, Deputy Director and Vice-President, OICR, speaks to the media after making the announcement. (Photo by Greg Black)

The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) has announced $3.7 million in funding to form the Ontario Molecular Pathology Research Network (OMPRN), which will be based at Queen’s University and led by Queen’s researcher Dr. David LeBrun (Pathology and Molecular Medicine).

Dr. Christine Williams, Deputy Director and Vice-President of the OICR, announced the funding today in Kingston. The Network will bring together a number of institutions province-wide.

“We, as pathologists, are facing a whole new set of challenges,” says Dr. LeBrun. “There are hundreds of potential new cancer drugs available for study so we need people doing research into the relevant diagnostics. We need to draw young pathologists into the research community, provide funding for this research and work to have more pathology content integrated into medical school curriculums.”

Pathology is key to the early detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. An accurate diagnosis can provide better prognostic information and allow doctors to better target therapies. Pathology research can also lead to the development of new treatments that target specific cancer-driving mutations, genes and pathways, avoiding ineffective treatments with unwanted side effects. But as researchers’ understanding of cancer, and its complexity, deepens, so too has the need for pathologists who can incorporate this new understanding into their daily routine, taking advantage of the latest technologies and knowledge to help patients.

“The Ontario Molecular Pathology Research Network’s objectives in helping to improve the diagnosis of cancer will accelerate the pace of discovery while fostering collaboration amongst our young pathologists,” says Reza Moridi, Minister of Research, Innovation and Science. “The Ontario government proudly supports this new initiative through the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research for it will help maintain the province’s continued commitment to the cutting edge of research and development of better treatments for all patients.”

The Network will address this challenge by increasing the participation of Ontario cancer pathologists in research, enhancing collaboration across the province and increasing mentorship opportunities for residents and early career pathologists. The ultimate goal of OMPRN is to translate these strategies into improved diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients. This could mean more precision medicine, where diagnosis and treatment are linked for individual patients based on advanced diagnostics.

“Building capacity in pathology research and training is critical and we are proud Queen’s is taking a leadership role in this area,” says Richard Reznick, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences. “Future advances in molecular pathology brings great promise for enhanced care for our patients with a diagnosis of cancer.”

The OMPRN has a number of objectives including:

  • Fostering productive collaboration amongst research-oriented pathologists and between pathologists and researchers in complementary disciplines;
  • Research activity through the Network will be encouraged and enabled through the provision of operating grants for research projects;
  • Building awareness of research resources, including analytical expertise, core facilities and biospecimen repositories offered at OICR or elsewhere in the province to facilitate molecular pathology research;
  • The Network will support the development of a cadre of young pathology researchers by encouraging and supporting the involvement of residents and junior pathologists.

A critical mass of research-oriented pathologists and clinical laboratory scientists working within the academic community is necessary to expedite the transition to precision oncology and make its benefits available to Ontarians.

“Today we are proud to announce the launch of the Ontario Molecular Pathology Research Network,” says Dr. Williams. “For patients, an accurate diagnosis is key to finding the best treatment for their cancer with the fewest side effects. This new network will enhance expertise in molecular pathology, improving the diagnosis of cancer and accelerating the adoption of more precision medicine for Ontario cancer patients.”

For more information visit the website at ontariomolecularpathology.ca