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Queen’s researchers receive federal funding for novel, patient-oriented cancer treatments

Three Queens faculty members awarded three-year funding for multi-disciplinary health research.

Three Queen’s University scholars have been named as recipients of Collaborative Health Research Projects (CHRP) grants – a funding program created by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) to support stronger working partnerships among health care, engineering, and natural science researchers.

John Allingham, Associate Professor of Biomedical Molecular Sciences and Canada Research Chair in Structural Biology, John Schreiner, Adjunct Professor of Oncology, and Gabor Fichtinger, Professor in the Queen’s School of Computing and Cancer Care Ontario Research Chair, will all receive funding to support multi-disciplinary cancer research projects.

“It is wonderful to see innovative, patient-oriented researchers at Queen’s recognized with grants that will help advance patient-oriented research through their work,” says John Fisher, Vice-Principal (Research). “On behalf of the university, I want to congratulate Drs. Allingham, Schreiner, and Fichtinger on their new funding, which speaks to the impact of integrated and collaborative approaches on scientific discovery and future therapies.”

Dr. Allingham, together with co-investigators P. Andrew Evans (Chemistry) and Andrew Craig (Queen’s Cancer Research Institute), will receive $497,500 over three years to fund the development and pre-clinical testing of new cancer fighting drugs inspired by natural products that disrupt a key protein required for cancer cells to spread. The spread of cancer cells within the body is the cause of 90 per cent of cancer-related deaths, and new therapies targeting this step will greatly improve survival rates for cancer patients.

Dr. Schreiner will receive $157,870 over three years to analyze and improve upon current radiation treatments for tumours by evaluating the effectiveness and shortcomings of the current methods to measure dose when the therapy uses a radiation source moving within the tumour, and by creating software that can measure and assess  the delivery of the treatment designed for each patient. He and his colleagues aim to be the first team to develop practical patient-specific dose delivery validation for this class of radiation treatments.

Dr. Fichtinger will receive $194,419 over three years for his work to improve the surgical outcome for breast cancer patients who undergo breast-conservation procedures. These operations involve efforts to remove early-stage cancer cells while preserving healthy parts of the breast. Occasionally some cancerous cells are missed and remain in the body, meaning patients often have to undergo repeat surgeries – increasing their risk of complications, psychological distress, and increased costs, treatment disruptions. Dr. Fichtinger’s team, including primary collaborators Jay Engel (Surgery) and John Rudan (Surgery), will develop a real-time electromagnetic navigation system capable of better detecting remaining cancer cells in effort to improve the procedure’s success rate, and eliminate the need for recurring surgical interventions.

As part of Queen’s University’s affiliation with Kingston Health Sciences Centre and the Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario, the CHRP funding will play a key role in improving care and health outcomes for patients in the future.

The grants are part of $19.8 million in CHRP funding being awarded to researchers across Canada. The funding supports multi-disciplinary studies designed to discover and innovate in ways that will have a profound impact on Canadians’ health and environment, the economy, and communities.

For more information on the CHRP grants, please visit the website.