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Cancer research news

Cancer research news

[cancer cells]
QUBIC

H1299 human non-small cell lung adenocarcinoma cells, stained for cytoskeletal and adherence components related to metastasis. Image submitted by P. Truesdell, A. Craig, and M. Gordon, Queen's University Bioimaging Centre (QUBIC).


CCTG trials recognized as best in the world

Two cancer trials conducted by the Queen’s University-based Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG) and lead scientific investigators Chris O’Callaghan and Wendy Parulekar have been
recognized as among the highest impact studies in the world.

Papers on the two trials were included in the plenary session of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in Chicago in June.

“The papers that are chosen represent the best and most significant advances in cancer treatment and care, with the greatest potential influence,”Dr. O’Callaghan says. “Only four papers were chosen for the ASCO plenary session out of more than 5,000 submissions – to have two selected from one research organization is a rare achievement.”

Dr. O’Callaghan was the senior investigator on the CE.6 trial that examined the use of the cancer drug temozolomide in the treatment of glioblastoma, an incurable form of brain cancer. The trial
found that adding the drug to a shortened course of radiation therapy, followed by monthly maintenance doses, significantly improved the survival rate of elderly patients. The drug reduced the risk of death by 33 per cent, without loss of quality of life.

Glioblastoma is the most common primary brain tumour in adults and is one of the major causes of cancer death.

The co-principal investigators are Dr. James R. Perry (Sunnybrook Heath Sciences Centre) and Dr. Normand Laperriere (Princess Margaret Cancer Centre).

Dr. Parulekar supervised the MA.17R trial that discovered extending therapy with a commonly used hormone drug called an aromatase inhibitor from five to 10 years in postmenopausal women
with early breast cancer reduces the risk of recurrence by 34 per cent.

“This is the first study to report the impact of extended aromatase inhibitor therapy on breast cancer recurrence, side effects and quality of life in women with receptor-positive breast cancer,”
says Dr. Parulekar. “Based on the results of this trial, women and their health-care providers can make an informed decision about taking this type of treatment beyond five years, which is the current standard of care. The results of this study will immediately impact treatment practices on a global basis.”

Both trials were made possible through partnership of patients with a consortium of international cancer clinical trials groups.

Remembering a tenacious and passionate researcher

Mark Ernsting
Mark Ernsting

The life and work of Mark Ernsting, BSc’99, are being honoured by his colleagues in cancer research.

Dr. Ernsting, who died tragically in December 2015, studied chemical engineering at Queen’s before going onto complete his PhD in biomedical engineering at U of T.

A senior biomedical engineer at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR), Dr. Ernsting invented breakthrough technology to fight cancer. He was developing nanomedicines to provide specific drug delivery to cancer tumours, minimizing toxicity to patients. He was an early recipient of seed funding for his research from Fight Against Cancer Innovation Trust (FACIT). FACIT brings together scientists, partner institutions and other key players involved in the commercialization of life science innovations in Ontario. Its goal is to help inventors and researchers transform cancer innovations into viable opportunities.

This summer, the FACIT annual pitch competition for promising oncology research ideas (formerly called the Falcons’ Fortunes pitch competition) was renamed the Ernsting Entrepreneurship Award in honour of Dr. Ernsting.

Jeff Courtney, FACIT's CCO, paid tribute to Dr. Ernsting when making the announcement of the name change. “Mark was a compelling and expressive communicator,” said Mr. Courtney. “He was incredibly passionate as well as tenacious about accelerating scientific ideas… He possessed a keen awareness of the business aspects needed for great science to make it to the market. This translated into a drive to learn about commercial paths and find ways to complete the necessary steps in order to make his goals a reality…. Mark Ernsting exemplified all that the Falcons’ Fortunes pitch competition strives to encourage and achieve. And therefore, the FACIT team unanimously agreed it would be fitting to name the award after Mark, helping also to ensure his memory and “never give up” attitude live on in the Ontario cancer research community.”

This fall, members of the cancer research community, who remember Dr. Ernsting as a great colleague and friend as well as a brilliant scientist, will gather for the inaugural Mark Ernsting Drug
Discovery Memorial Lecture in Toronto.

[cover of Alumni Review 2016 Issue 3]