(Toronto – September 16, 2010) Terry Fox’s legacy of support for cancer research lives on through the dedicated efforts of Canada’s leading cancer researchers, including acclaimed Lunenfeld scientists. This year represents the 30th anniversary of the Terry Fox Marathon of Hope, and this year’s awardees include outstanding researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital.
The research teams of Drs. Andras Nagy, Tony Pawson, Sue Quaggin and Jeff Wrana were awarded continued funding from the Terry Fox Research Institute (TFRI), through a Terry Fox Team Grant of almost $7 million over five years. The new funds will enable Lunenfeld researchers to further their leading-edge research into cancer, toward the development of new therapies.
“We are extremely grateful to the Terry Fox Research Institute for their vision and for recognizing the power of our science,” said Dr. Nagy.
Lunenfeld researchers have received approximately $11 million from the Terry Fox Research Institute and its Terry Fox Foundation since 1985, and Dr. Nagy has been the Team Grant lead at Mount Sinai since 2004.
"The Terry Fox Foundation has funded many outstanding researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital,” said Dr. Victor Ling, President and Scientific Director of the Terry Fox Research Institute. “The Foundation is pleased to support this important New Frontiers Program Project Grant led by Dr. Nagy. This team of prominent and nationally and internationally renowned scientists will tackle some very important and fundamental challenges in cancer research today.”
The new funds will support Lunenfeld researchers in their investigations into the formation of blood vessels in solid tumours, and their assessment of targets for the development of new therapies designed to cut off blood vessels from feeding tumours (antiangiogenesis).
Dr. Nagy explained that some of the limitations of current cancer medications, including antiangiogenic therapies, lie in their non-specific actions on healthy cells as well as tumour vasculature. These actions may lead to side effects including kidney damage, hypertension, ulcers, severe headaches and stroke. Dr. Nagy and other Lunenfeld researchers will focus on identifying ways to develop anti-cancer drugs that selectively suppress blood vessel formation in cancerous tissues, without damaging health tissues.
For example, research in Dr. Quaggin’s lab will focus on finding ways to protect the kidney and other organs from damage during antiangiogenic therapy, while Dr. Nagy and his team will further improve these therapies by studying the effects they have not only on tumours, but also in the immune system.
In order to form a well-functioning organ, cells communicate through the release of molecules and by direct physical contact. Dr. Pawson will investigate how this interaction takes place, and how disruptions in these systems can cause cancer.
Dr. Wrana and his team have developed a method to measure the movement of cancer cells, and they will implement this strategy to find chemicals that can be used for future cancer therapies.
Two other members of the team are top researchers at The Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Manitoba. For example, Dr. Janet Rossant is focusing on the use of stem cells to increase the quality of blood vessels, so that the delivery of chemotherapy can be enhanced. Her team will also develop robust cell-based screening tools to test new antiangiogenic therapies. Dr. Hao Ding in Winnipeg will investigate how the PDGF gene, which plays an important role in vessel formation, might be involved in medulloblastomas—the most common type of brain tumour in children.
“Through this grant, we can use our individual sets of tools and our combined expertise, in the hopes that we will find new treatments for cancer,” said Dr. Nagy.
“This is a truly outstanding team of investigators who are working together to tackle an important field of cancer biology by bringing their enormous expertise to this multi-faceted problem,” noted Dr. Jim Woodgett, Director of Research at the Lunenfeld. “This is one of only four teams funded nationally, exemplifying their stature in cancer research and validating the generous support of donors to the Lunenfeld.”
Launched in 2007, the TFRI is the brainchild of the Terry Fox Foundation, and involves collaboration between cancer hospitals and research organizations across Canada. The institute supports translational cancer research projects with the potential to significantly improve the health of cancer patients.
Terry Fox battled sarcoma (malignant tumours that arise from muscles, bones, nerves, fat, blood vessels or connective tissue), a type of cancer that afflicts approximately 140 young Canadians each year. These tumours account for 12 per cent of malignancies in children and teens. Since 1980, tremendous advances in the care of patients with sarcoma, as well as research in this area, has occurred in Canada and at Mount Sinai Hospital.