RI-MUHC researchers work to accelerate precision medicine for cancer in Canada

The Marathon of Hope Cancer Centres Network (MOHCCN) announced this week that four new research teams will receive funding through its Pan-Canadian Projects program, which unites researchers and clinicians from multiple provinces to work on projects that accelerate precision medicine for cancer in Canada. Researchers from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) are involved in three projects that focus on lung, oral and prostate cancers.

Project 1 - Neoadjuvant precision therapy for non-small cell lung cancer: A platform for discovery

In the past decade, immunotherapy and other genetically determined precision therapies have revolutionized lung cancer care. For instance, a new treatment that combines immunotherapy with chemotherapy before surgery for patients with resectable lung cancer has been established as new standard of care across Canada, after it was found that this combination eliminates all lung cancer cells before surgery in one quarter of patients. But while these responses are extremely promising, they also mean that three quarters of patients treated with chemotherapy and immunotherapy before surgery do not completely respond to the treatment.

A team led by Dr. Jonathan Spicer, a scientist in the Cancer Research Program at the RI-MUHC, is setting out to better understand why this occurs. Their goals are to discover ways to predict which patients are most likely to benefit from these new precision treatments and how best to treat those who do not.

“Our goal is to understand which medications are best suited to each patient,” says Dr. Spicer. “We are using the unique opportunity to understand exactly how these therapies work in responders and non-responders by taking a deep dive into the resulting cancer genetics and tumour immune environment after surgical resection.”

Learn more on this project on the MOHCCN website.

Project 2 - A multi-pronged approach to accelerate precision medicine for prostate cancer in Canada

A multi-disciplinary team of clinicians and researchers from three institutions in Quebec, including co-lead researchers Simone Chevalier, PhD, and Dr. Armen Aprikian, both senior scientists in the Cancer Research Program at the RI-MUHC, are uniting to accelerate precision medicine for patients with prostate cancer.

The team will deploy a multi-pronged approach to better understand why some prostate cancer patients respond to treatment and others don’t, with the goal of developing tests that predict who is at a greater risk of suffering from disease progression and create interventions to stop this from occurring.

"This project represents a significant step forward in understanding and combating lethal prostate cancer,” says Chevalier. “By harnessing cutting-edge molecular and imaging techniques, we aim to transform how we diagnose and treat this complex disease."

Learn more on this project on the MOHCCN website.

Project 3: Canadian Head And Neck cancer GEnomic (CHANGE) Collaborative

Dr. Nader Sadeghi, senior scientist in the Cancer Research Program at the RI-MUHC, is part of a multi-disciplinary group of head and neck cancer experts from across the country are uniting under a newly formed team—the Canadian Head And Neck cancer GEnomic (CHANGE) Collaborative. Under the direction of Dr. Pinaki Bose at the University of Calgary,the team will work together to better understand the genomic underpinnings of oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) recurrence, with the goal of coming up with better strategies to predict whose cancer is more likely to recur after treatment and find ways to avoid recurrence.

Learn more on this project on the MOHCCN website.

Each project lasts three years. In their first year, the groups will receive a total of $819,000 from the Network, with additional funds from partner institutions adding up to a total investment of $3,113,918. Further funding will be determined based on the number of cases that each group is able to contribute to the MOHCCN Gold Cohort.

To learn more on this announcement, read MOHCCN press release.