Backgrounder - Terry Fox Research Institute

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François Hollande
François Hollande

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Tom Baker
Tom Baker

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Marco Marra
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About Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM)
Every day in Canada 27 people are diagnosed with a brain tumour. Glioblastoma multiforme
(glioblastoma) is one of the most common and deadliest forms of brain cancer and usually
strikes adults aged 50-70. The prognosis for most is dismal. Life expectancy from diagnosis is
one to two years.
A 2009 estimate reports that about 2,600 Canadian adults will be diagnosed with primary brain
tumours, and 1,750 will die from their disease each year. Primary Glioblastoma (GBM), a World
Health Organization grade IV tumour, accounts for approximately 40 per cent of all central
nervous system malignancies. In patients over the age of 60, the rate of GBM greatly increases,
accounting for the majority of primary brain tumours in this population.
Treatment is relatively unchanged in 30 years. The standard of care is surgery (craniotomy),
radiation and chemotherapy. An aggressive cancer, it spreads to nearby brain tissue quickly and
often recurs after treatment.
The cause is unknown and it can develop spontaneously. It is comprised of many distinct
genetic subtypes. It develops in glial cells usually in the brain but it can also develop in the
spinal cord and brain stem. These cells help nerves in the brain to function.
Information sources: Web sites for: Canadian Cancer Society, USC, Brain Tumor Foundation of
Canada, Alberta Health Services
The Pan-Canadian Team
The goal of the Terry Fox Research Institute’s Pan-Canadian Targeting Therapeutics for GBM
Project is to discover new drug therapies to improve tumour control and quality of life for
patients. The team hopes to have a few new drugs heading into clinical trials within five years.
The Alberta team will build on its strengths and expertise in growing stem cells from brain
tumours (brain tumour initiating cells) in the laboratory to create models that mirror the
molecular and clinical genetic alterations appearing in GBM tumours. The Alberta team will
provide these models to partner teams in British Columbia and Ontario for genomic subtyping
and identification of potential new drug therapies.
British Columbia
This team will perform genome sequencing and gene expression analyses on selected BTIC lines
provided by the Alberta team for the purpose of identifying molecular alterations of biological
significance which may be important to determining future therapeutics. The team will also
study tissue samples collected with the goal of discovering “molecular signatures” which can be
used to tailor treatment.
Researchers with the Ontario team, including researchers involved in the TFRI-OICR Selective
Therapies Program, will be involved in functional genomic analyses, pre-clinical drug
development, and testing, and design and initiation of clinical trials at leading cancer centres in
Toronto and area. They will focus on screening to find new drugs for this form of cancer. Their
work will involve the use of robotics and chemical high throughput screening facilities.
Funding Breakdown by Funder
Terry Fox Research Institute
Alberta Innovates - Health Solutions
Alberta Cancer Foundation
Genome Canada
Genome BC
BC Cancer Foundation
Total Contribution
$3.1 M
$2 M
Participating Investigators (by Province)
British Columbia
All affiliated with The
University of Calgary
All affiliated with The
University of British
BC Cancer Agency
(Genome Sciences
Dr. Marco Marra
All affiliated with The
University of Toronto
Dr. Samuel Weiss
(Hotchkiss Brain
Dr. Stephen Robbins
(Southern Alberta
Cancer Research
Dr. Jennifer Chan
Dr. Artee Luchman
Dr. Jay Easaw (SACRI)
Dr. Donna Senger
Dr. Steven Jones
Dr. Stephen Yip
Dr. Sandra Dunn (BC
Children’s Hospital)
Dr. Brian Toyota
(Vancouver General
Dr. Sheila Singh
Dr. David Kaplan (The
Hospital for Sick
Dr. Warren Mason
(University Health
Dr. Rima Al-Awar
(Ontario Institute for
Cancer Research)
Dr. Jason Moffat
Dr. Michael Moran
Dr. Jeffrey Wrana
(Samuel Lunenfeld
Research Institute,
Mount Sinai Hospital)
Dr. Gregory Cairncross
Research centres and agencies affiliated with the project:
Alberta: Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Southern Alberta Cancer Research Institute, Tom Baker
Cancer Centre, Clark H. Smith Brain Tumour Research Centre, the University of Calgary,
Genome Alberta.
British Columbia: BC Cancer Agency’s Genome Sciences Centre, Vancouver General Hospital, BC
Children’s Hospital, the University of British Columbia.
Ontario: Princess Margaret Hospital, The Hospital for Sick Children, Mount Sinai Hospital,
University Health Network, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, NCIC Clinical Trials Group, the
University of Toronto, McMaster University.

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