Canadian Cancer Society Green Lights Innovative Research Ideas

29 February 2012

Manitoba -

Two Manitoba researchers are among the first-ever recipients of Canadian Cancer Society Innovation Grants that support less mainstream approaches to cancer research.

As the largest national charitable funder of cancer research in the country, the Cancer Society has allocated $4.5 million this year to support 23 research projects that look at creative, unorthodox ideas for solving cancer problems. In all, the Canadian Cancer Society has provided more than $446 million to researcher teams throughout Canada including about $42 million this year.

We are thrilled to be able to fund these outstanding, novel projects that show incredible creativity and great potential for their impact in the fight against cancer,” says Mark McDonald, Executive Director of the Canadian Cancer Society’s Manitoba Division. “We are proud to continue to fund world class research right here in Manitoba.

“This adds to a tremendous legacy of work that Manitoba research teams have completed with the assistance of Canadian Cancer Society funding. We await the results of these studies with tremendous excitement.”

Innovation Grants were awarded to:

Dr. Tamra Werbowetski-Ogilvie, Winnipeg, $179,835 – Medulloblastoma, a devastating pediatric brain tumour, leaves affected children with permanent neurological side effects and a high incidence of recurrence following harsh treatments. In this project, Dr Werbowestski-Ogilvie is studying whether the Otx2 gene, which is involved in brain development, may contribute to the earliest stages of medulloblastoma, possibly making it a critical target to identify and treat brain tumours before they develop multiple genetic changes and spread.

“I have a great team here excited and ready to go to work and test this idea,” says Dr. Werbowetski-Ogilive.  “If our theory does turn out to have merit, it could go a long way in helping these children in an immense, immeasurable way.”

Dr. Leigh C. Murphy, Winnipeg, $198,150 -      Dr Murphy is studying different combinations of changes, called phosphorylation, on estrogen receptors in breast cancer that can be used to “score” tumours to determine how aggressive they are and predict patients’ prognosis.This project will develop new technologies to more accurately measure this “score” and identify the molecular differences between high and low scoring tumours to design better therapies.

Other innovative researchers are receiving funding across the country, including a London, Ontario, cardiologist is turning cancer research on its head by proposing that increasing the blood supply to a tumour (in effect, feeding the tumour) could actually prevent cancer from spreading to other parts of the body. Previous research had suggested a more intuitive route – that starving a tumour of its blood supply could prevent it from spreading; however that method (known as anti-angiogenesis) has shown limited success to date.  In fact, Dr Geoffrey Pickering’s theory is that starving tumours may actually make them more aggressive, rather than less. With a $200,000 Innovation Grant from the Canadian Cancer Society, he will test his tumour-feeding idea which, if correct, could revolutionize the way cancer patients are treated.

The Innovative Grants are just one component of the Society’s research portfolio. These grants specifically target and support unconventional concepts, approaches or methodologies to address problems in cancer research.

All 23 new projects include elements of creativity, curiosity, investigation, exploration and opportunity. The projects were ranked according to their potential for “high reward” – to significantly impact our understanding of cancer and generate new approaches to combat the disease by introducing novel ideas into use or practice. As competition for grant funding increases worldwide, peer review panels have become more conservative and risk-averse, emphasizing feasibility more than innovation.

It is hoped this grant program will accelerate the introduction of innovation into the entire cancer research system and contribute to the scientific idea pipeline. Grant budgets may be up to $100,000 per year and a maximum of $200,000 per grant. Funding is provided to support the direct costs of research, including supplies, salaries, and equipment associated with the proposed work.

The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) is the only national charity that supports Canadians with all cancers in communities across the country. No other organization does what we do; we are the voice for Canadians who care about cancer. We fund groundbreaking research, provide a support system for all those affected by cancer and advocate to governments for important social change.

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For more information, please contact:

Jason Permanand

Communications Manager

Canadian Cancer Society


Phone: 204-990-4310