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About Sickkids
About SickKids

May 26, 2017

SickKids researchers awarded $4.8 million for brain cancer research

By Rebecca Goss, Corporate Communications Intern

A brain cancer research project led by The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is one of five major studies that will receive a portion of $24 million in Translational Research Initiatives (TRIs) funding over two years from the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR).

The Honourable Reza Moridi, Ontario’s Minister of Research, Innovation and Science announced the funding at MaRS on May 25.

Moridi says that the OICR TRIs will help move Ontario towards “better prevention, detection and treatment” of cancers.

Each of these TRIs are cross-disciplinary, multi-institutional projects, each focusing on one cancer type or treatment approach. Each TRI was selected by an international scientific review panel.

Drs. Peter Dirks and Michael Taylor from SickKids will co-lead the OICR Brain Cancer TRI, and will receive $4.8 million in funding over two years to study the cellular and genetic differences of paediatric and adult brain cancers. The goal is to understand the biology of brain cancer, which can then be used to develop new brain cancer treatments.

Dr. Peter Dirks (far left), the Honourable Reza Moridi (fourth from left) as well as other OICR staff and TRI leads.
Dr. Peter Dirks (far left), the Honourable Reza Moridi (fourth from left) as well as other OICR staff and TRI leads.

The OICR Brain Cancer TRI will focus on improving targeted treatment, reducing the side-effects of treatment and identifying signs of recurrence before it happens. Eleven clinicians and scientists across seven Ontario organizations will be contributing to this project. They will analyze patient tumour samples and individual tumour cells over a period of time, then link the data to patient phenotypes, outcomes and treatment responses.

“For children of Ontario, we’re really going after the worst cancers,” says Dirks, Staff Neurosurgeon and Senior Scientist at SickKids, and clinical lead on the project. “People don’t know that brain cancer is the leading cause of death in childhood and adolescence after accidents. All the research we’re doing will impact the young people in our population. We’re incredibly grateful and excited for this opportunity and funding.”

The other four TRIs will research immuno-oncology (Ottawa Hospital and University Health Network (UHN), acute leukemia (UHN), ovarian cancer (UHN) and pancreatic cancer (UHN). All five TRIs involve clinical trials to maximize patient impact.

Dirks is also Principal Investigator at The Arthur and Sonia Labatt Brain Tumour Research Centre at SickKids, and Professor of in the Departments of Surgery and Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto.

The study’s scientific lead, Taylor, is Staff Neurosurgeon, Senior Scientist and Principal Investigator of The Arthur and Sonia Labatt Brain Tumour Research Centre at SickKids. He is also Associate Professor in the Departments of Surgery, Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology at SickKids.