OICR funding to help five research projects take the next step toward advancing cancer care

Five Ontario-based research projects will take the next step toward advancing cancer care in the province thanks to funding from the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR).

OICR is announcing the first round of recipients of its new Innovation to Implementation Supplement (I2IS), which aims to help discoveries in cancer overcome barriers to health system implementation. All five projects advance research programs that were previously funded by OICR within the past five years. The supplemental funding announced today completes the continuum for these projects, helping them build on their previous success and translate what they have already learned into real-world impact.

With Ontario's population aging and the number of cancer diagnoses on the rise, translational cancer research that makes a difference in people's lives is more important than ever. OICR is proud to have supported these innovative projects over the past few years and we hope this new funding will give them an extra push to take the next step now and shape cancer care and policy in Ontario."

Dr. Laszlo Radvanyi, OICR President and Scientific Director

Each of the five supported projects is led by experts in their field taking a unique approach to addressing cancer:

Dr. Geoffrey Fong of the University of Waterloo is studying the positive impact of government policies aimed at reducing the negative effects of tobacco smoking, the world's largest cause of preventable cancer. With this funding, he will work with Ontario and international experts to model the impact of 'endgame' tobacco control policies, like New Zealand's Smokefree 2025 plan, if they were to be implemented in Canada.

"Stopping people from smoking is one of most effective ways to prevent cancer, and tobacco control policy is one of the most effective ways to stop people from smoking. The knowledge we gain from this research could provide evidence to guide smoke-free policies in Ontario, Canada and around the world." – Dr. Geoffrey Fong

Dr. Harriet Feilotter of Queen's University and colleagues have created the Implementation Laboratory (IL), a central lab that can advise Ontario hospitals on the best way to test tumours for cancer biomarkers. I2IS funding will help them generate more evidence for the use of the lab and design educational and clinical tools to help Ontario hospitals access it.

"Testing tumors for genetic mutations can lead to personalized cancer treatment, but hospitals are largely on their own to figure out how to do it. A centralized, standardized lab will improve how the province makes genetic research available to cancer patients." – Dr. Harriet Feilotter

Dr. Monika Krzyzanowska of the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre at the University Health Network is exploring remote interventions to help cancer patients to manage the side effects of chemotherapy between visits to the clinic. Support from OICR will help Krzyzanowska and her team capitalize on the recent growth of virtual healthcare by implementing and evaluating a telephone-based symptom management program at a large Ontario cancer centre focusing on high-risk patients undergoing chemotherapy.

"Supporting cancer patients to manage chemotherapy side effects in their homes instead of having to come to the Cancer Centre or the emergency department is good for patients, their caregivers and good for the health system. We are excited to learn more about the potential of expanding this telephone-based approach to our most at-risk patients." – Dr. Monika Krzyzanowska

Dr. Alexander Louie and Dr. Ambika Parmar of Sunnybrook Research Institute are investigating how to best determine the cost-effectiveness of publicly funding new cancer drugs for metastatic lung cancer. With OICR's support, they and their colleagues will develop a framework to assess cost-effectiveness that considers the many sub-types of lung cancer and use the results to engage with Canadian drug-funding agencies.

"There are exciting new drugs that can improve outcomes for people with lung cancer, but they are expensive. A comprehensive framework for assessing the costs and benefits of these drugs could help drug-funding agencies make informed decisions about whether to fund them." – Dr. Alexander Louie

Dr. William Wai Lun Wong of the University of Waterloo is studying real-world evidence – data generated outside of clinical trials – about the clinical impact and cost-effectiveness of CAR T-cell therapy, a promising but expensive immunotherapy. With I2IS funding, he will engage patients, healthcare providers and other stakeholders to understand how this evidence can be harnessed to guide healthcare decision-making about the future of CAR T-cell therapy.

"Though CAR T-cell therapy has shown a lot of promise in managing cancer, plenty of questions remain. Real-world evidence can give the agencies that assess healthcare technologies new insights about CAR T-cell therapy's efficacy and cost-effectiveness, and potentially help them assess whether it should be publicly funded." – Dr. William Wai Lun Wong

I2IS is part of OICR's Clinical Translation initiative, a program that advances Ontario cancer discoveries to support earlier and more effective detection and treatment of hard-to-treat cancers and foster precision medicine for cancer patients. The funding supports OICR's strategy to further ensure its research is having direct impact on cancer patients.

"Our government is proud to support the work of OICR, which has an impressive track record of helping to move oncology discoveries to real world application," said Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities. "These five research projects could lead to important advances in the early detection and intervention of cancer, as well as improved patient outcomes."

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