Monday, April 23, 2012

OICR announces new funding for imaging research in Ontario to bring personalized medicine to patients

TORONTO, April 23, 2012 /Canada NewsWire/ - Dr. Tom Hudson, President and Scientific Director of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR), today announced new funds to further enhance imaging research in Ontario and to develop improved imaging tools for more personalized diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients worldwide.

"Ontario is a world leader in imaging research and OICR is proud to continue supporting the development of state-of-the-art imaging technologies that will advance personalized medicine," said Dr. Hudson. "This funding will help to keep Ontario on the cutting edge of imaging research worldwide and ensure that this research is quickly and efficiently delivered to patients."

OICR is investing a total of $18.3 million over the next four years into imaging research in Ontario through two OICR initiatives: The Imaging Translation Platform and Smarter Imaging Program. The objectives of both initiatives align with OICR's larger strategic goals to accelerate translational research and to facilitate the adoption of personalized medicine. Projects funded within the program provide potential solutions to problems that could benefit cancer patients within the next five years, including the over-diagnosis of prostate cancer, over-aggressive treatment of early breast cancer and high fatality rates associated with pancreatic cancer.

The Imaging Translation Platform focuses on the development of new tools to help the introduction and testing of new imaging systems designed to diagnose and treat specific types of cancer earlier. The Platform is building an environment to foster innovation in cancer imaging and to ensure that patients benefit from the advances in technology as soon as possible.

The Smarter Imaging Program focuses on developing new imaging tools that can provide improved diagnosis of specific cancers and guide the choice of therapy, allowing for a greater degree of personalization in diagnosis and treatment. Types of cancer targeted include breast, prostate, pancreas and liver.

Both OICR initiatives are co-led by Dr. Aaron Fenster and Dr. Martin Yaffe. Dr. Fenster is based at Robarts Research Institute in London, Ontario and Dr. Yaffe is based at Sunnybrook Research Institute in Toronto.

Selected Projects

Microbubble Contrast Ultrasound and Transient Elastography Imaging of DCIS/Assessing Tumour Angiogenesis in DCIS patients with CEDM - Principal Investigators: Dr. Martin Yaffe, Dr. James Mainprize

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer. DCIS isn't life threatening, but can increase chances of developing a more serious form of breast cancer later in life. There is a need to identify more personalized approaches when diagnosing DCIS tumours in order to avoid over- or under-treatment. Dr. Martin Yaffe is doing this by examining cutting-edge tools such as microbubble contrast ultrasound and shear wave elastography, which could be used to better determine the aggressiveness of the disease. This could provide better, more personalized diagnostic standards and improved treatment options for women with DCIS.

In a related project, Dr. James Mainprize will assess the full size and characteristics of DCIS tumours prior to biopsy using contrast enhanced digital mammography. If successful, this will offer a diagnostic tool to reduce overtreatment of DCIS, therefore reducing costs for the health care system and vastly improving quality of life for many women diagnosed with DCIS.

Smarter Imaging Program - Prostate - Principal Investigators: Dr. Aaron Fenster, Dr. Glen Bauman

Despite a great deal of progress in diagnosis and treatment, prostate cancer remains the third most common cause of cancer death in Canadian men. Current screening tools such as PSA tests do not provide an adequate characterization of the aggressiveness of the cancer and may result in overtreatment. Drs. Aaron Fenster and Glen Bauman are leading an innovative project called SPIRIT (Smarter Prostate Imaging and Interventions) intended to reduce over-diagnosis of prostate cancer and reduce the morbidity of treatment. In its first year, the program will develop a suite of emerging imaging techniques to better distinguish aggressive vs. indolent cancer. It will then validate these techniques and test the most promising in prospective clinical trials, with a goal of developing new imaging approaches that have the potential to be rapidly and safely introduced in the clinic.

Quantitative Imaging for Personalized Medicine - Principal Investigator: Dr. David Jaffray

Personalized medicine holds the promise of revolutionizing cancer treatment. By measuring biomarkers unique to each individual patient, doctors could develop a tailored treatment plan for every patient. Imaging data could greatly contribute to characterization of individual cancers and response to treatment. Dr. David Jaffray will develop novel tools for collecting and archiving clinical imaging data, including an image viewing and archiving platform. He will also establish a clinical trial imaging research network that will be engaged in the application of imaging interventions to clinical trials. These tools will help to facilitate the development and deployment of image-based biomarkers in personalized medicine and help make the widespread adoption of personalized medicine a reality.


OICR is an innovative cancer research and development institute dedicated to prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The Institute is an independent, not-for-profit corporation, launched by the Government of Ontario in 2005. The annual budget for OICR, its research partners and collaborators exceeds $160 million. This supports more than 1,500 investigators, clinician scientists, research staff and trainees located at its headquarters and in research institutes and academia across the Province of Ontario. It has research hubs in Hamilton, Kingston, London, Ottawa, Thunder Bay and Toronto. OICR has key research efforts underway in small molecules, biologics, stem cells, imaging, genomics, informatics and bio-computing, from early stage research to Phase III clinical trials. For more information, please visit the website at

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