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British Columbia Team Wins $3M Grant to Study Rare Cancers

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The Terry Fox Foundation has awarded the University of British Columbia, BC Cancer Agency, and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute a C$3.1 million (US$3 million) grant to establish a team to study the genomics of rare forms of cancer.

The CIHR Team in the Genomics of Forme Fruste Tumours was one of four to win a total C$14.8 million in grants from a new partnership between the foundation and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The team gets its name from the term used to describe tumors that share a single, identical defect that manifests as several unique clinical presentations and prognosis.

The team will use DNA sequencing technology to study 12 forme fruste tumors that currently lack effective diagnostics and treatments, UBC said in a statement announcing the grant. The researchers will survey expressed genes in the tumors to identify the genetic changes that may be the root cause of their cancerous behavior, then analyze these changes in single cells using microfluidics. The team will also study the functional consequences of these mutations and their potential as therapeutic targets, UBC said.

"By applying next-generation sequencing technologies to rare tumors we will discover new diagnostics and therapeutic opportunities for these rare diseases and gain new insights relevant to more common cancers," Principal Investigator David Huntsman, an associate professor of pathology in UBC's Faculty of Medicine, said in the statement.

In addition to Huntsman, other principal investigators include Sam Aparicio, Carl Hansen, Peter Lansdorp, Marco Marra, Torsten Nielsen, Poul Sorensen, and Michael Underhill.

The Terry Fox Foundation will spend about C$20 million in 2010-2011 for biomedical discovery research, and another C$10 million for translational research through The Terry Fox Research Institute. The funds are raised by participants in Canada's annual Terry Fox Runs and the National School Run Day across the country, in honor of Terry Fox's Marathon of Hope.

Other winners of the Terry Fox New Frontiers Program Project Grants at CIHR include:

• Mount Sinai Hospital, which was awarded more than C$6.9 million over five years to study how blood vessels supply blood to tumours and how to stop it. They'll also look at how blood vessels are formed and how cells communicate.

• Toronto's Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre will receive C$2.7 million over three years toward the "Ultrasound for Cancer Therapy Project," which will use ultrasound imaging to get faster updates on chemotherapy progress.

• Sainte-Justine University Hospital Centre in Montreal will receive C$2 million over three years to research the genetic causes of acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

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