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Canadian Alliance Seeks More Cancer Research Funding, New Projects within ICGC

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Canada should step up project funding for cancer genomic studies, while the nation's research institutions should launch a new prostate cancer sequencing project within the International Cancer Genome Consortium, and promote the value of its data to Canadian researchers, a 22-member alliance recommended today.

Those basic research recommendations are among 24 "action items" that comprise the Pan-Canadian Cancer Research Strategy, a 55-page plan released today by the Canadian Cancer Research Alliance.

The alliance called for ensuring that unspecified "funding mechanisms are in place to support individual operating and/or team grants" to support investigator-initiated research that uses and relates data from ICGC and the Cancer Genome Atlas into predictive and prognostic clinical outcomes.

Funding mechanisms should emerge, the alliance said, following the publication of a Canadian cancer prevention research agenda — a follow-up step projected to take place next year after publication during this year of a report that would detail "the scope and nature of the investment in cancer prevention research in Canada."

The investment report will include information on the funding of cancer etiology studies, risk identification, risk reduction research, population interventions, and other types of prevention research, the strategy stated.

The strategy also recommended creating a formal application process for sequencing the prostate cancer genome as part of Canada's contribution to the ICGC, created to study genomic, transcriptomic, and epigenetic changes in 50 types or subtypes of cancer deemed to hold global clinical or societal importance.

ICGC is a consortium of 10 countries, the UK, and the European Union that aims to sequence more than 25,000 tumors from 50 different cancer types at the genomic, epigenomic, and transcriptomic levels. ICGC's data coordination center is at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, a member of the alliance.

According to the alliance, the prostate cancer sequencing project reflects interest from unnamed "key CCRA members," that emerged in the months following two CCRA-co-hosted meetings held in late 2008 with funding organization and scientists. The meetings resulted in an expression of interest process that produced proposals for tumor studies for which Canadian scientific expertise "would allow us to be competitive as ICGC participants, provided funders could be identified."

In addition, the strategy called for developing new tools, technologies, and reagents to study cancer stem or "initiating" cells, and ensuring "rapid dissemination" of bioinformatics tools and data from ICGC, as well as promoting their value across Canada's cancer research community.

That would include linking them to other sets of data in order to speed up translational research, and holding face-to-face and webinar workshops for researchers and trainees. An education session should be organized as part of a national cancer research conference planned for 2011, the strategy added.

Details on studying the initiating cell should emerge following publication expected later this year of opportunities for research, and funding gaps, in an analysis now under way by the not-for-profit Cancer Stem Cell Consortium.

"One potential area is the need for a network of resource and technology platforms across Canada to provide CSCC investigators in Canada with access to the technologies and tools necessary to advance research in the area of cancer stem cells," the strategy stated. "Another area may be translational research, not only to understand the biological implications of the discoveries, but also to move them forward into clinical application."

The research strategy was funded through the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, an independent group of cancer experts, charitable organizations, governments, patients, and survivors funded by Canada's federal government.

In addition to OICR, members of the alliance include the Alberta Cancer Foundation; Alberta Innovates - Health Solutions; BC Cancer Agency; Canadian Association of Provincial Cancer Agencies; Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation; Canadian Cancer Society; Canadian Institutes of Health Research; CancerCare Manitoba; Cancer Care Nova Scotia; Cancer Care Ontario; and Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec; Genome Canada; Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research; National Research Council of Canada; New Brunswick Cancer Network; Prostate Cancer Canada; Public Health Agency of Canada; Saskatchewan Cancer Agency; The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer; The Cancer Research Society; and The Terry Fox Foundation.