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A new hope

Precision medicine: Memorial to join national cancer network


By Kelly Foss

Memorial University is set to join hospitals, cancer centres, universities and research institutes from across Canada to improve delivery of personalized and precision medicine to cancer patients.

The pan-Canadian Marathon of Hope Cancer Centres Network, led by the Terry Fox Research Institute (TFRI) was announced today at an event in St. John’s.

Dr. Sherri Christian
Dr. Sherri Christian
Photo: Chris Hammond

The network of regional and cross-country consortia includes the Montreal Cancer Consortium in Quebec and the BC-Ontario pilot project, which have already begun their work. The Prairies Cancer Consortium and the Atlantic Canada Cancer Consortium (ACC) – led by Memorial researcher Dr. Sherri Christian – hope to become operational later this year.

This unprecedented collaboration will bring together resources to improve cancer diagnoses, predict how different people will respond to treatments and deliver more personalized and effective treatments with fewer side-effects.

“This is a new era for cancer research, backed by precision medicine.” — Dr. Sherri Christian

Dr. Christian is an associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Science, and is cross-appointed with the Faculty of Medicine.

“This is a new era for cancer research, backed by precision medicine, and we’re proud to be working towards finalizing our role as a galvanizing force behind the creation of this collaborative network,” she said. “Our hope is to be able to officially launch the ACC later this year and join the national Marathon of Hope Cancer Centres Network soon after.”

Colorectal and lung cancers

The national network has received seed funding of $150 million from the Government of Canada to create linkages between researchers and institutions across Canada and enable a team of dedicated cancer researchers to share knowledge, harness technology and champion collaboration. Partner institutions will have to match these funds to join the network.

“To demonstrate the cohesiveness of our cancer research community, and leverage the unique strengths in Atlantic Canada, the ACC will make an application to the national network next month for funding to launch a pilot project focused on colorectal and lung cancers, the two most prevalent cancers in the region,” said Dr. Christian.

“During this first phase, the ACC will include 40 researchers and clinicians from across the region, half of them from Newfoundland and Labrador.”

They include Memorial researchers Drs. Lourdes Pena-Castillo and Sheila Garland, Faculty of Science; Drs. Kara Liang, Sevtap Savas, Touati Benoukraf, Michael Grant, Ken Hirasawa, Ken Kao, Peter Wang, Jane Green, Tom Belbin, Darren O’Rielly, Sheila Drover, John Thoms, Angela Tate, Crispin Russell and Melanie Seal, as well as Mitch Sturge, associate director, Centre for Health Information and Analytics, and graduate student Daniel Evans, all from the Faculty of Medicine; and Renee Lester and Stephanie Reid; Eastern Health.

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