The Ontario Institute of Cancer Research (OICR) has awarded $4 million to a team of researchers working to harness the immune system to attack cancer. Called cancer immunotherapy, this area of research was dubbed “breakthrough of the year” by Science in 2013 and has been growing ever since. It can involve the use of drugs, cells and viruses to target many different kinds of cancer.
The grant is one of five new OICR Translational Research Initiatives announced today by Reza Moridi, Ontario’s Minister of Research, Innovation and Science. It is co-led by Dr. John Bell of The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa and Dr. Marcus Butler of the University Health Network and the University of Toronto.
“Immunotherapy is very exciting because it has the potential to completely eliminate even advanced cancers, but it doesn’t work for everyone,” said Dr. John Bell. “This new funding will help us test some innovative new strategies, both in the laboratory and the clinic, so that we can continue to refine this approach and hopefully help many more people.”
The funding will support:
- A clinical trial of a made-in-Ontario viral therapy combined with an immune-stimulating drug
- A clinical trial of a made-in-Ontario viral therapy combined with a patient’s own genetically-enhanced immune cells
- Analyzing patient samples to determine why some benefit from immunotherapy and others do not
- Laboratory research to develop a new kind of immunotherapy that involves removing a patient’s cancer cells, infecting them with a virus, and putting them back into the same patient