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BC Cancer team wins prestigious $11.9-million in project funding to develop novel tests for lymphoma patients who relapse

VANCOUVER – Today, a research team at BC Cancer will receive $11.9-million in funding for an innovative precision health project that has the potential to significantly change outcomes for patients facing a relapse of lymphoid cancer.
 
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A team led by Dr. Christian Steidl, research director of the Centre for Lymphoid Cancer and senior scientist, BC Cancer, Dr. Marco Marra, director and distinguished scientist, BC Cancer’s Genome Sciences Centre and Dr. David Scott, clinician-scientist, BC Cancer, are seeking to decipher the genome biology of relapsed lymphoid cancers to improve patient management and outcomes. 

“Our team is extremely pleased to receive this prestigious funding, as we view it as a big opportunity in the field of lymphoma genomics research,” says Dr. Christian Steidl.  “The time is right, and we have the data and technology to translate our knowledge about genomes into tangible, routinely applicable tests that can change the lives of many patients facing a life-threatening relapse, while simultaneously lowering monumental health care costs.”  

Lymphoid cancer is a type of blood cancer that begins in the immune system, and includes several sub-types: Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, myeloma, and lymphocytic and lymphoblastic leukemia. It is the fifth most-common cancer in Canada for both men and women, and affects all ages.

Every year in Canada, 16,000 people are diagnosed with a lymphoid cancer, and more than 4,000 patients with lymphoma will relapse. With a relapse, chances of survival drop drastically, and for the Canadian health care system, relapses and associated treatment cost more than $315-million each year. 

Drs. Steidl, Marra and Scott’s project aims to develop genomics-based clinical tests to improve patient outcomes and quality of life, while working to integrate tests into the health care system by sequencing relapsed tumours to identify targeted treatment options. The team has already identified three biomarker assays to test in labs and hopes to develop many more before implementation in clinical trials and ultimately the health care system.
 
The team, under the guidance of BC Cancer health economist Dr. Dean Regier, will also look at the health-system impact from an economic perspective and develop an e-health application to assist patients with treatment decision-making. The results of the project will provide patients with more treatment options, less toxicity and better outcomes, overall.

“While we have already come a long way, we want to innovate to develop a one-two punch approach for both the primary diagnosis and relapse time points, to be equipped with the best science-backed treatment options for patients when, and if they do face a relapse,” says Steidl.
 
Under Drs. Steidl, Marra and Scott is a robust project team of 25, which includes 11 researchers in B.C. and a collaborative network across North America. While the project timeline is four years, the team is confident the socioeconomic benefits will project well beyond. The project will focus on tests in British Columbia and Ontario, with the hopes of rolling out biomarker assays across the nation in the future.

"The exciting genomics research of Drs. Steidl, Marra and Scott and their exceptional team will significantly improve the way we diagnose and treat patients with lymphoid cancers, in BC and worldwide,” says Dr. François Bénard, vice president research, BC Cancer.”

This exciting project is one of 15 winning project teams under the 2017 Large-Scale Applied Research Project (LSARP) competition in genomics and precision health, where $162-million will be invested into the 15 projects over four years, collaboratively funded by Genome Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Genome BC, the BC Cancer Foundation and other partners.

“We believe in the great potential this project has to change many patients’ lives and have committed to raise $1.9-million as a co-funder,” says Sarah Roth, President & CEO, BC Cancer Foundation. “Because of our generous donors, BC Cancer has, and will continue to, move the needle in lymphoma research and care, changing the outcome for many.”  

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The BC Cancer Foundation is the fundraising partner of BC Cancer. Together with our donors we are changing the outcome for people affected by cancer in B.C. and beyond by connecting personalized care, innovative research and opportunities to contribute. We are the largest funder of cancer in B.C. and every dollar raised stays right here at BC Cancer to advance research, enhance care and break down cancer to benefit the people of B.C. 

BC Cancer, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, is committed to reducing the incidence of cancer, reducing the mortality from cancer and improving the quality of life of those living with cancer. We provide a comprehensive cancer control program for the people of British Columbia by working with community partners to deliver a range of oncology services, including prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, research, education, supportive care, rehabilitation and palliative care. For more information, visit www.BCCancer.ca or follow on Twitter @BCCancer

For media enquiries, please contact:

Kevin Sauvé
Communications Officer, BC Cancer
D: 604-877-6436 | C: 604-842-1177 | kevin.sauve@bccancer.bc.ca
PHSA media line (8am to 4pm): 778-867-7472


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