Letter from the Chair of the Board of Directors and the Presidents

Peter Goodhand and Tom Closson For patients living with cancer, new discoveries cannot come soon enough. OICR’s researchers are working hard to develop new tools and practices to better prevent, detect, diagnose and treat cancer. Many important advances in cancer research have been made over the last decade and we are confident that there are many more to come.

The theme of this year’s report is “The Future of Cancer Research is Here.” That speaks to the fact that the tools and techniques that cancer researchers are working with today are so much more powerful than even a decade ago, when OICR was first established. It also speaks to the fact that some of the best cancer research in the world today is happening right here in Ontario.

You’ll see this year’s report focuses on four key areas of OICR’s research: how our work is enabling more cancer research, how we are performing more world-class research, how we are collaborating to accelerate research discoveries, and how, along with our commercialization partner FACIT (the Fight Against Cancer Innovation Trust), we are commercializing our work for the benefit of patients and the Ontario economy.

And this year, we’ve seen a lot success.

The CPC-GENE project, funded by Prostate Cancer Canada and OICR, identified new biomarkers for subtypes of prostate cancer that outperform all the comparable published and clinically approved tests. This will help to personalize diagnosis of the disease, reduce overtreatment and help men with aggressive disease get the right treatment sooner (see more here). A study from OICR’s Health Services Research Network conclusively disproved the link between prostate cancer and vasectomy, providing new peace of mind for the millions men worldwide who have undergone or are considering the procedure. And OICR researchers in the PanCuRx initiative showed that the genetic alterations that are thought to cause pancreatic cancer might occur all at once, challenging the current view that pancreatic cancer develops slowly over time. The findings open up entirely new pathways to treat one of the most deadly types of cancer.

Working together with FACIT, there was major success for OICR research on the commercialization front. Turnstone Biologics Inc., with technology developed from OICR’s Immuno and Bio-therapeutics (ORBiT) Program, received $54 million in private capital this year to help fund further clinical trials of its vaccine-based immunotherapy using the Maraba virus (see more here). And Fusion Pharmaceuticals, an Ontario start-up spun out of research from the Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization in Hamilton (established and funded in part by OICR), received US$25 million in private funding this year for a unique therapeutic approach to target cancer using alpha particle-emitting technology combined with monoclonal antibodies. These investments will provide both health and economic benefits for the people of Ontario for years to come.

This year has also set OICR on the path for new exciting discoveries. We launched important new initiatives from Strategic Plan 2016-2021, including the Ontario Molecular Pathology Research Network, which is helping to foster the adoption of more molecular pathology across the province, the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre-OICR Translational Genomics Laboratory, which is bringing more genomics technology to the clinic, and the Collaborative Research Resources Directory, which is making OICR’s technology and expertise more widely available to the Ontario cancer research community (see more here).

OICR also launched four new Translational Research Initiatives, which are large scale, cross-disciplinary, collaborative teams of Ontario researchers that are targeting some of the most difficult to treat cancers. With focus on acute leukemia, brain cancer, immuno-oncology and ovarian cancer, as well as continued funding for pancreatic cancer and developmental funding for prostate cancer projects, the initiatives combine both research and clinical elements to help bring research to patients sooner.

In May 2017 we were also pleased to launch the Cancer Therapeutics Innovation Pipeline, which is providing funding and expertise to enable early-stage cancer drug research in Ontario in an effort to attract the investment required to bring these discoveries to patients.

Thank you to OICR’s staff and collaborators all across the province. Working together we have made a huge impact in the fight against cancer. Your dedication, passion and skill are key to OICR’s success to date.

To Dr. Candace Johnson, Dr. Robert Klein, and Ms. Susan Thompson, as well as to two of the original Directors of OICR, Dr. Cal Stiller and Mr. Mark Lievonen, all of whom departed from the Board of Directors this year, thank you for your leadership. OICR welcomed Dr. Daniel Woolf, Mr. Dennis Giokas, Ms. Dale Lawler and Ms. Sharon Chandler, who joined the Board this year.

Thank you to the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science for your support of the Institute over the last decade. This support is the foundation of all the work that we do.

Thank you to Dr. Lincoln Stein for your work this year as Interim Scientific Director. Your scientific leadership over the past year has been integral to the Institute’s success. Dr. Stein will be leader of our new Adaptive Oncology research area.

There has been a lot of extremely exciting work this year at OICR, far more than we could include in one report. And there is still much more to be done. We encourage you to visit OICR News and to follow us on Twitter (@OICR_News) to see all the exciting work over the past year and to keep up to date on our discoveries as they happen.


Tom Closson, Chair
Peter Goodhand, President