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UHN-OICR Joint Genomics Program to benefit from accredited genomics facility.
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Considered the ‘gold standard’ in laboratory accreditation, this certification will help bridge the gap between research and clinical care. The Joint Genomics Program is currently issuing clinical genomic reports for clinical trials led by UHN investigators.

The Joint Genomics Program between UHN’s Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) will benefit from the recent accreditation of an OICR genomics facility. OICR Genomics recently passed the highest standards for clinical research set by the College of American Pathologists (CAP).

The facility is one of the few labs in the world to gain CAP accreditation for identifying mutations (i.e., changes in the genetic code) and comprehensive testing of all forms of genetic changes in whole genomes. “What sets our program apart is the amount of information that our genetic test produces. Our clinical case assay can provide whole genome sequences for normal and tumour samples from the same patient—as well as detailed data on which genes are active in the tumour,” says Dr. Carolyn Ptak, Program Manager and Quality Assurance Lead of OICR Genomics.

“By providing a complete view of the genes that are present in cancers and when these genes are turned on or off, the program will deliver profound insights on new treatments and how to tailor these to individual patients,” says Dr. Trevor Pugh, Senior Scientist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, and Senior Investigator and Director of Genomics at OICR.

The joint program was established to alleviate administrative hurdles and ease the transfer of samples and data between UHN and OICR for collaborative research projects. The collaboration brings together researchers involved in basic, translational and clinical research under a single coordinated vision: to facilitate the use of genomic knowledge to guide clinical management of cancer patients. The program is advancing this aim through the following actions:

  • Aligning the resources of OICR and UHN more efficiently and increasing the scope of current activities, including clinical-grade and next-generation sequencing research efforts
  • Implementing an administrative framework for the unhindered movement of data, and clinical and research samples across both institutions
  • Developing a shared intellectual property policy that will help facilitate downstream commercial development

An example of the research being supported by the Joint Genomics Program is a clinical trial led by Drs. Jennifer Knox and Steven Gallinger. The trial, named PASS-01, is assessing two approved treatments for metastatic pancreatic cancer, which has one of the lowest survival rates of all cancer types. The program is providing clinical-grade and detailed genomic data (i.e., sequences of the whole genome and active genes). This data will provide deep insight into the disease biology and determine whether the effectiveness of treatments can be linked to genetic features.

The accredited facility is also intended to support studies from the Marathon of Hope Cancer Centres Network, of which Princess Margaret Cancer Centre is a major partner. 

“This is a landmark achievement—one that reflects this team’s strong dedication to conducting clinical genomics research of the highest quality in terms of data collection and analyses,” says Brad Wouters, EVP of Science and Research at UHN. “It is a great way to kick off our expanded joint genomics program.”

T Pugh holds a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Translational Genomics and is supported by an OICR Senior Investigator Award.

Dr. Trevor Pugh is a Senior Scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and serves as the Director of Genomics at OICR.