Research at the Cutting Edge

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Canada Foundation for Innovation funding advances research for more effective therapies.
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The Canada Foundation for Innovation will provide funding for four UHN projects led by (top right, clockwise) Drs. Marianne Koritzinsky, Karun Singh, Kristin Hope and Gang Zheng.

On August 11, 2021, the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, announced more than $77M to support 332 research infrastructure projects at 50 universities across the country.

At UHN, four research teams were awarded a total of $2.50M in infrastructure funding. This support is provided through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund, which provides cutting-edge tools and equipment for exceptional researchers across the country. To learn more about the four projects, see below.

● Targeted therapeutics to enhance radiotherapy efficacy and safety in the era of image-guided conformal treatment, led by Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (PM) Senior Scientists Drs. Marianne Koritzinsky and Scott Bratman and Clinician Scientist Dr. Michael Milosevic.

Almost half of all cancer patients are treated with radiation therapy, which lowers the efficacy of certain drug treatments that patients may also be receiving as part of their cancer treatment plan. The requested CFI-funded equipment will be used to realistically mimic current image-guided radiation treatment planning to test novel targeted agents and immunotherapies. The findings will lay the foundation for novel drug combinations that improve radiation therapy outcomes for patients with hard-to-treat cancers.

● Preclinical magnetic resonance imaging for targeted brain tumour therapies, led by PM Senior Scientists Drs. Gang ZhengLothar Lilge and Gelareh Zadeh.

This project will harness the unique capabilities of magnetic resonance imaging to realize advanced therapeutic strategies that target brain tumours while maintaining patient safety. Given the diffuse nature of brain tumours, which infiltrate healthy tissue, many current treatments lack sufficient targeting of cancer cells. With expertise in nanotechnology, the research team will test light therapy and molecular therapeutics and establish a system of interrelated and complementary approaches to treat brain tumours more effectively.

● Characterizing and unlocking the therapeutic potential of stem cells and the leukemic microenvironment, led by PM Senior Scientist Dr. Kristin Hope and Scientists Drs. Courtney Jones and Anastasia Tikhonova.

Leukemia is an aggressive blood cancer that is known to originate in stem cells called leukemia stem cells. Many individuals succumb to the disease due to the fact that current therapies are not able to eliminate the initiating leukemia stem cell population, which plays a fundamental role in treatment failure and resistance. This project will explore different strategies that may be used to target these stem cells and inform the development of new therapies to treat the disease.

● Stem cell models to investigate brain function in development and disease, led by Krembil Research Institute Senior Scientist Dr. Karun Singh.

More accurate models of developmental and age-related brain conditions are necessary to support the discovery of better interventions. The new infrastructure will enable researchers to culture, store and analyze stem-cell derived neural cells. Using this experimental model, the team will explore how genetic risk factors affect brain development and identify abnormal signalling networks in various brain conditions. This knowledge will enable them to screen drugs in the search for new therapeutic strategies.

Congratulations to all UHN researchers involved in these exceptional projects!

To read the press release from CFI, click here.