Dr. Wyatt receives a CIHR Early Career Investigator Award

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Dr. Alex Wyatt has been awarded a 2017 CIHR Early Career Investigator Award.  His project aims to develop a procedure that will enable the identification of metastatic bladder cancer patients most likely to respond to specific therapies. The funding partners are the Institute of Cancer Research and AstraZeneca Canada Inc., and the award is for $345,000 over 3 years.

Chemotherapy has historically been the most effective treatment for metastatic disease, but long-term survival has been a rarity. Recently, new drugs including immunotherapies are showing significant promise, but only a small proportion of patients respond to these treatments and there currently is no reliable way of predicting who the responders will be.

Dr. Wyatt established the groundwork for this project during the first three years of his faculty appointment, during which time he worked closely with clinical collaborators to develop a blood test that can identify tumor DNA present in a small blood sample. Preliminary work with this circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) suggests that mutations detected in ctDNA accurately reflect cancer itself, meaning that a patient’s metastatic bladder cancer can be profiled without the need for a tissue biopsy (see Vandekerkhove et. al., Clin Cancer Res. 2017 Nov 1;23(21):6487-6497 PMID: 28760909).

His awarded project,"Circulating tumour DNA as a precision oncology tool for metastatic bladder cancer," will identify mutations in the ctDNA of hundreds of Canadians with metastatic bladder cancer that are being treated with chemotherapy or immunotherapy. His research team will determine which mutations can predict a patient’s subsequent response to treatment using our rare combination of cancer bioinformatics and clinical oncology. Success with this project will help explain why some metastatic bladder cancers are intrinsically responsive or resistant to the most commonly used therapies. Furthermore, Dr. Wyatt and his team will have developed a clinically-practical framework (requiring only a blood sample) that may ultimately help align patients with therapies which would provide the best chance of success.

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