Terry Fox Foundation awards four promising new investigators with nearly $2 million

Date Posted: 
2010-12-09

Dr. Zoubeidi of Vancouver Prostate Centre one of four to receive award

Vancouver, BC – Today, the Terry Fox Foundation (TFF) announced funding of $1.8 million in career awards to four promising scientists under its New Investigator (NI) Awards program.  Three researchers working in British Columbia and a fourth working in Ontario will receive the funds to further their quest to unravel the complexities of cancer.

Their areas of focus are quite varied – from targeting molecular activity to halt progression of prostate cancer, to developing techniques for early detection of lung cancer, to developing software to enhance the identification and analysis of normal and malignant stem cells; and to target and to investigate the mechanics of  a potential new therapeutic against brain cancer in children.  All four researchers share a common goal to improve cancer outcomes.

TFF has funded career awards for top new investigators for over three decades. The awards are highly competitive and recipients are determined by a review committee of international scientific experts. The annual competition draws applications from the nation’s best new talent and awards are made to those applicants selected to be the most outstanding.

 “The caliber of the applicants competing for the TFF’s New Investigator Awards was nothing short of spectacular,” notes Dr. Victor Ling, president and scientific director of the Terry Fox Research Institute (TFRI), which manages TFF’s research investment.

“New investigators are often at a disadvantage when they compete with seasoned scientists for research funding, so we have dedicated funding to support them as they conduct their investigations and establish themselves in the field of cancer research,” Dr. Ling explains.  “Often they are brimming with promising ideas for preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer, but they lack the necessary funding, infrastructure and guidance to advance their work,” he adds.

Commencing this year, TFF has embedded a new, unique component into the Awards program: mentorship of young investigators by established scientists who are currently working on TFF and TFRI-funded projects.  Each new investigator is linked to existing funded programs, and is supported by the principal investigators who have committed to mentoring the new researchers and integrating them into their research teams.

“By pairing young stars with senior researchers, we are creating an environment for greater success,” Dr. Ling says.  “While the merit of the new investigator applications stand on their own, this unique award supports them by providing them with a productive and insightful environment provided by senior colleagues.”

Specifically, the $1.8 million in funding will support the work of three researchers in Vancouver and one in Toronto.  They are:

Note: Affiliation is by host research institute

Dr. Ryan Brinkman, BC Cancer Agency

Dr. Brinkman, a Associate Professor, Medical Genetics, University of British Columbia

n associate professor of medical genetics at the University of British Columbia and a  senior scientist with the BC Cancer Agency’s Terry Fox Laboratory, will receive $435,252 over the next three years to examine flow informatics approaches for the identification of normal and malignant breast cancer (TBC) stem cells.  His work will aid in speeding up the diagnosis and prognosis of blood cancers.  Mentoring Dr. Brinkman will be Principal Investigator Dr. Keith Humphries, a senior scientist at the Agency and professor of medicine at UBC, whose project – “Cell fate and control of normal and malignant stem cells” – has received a $5.1 million grant from TFF.

Dr. Cathie Garnis, University of British Columbia

Dr. Garnis, an assistant professor with the Division of Otolaryngology in UBC Faculty of Medicine and a senior scientist with the BC Cancer Agency, will receive $450,000 over three years to identify and evaluate lung cancer markers that can be detected in the bloodstream and may be useful in early detection of lung cancer.  The project is designed to develop simple, cost-effective blood tests for early diagnosis of lung cancer.  Dr. Garnis project supports Co-Principal Investigator and mentor Dr. Stephen Lam’s study – Early Detection of Lung Cancer: A Pan-Canadian Study, which will receive almost $7 million in funding over five years from TFRI and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. Dr. Lam is a professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia and Chair, Provincial Lung Tumor Group, BC Cancer Agency.

Dr. Amina Zoubeidi, University of British Columbia (The Vancouver Prostate Centre)

An award of $449,964 will be given to Dr. Amina Zoubeidi, an assistant professor, Department of Urologic Sciences, University of British Columbia and research scientist with the Vancouver Prostate Centre, over the next three years for her project designed to determine if the expression of a protein – Lyn kinase – promotes prostate cancer progression.  She will examine whether targeting the molecule for inhibition will halt progression of castration resistant prostate cancer and ultimately improve treatment.  Mentoring Dr. Zoubeidi will be Principal Investigator Dr. Paul Rennie, a professor of urologic sciences at UBC and director of laboratory research, Vancouver Prostate Centre, whose prostate cancer progression project has received a TFF New Frontiers Program Grant for nearly $6.8 million.

Dr. Uri Tabori, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto

Dr. Uri Tabori, a staff physician in the Department of Hematology and Oncology at Sick Kids and an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto, will receive $448,520 over three years to further his work in pediatric neuroblastoma and brain tumours.  He will explore the exhaustion of tumour initiating cells by targeting their self-renewal capacity with telomerase inhibition.  Tumour stem cell exhaustion may transform the treatment and survival for children with neural tumours and prevent relapse.  Dr. Tabori’s project is linked with Principal Investigator and mentor Dr. Rob Rottapel, a professor at the University of Toronto and the University Health Network, who leads the $23-million Ontario Institute for Cancer Research-Terry Fox Research Institute (OICR-TFRI) Selective Therapies Program.

For additional information about the New Investigator awards and their associated TFF funded projects, please visit http://www.tfri.ca/.

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