IRICoR and Ovarian Cancer Canada announce $2.3M for development of new treatments for ovarian cancer
Ovarian cancer is the 5th most common cancer among women, as well as one of the most fatal. It is estimated that 3,100 Canadian women will be diagnosed each year, and 55 per cent of them will not live beyond five years from their diagnosis.*
To address these alarming statistics, IRICoR and Ovarian Cancer Canada joined forces for the launch of the pan-Canadian LeadAction Ovarian Cancer Competition.
*Source: Canadian Cancer Society, 2020
Today, IRICoR and Ovarian Cancer Canada are proud to announce the three winners of this competition, which aims to support research efforts related to the discovery of new treatments for women with ovarian cancer. A total $2.3M will be invested over the next two (2) years, namely $1.15M from IRICoR and $1.15M from Ovarian Cancer Canada’s OvCAN initiative, largely funded by Health Canada.
“The LeadAction Ovarian Cancer Competition is a powerful example of collaboration at its best. Together with IRICoR, a leader in the field of drug discovery, we invited two women with lived experience of ovarian cancer to the decision table to contribute firsthand insights,” says Elisabeth Baugh, Chief Executive Officer, Ovarian Cancer Canada. “Given the high caliber of these projects, we look forward to seeing results that help women with ovarian cancer live fuller, better and longer lives.”
“We are delighted to have partnered with Ovarian Cancer Canada for this third edition in the LeadAction series. Their broad expertise and network in the ovarian cancer field, along with inclusion of their patient perspective, were key to the success of our joint LeadAction Ovarian Cancer Competition,” comments Dr. Nadine Beauger, President and Chief Executive Officer, IRICoR. “This initiative led by our two pan-Canadian organizations highlighted the depth of Canadian scientific expertise in the field”.
Awardees of the LeadAction Ovarian Cancer Competition
An independent international peer review committee led the competitive process, which included a thorough evaluation of applications coming from various institutions from across Canada. The following three (3) projects were selected:
Immunotherapy is an approach that has made the most significant progress in recent decades for the treatment of many types of cancer. However, treatment of ovarian cancer has not yet benefited from advances in immunotherapy. Discovering molecules (called antigens) that are specific to ovarian cancer and capable of being targeted by the immune system promises to enable these therapies. Using a groundbreaking proprietary method, the team discovered 55 of these antigens. Over 90% of ovarian cancers have 5 to 6 of these newly discovered antigens on their surface. The goal is to develop therapeutic vaccines, based on these antigens, to treat ovarian cancer. This project presents a new approach for creating such vaccines and assessing their effectiveness in stimulating the immune system.
Over the past decades, there has been little improvement in targeted therapy options for ovarian cancer. A high proportion of ovarian cancers present elevated levels of a cellular protein known as the human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER2). Nonetheless, there are no approved ovarian cancer therapies that target HER2. Dr. Diallo’s research team is developing an HER2-targeted therapy combining Kadcyla®, an approved breast cancer drug, with a selective cancer-killing “oncolytic” virus. This combination is based on a 2-pronged approach: anticancer activity with heightened vulnerability of cancer cells to the incoming virus and the oncolytic virus that selectively infects the tumor, where it can deliver a genetic program that leads to an immune response and cancer remission. This project aims at assessing the best combination of Kadcyla® and rationally designed and selected oncolytic virus candidate leads.
Immunotherapy through chimeric antigen receptor-T (CAR-T) cell therapy has shown remarkable effectiveness for treating certain types of blood cancers. However, CAR-T therapy has not had any meaningful impact on the outcomes of ovarian cancer patients. Over the past decade, Dr. Lum and his team made important discoveries related to how ovarian cancers shut off the immune system. Significantly, they found that genetic deletion of a gene called ATG5 unlocks the cancer-fighting properties of the immune system. This gene editing platform project to produce CAR-T cells will lead to a clinical trial application leveraging the BC Cancer Immunotherapy Program. In addition to the potential benefit to ovarian cancer patients, this project will pioneer these types of programs in Canada creating important know-how for others to come.
Designated as a Centre of Excellence in Research and Commercialization (CECR) by the Canadian government and based at the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC) of the Université de Montréal, IRICoR is a pan-Canadian leader in the de-risking of early-stage assets in the field of drug discovery. IRICoR’s mandate is to accelerate the discovery, development, and commercialization of novel therapies in cancer and rare diseases. Since 2008, IRICoR has been successfully investing in and supporting selected high-value projects in order to rapidly translate early-stage innovation into potential new therapies, through either co-development partnerships with the biopharmaceutical industry or the creation of spin-off companies. IRICoR seamlessly combines its business-related expertise with access to industry-level drug discovery capabilities, providing selected academic and industry projects with access to its network of experts and cutting-edge infrastructure, including one of the largest academia-based drug discovery unit in Canada. IRICoR’s major funding sources include the federal CECR Program, the Ministère de l’Économie et de l’Innovation du Québec (MEI), and collaborative partnerships with the biopharmaceutical industry.
For more information about IRICoR: iricor.ca
Ovarian Cancer Canada champions the health and well-being of women with ovarian cancer and others at risk of the disease while advancing research to save lives. Ovarian Cancer Canada is the only national charity dedicated to overcoming the disease with a vision to see women with ovarian cancer, and all women at risk of the disease, live fuller, better, longer lives. ovariancanada.org