Cross-country collaboration to benefit women with ovarian cancer

Partnership teams up with Terry Fox Research Institute to support research with potential for immediate impact

The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer and the Terry Fox Research Institute are jointly funding a new research project with the long-term goal of increasing survival of ovarian cancer, the fifth-leading cause of all female cancer-related deaths in Canada.1

With participation from hospitals, universities and research institutions in five provinces, as well as support from eight biobanks, patient groups and the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists, the five-year, $5-million study focuses on identifying new ovarian cancer biomarkers – molecules found in blood or tissue that are a sign of a condition or disease. The research team’s work will better identify each patient’s particular tumour type and the treatment her tumour will respond to best. When validated, these biomarkers will be used to identify patients who do not respond to standard therapy and can be directed to clinical trials where new therapies are being validated.

In 2011, an estimated 2,600 Canadian women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer.2 Fewer than 2 in 5 women with ovarian cancer will live beyond five years of their diagnosis.3 In the past different types of ovarian cancer have been treated with one standard therapy, but one in four cases are resistant to it – heightening the need for other treatment options.

“This project will change the way in which pathologists, physicians and clinicians think about ovarian cancer. It will help us to classify and sub-divide ovarian cancer into different diseases through molecular profiling. A better understanding of the disease will enable the development and delivery of more personalized care for the patient, which is both better and more effective,” says Dr. Victor Ling, President and Scientific Director of the Terry Fox Research Institute.

The study unites more than 30 investigators with different areas of expertise and from different parts of the country: British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

Dr. Anne-Marie Mes-MassonBy linking together laboratory scientists with the oncologists, surgeons and pathologists who work with the patients on the front lines, our work will be much more relevant and bear fruit that will reach patients much more quickly. — Molecular oncologist Dr. Anne-Marie Mes-Masson

Based at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM), Dr. Mes-Masson is one of the study’s lead researchers along with gynecologist oncologist Dr. Diane Provencher, also of CRCHUM and  Dr. David Huntsman, a genetic pathologist with the Ovarian Cancer Research Program at BC Cancer Agency and Vancouver Coastal Health.

“By bringing together the best minds on ovarian cancer in Canada, this study has the potential to change the way ovarian cancer is diagnosed and managed,” says Dr.  Stuart Edmonds, Director of the Partnership’s research portfolio. “It is one of several projects the Partnership is supporting with the practical goal of identifying emerging technologies that can improve the early detection and treatment of cancer and lead to better outcomes.”

Read the Terry Fox Research Institute’s press release.


1 Canadian Cancer Society’s Steering Committee on Cancer Statistics. Canadian Cancer Statistics 2011. Toronto, ON: Canadian Cancer Society; 2011.

2 Canadian Cancer Society’s Steering Committee on Cancer Statistics. Canadian Cancer Statistics 2011. Toronto, ON: Canadian Cancer Society; 2011.

3 Statistics Canada. Table  103-1569 – Five-year survival estimates for other selected primary sites of cancer, ICD-O-3 (January 2011 CCR file), by age group and sex, population aged 15 to 99, 1 year of cases, Canada (excluding Quebec), annual (percent unless otherwise noted), CANSIM (database). (accessed: October 21, 2011)