2009 Research Grants

In 2009, six Canadian researchers were awarded more than $145,000 for projects focused on the causation, diagnosis and treatment of brain tumours. One grant was awarded specifically to look into pediatric brain tumour issues.

Project Summaries:

Doctor J. Gregory Cairncross, of University of Calgary and the Clark H. Smith Brain Tumour Centre in Calgary, was awarded for research that will explore new therapies for a specific type of brain tumour called a glioma. 

The main objective of this research was to extend drug evaluation studies that had been done cell culture to in vivo work examining their anti-tumour action in human glioblastoma stem cells grown in mice. The research was completed in 2011.

The cell culture work was promising, and early in vivo studies demonstrated 17DMAG was highly effective at preventing tumour growth in mice. However, with more rigorous testing Dr. Cairncross noted high 17DMAG toxicity. There was significant reduction in tumour burden but the side effects of 17DMAG made further work with this drug futile. “It was unlikely to be useful for patients so the project was stopped”, said Dr Cairncross. However, these studies have demonstrated that HSP90 may be a valid therapeutic target in human glioblastoma when less toxic drugs of this class are developed. 

Doctor Nina Jones, of the University of Guelph was awarded the grant for her research that will examine the implications for brain tumours when signal pathways, the way cells communicate with one another, are not properly controlled. Doctor Jones aims to determine whether a specific protein relates a particular diagnosis and if there are potential treatment options as a result.

Doctor Claire Infante-Rivard, of McGill University in Montréal, will investigate the role of genetic and environmental factors in the development of childhood brain tumours.

Research Outcome: The main goal of this research was to evaluate the association between asthma and brain cancer in children. The research was completed in 2011.

The study strengthens the hypothesis of an inverse association between asthma and brain cancer. This association has been repeatedly shown in adult brain cancer but rarely in children. From this research, Dr. Infante-Rivard concludes that a child with asthma seems less likely to develop brain cancer than one without asthma. However, the underlying mechanisms for such an association will need further investigation. Find the abstract at PubMed.

Doctor James Rutka from the University of Toronto will examine how to effectively cross the blood-brain-barrier for the imaging and treatment of brain tumours with nanotechnology. The research will help determine nanotechnology’s promise for enhancing the diagnosis, imaging and treatment of brain tumours.

The main objective of this research was to create a new therapeutic approach capable of targeting migrating cells that are often protected behind an intact blood-brain barrier.

Research Outcome: Over the past two years while conducting this research, the data revealed a near linear kinetic profile with size-dependent transport and provided the size range in which to test the delivery of nanoparticle preparations within in vivo mouse models. Although the initial hopes of a passive delivery across the blood-brain barrier were not realized, Dr. Rutka was encouraged by results obtained during preliminary experiments with focused ultrasound. Therefore, he is now proceeding with experiments that incorporate ultrasound pre-treatment prior to therapeutic delivery.

Doctor Luis Souhami, of McGill University Health Centre will conduct research into the effects of modifying the standard treatment of brain metastases tumours of whole-brain radiation.

Doctor Sean Symons, from Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto aims to improve patient safety and outcomes with his research into an innovative method of locating the facial nerve prior to surgery. By understanding the location of the facial nerve before surgery, it is believed that post-operative complications will be reduced.


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