AstraZeneca Canada Contributes $450,000 to Advance Ovarian Cancer Research

Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, one of the top 5 cancer research centres in the world, gratefully announces a gift of $450,000 from AstraZeneca Canada to accelerate ovarian cancer research. 
 
Senior leaders from The Princess Margaret’s Ovarian Cancer program, The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation and AstraZeneca Canada recently came together to discuss the future of ovarian cancer and strategies to help move their research in new directions in their quest to effectively manage and treat the deadly disease.   
 
AstraZeneca Canada will assist in funding investigator-led ovarian cancer clinical trials, an integral method by which new treatments are tested in order to become standardized, and the program’s next generation of gynecological oncologists. Both areas are overseen by Dr. Amit Oza, Medical Director of the Clinical Cancer Research Unit and Co-Director of the Bras Drug Development program, the largest new drug development program in Canada.  

Dr. Amit Oza (front centre) and team with key personnel from AstraZeneca Canada

Improving tailored treatment through innovative clinical trials and training the next generation of gynecological oncologists are all integral to The Princess Margaret’s Billion Dollar Challenge for Personalized Cancer Medicine. This new gold standard of cancer care involves finding the right treatment, for the right patient, at the right time. 
 
“I cannot thank AstraZeneca Canada enough for their ongoing generous support. We are rapidly approaching a tipping point in our research and these funds will allow us to accelerate our high-impact projects,” says Dr. Oza. “These clinical trials and research studies are absolutely critical to transforming the patient experience and improving outcomes for women with ovarian cancer.” 
 
AstraZeneca Canada will fund two critical components of the Ovarian Cancer program: 
 
1. INVESTIGATOR-LED CLINICAL TRIALS 
 
New Directions in the Treatment of Ovarian Cancer 
 
Funding from AstraZeneca Canada will propel active clinical trials exploring the impact of PARP inhibitors on patients with ovarian cancer. PARP inhibitors represent an exciting new class of oral anti-cancer drugs that holds promise for treating BRCA-related cancers. They have been shown to delay recurrence of the disease if given after chemotherapy and are generally well-tolerated. A handful of these clinical trials will focus on the drug olaparib (from the PARP inhibitor class) and its effect on advanced, BRCA-mutated ovarian cancer. Dr. Oza’s team currently has almost 100 patients with BRCA-related cancers in active treatment and/or follow up.  Several trials for women without BRCA-related cancers are also underway. 
 
2. CLINICAL RESEARCH FELLOWSHIP SUPPORT 
 
Offering Doctors Advanced Preparation in Patient Care and Research 
 
A portion of AstraZeneca Canada’s gift will be allocated to support the valuable work of Drs. Michelle Wilson and Stéphanie Lheureux, two of Dr. Oza’s current gynecological medical oncology fellows. Both physicians will be future leaders in ovarian cancer discoveries and patient care. 
 
Dr. Michelle Wilson, MBChB, FRACP  is a medical oncologist trained in New Zealand, currently completing a clinical research fellowship in the Drug Development Program at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. She has received several honours including the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Merit Award and the Professional Development Award from Genesis Oncology in 2013. 
 
The focus of her research is geared towards early phase studies and clinical trials endpoints; in particular, their use and evolution in an era of precision oncology practice. Dr. Wilson has been involved in the design and development of several new international trial concepts evaluating PARP inhibitors as well as the investigation of relevant biomarkers in shaping and guiding clinical practice. She has published in several internationally-renowned medical journals including Lancet Oncology, Cancer, and Gynecology Oncology. It is extremely rare for a clinical fellow to have their work published in such a prestigious journal such as Lancet Oncology. 
 
"Support like this provided from AstraZeneca Canada will help us begin to understand ovarian cancer on a more personalized level and to tailor treatment options more effectively. Our current work in this field will help to accelerate individualized patient care and transform patient outcomes."              
  - Dr. Michelle Wilson
  
 
Dr. Stéphanie Lheureux MD, PhD is a medical oncologist trained in France with an interest in gynecological cancers and translating research into treatment options for patients. Dr. Lheureux started working as a clinical research fellow with Dr. Oza’s team at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in July 2013, and with the Phase I team in October 2014. Her research is currently focused on the characterization of ovarian cancer’s long-term response rate on olaparib in comparison with patients who did not respond to the treatment. This project will allow Dr. Lheureux and her team to identify markers of response and resistance that will guide the treatment.
 
“My sincere thanks to AstraZeneca Canada for their support towards our program and, in particular, for their critical role in helping to advance personalized medicine in ovarian cancer.” 
- Dr. Stéphanie Lheureux
 
“This investment is a strong testament to AstraZeneca Canada’s commitment to leading Canadian health sciences research,” said Ed Dybka, President and CEO of AstraZeneca Canada. “Each year, more than 2,600 women in Canada will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer - among the most fatal of women’s cancers. Finding new and tailored treatment is an urgent priority and we’re pleased to support Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.” 
 
Ultimately, AstraZeneca Canada’s generous contribution will help to improve Dr. Oza and his team’s understanding of this lethal cancer. The impact on the lives of women and their families across Canada will be profound. 
 
For more information or to support the Ovarian Cancer program, please contact:
 
Shannon Stuart, CFRE
Director, Major Gifts
The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation
Tel: 416.946.6571
Email: shannon.stuart@thepmcf.ca
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AstraZeneca 
 
AstraZeneca is a global, innovation-driven biopharmaceutical business with a priority focus on the discovery, development and commercialization of prescription medicines for gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, neuroscience, respiratory and inflammation, oncology and infectious disease. AstraZeneca operates in more than 100 countries and its innovative medicines are used by millions of patients worldwide. AstraZeneca’s Canadian headquarters are located in Mississauga, Ontario. For more information, please visit www.astrazeneca.ca. 
 
The Gynecologic Oncology Group at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre  
 
Princess Margaret Cancer Centre is home to one of the largest ovarian cancer programs in the world. On average, the Gynecologic Oncology Group sees 400-500 women annually from all over Canada. About 100-150 of these patients are enrolled in clinical trials annually. Women diagnosed with ovarian cancer who are referred to the Cancer Centre benefit from the knowledge and expertise of globally recognized doctors and scientists who push the boundaries of cancer knowledge and clinical practice every day.