Canadian pediatric researchers, funders join forces, commit $16.4M to give young people across the country a fighting chance against cancer
For the first time in Canadian history, more than 30 pediatric cancer research and funding organizations have joined forces through Terry Fox PROFYLE, a pan-Canadian project to give children, adolescents and young adults who are out of conventional treatment options another chance to beat their cancer.
Short for PRecision Oncology For Young peopLE, the Terry Fox Research Institute (TFRI) and these research and funding partners are working and fundraising together under a unique partnership that to date is providing a total of $16.4 million to molecularly profile the tumours of these patients, no matter where they live in Canada. For example, if Terry Fox had been diagnosed with cancer today, he would have been eligible for PROFYLE when the tumour returned and spread to his lungs.
A $5-million investment by TFRI is the catalyst bringing together top scientists and clinicians, research centres, cancer charities and foundations at children’s hospitals across the country to create new hope for young people who need it the most.
Eight-year-old Marlow Ploughman is one of these children. When her late-stage rhabdomyosarcoma (muscle cancer) relapsed for the fourth time, doctors told Marlow’s parents there were no more conventional treatments left to try. The news was devastating – but then the Kingston, Ont. family learned about Terry Fox PROFYLE.
“[Terry Fox PROFYLE] is extremely important, because with children like Marlow we have very few options except the one conventional protocol that we’re given,” said Marlow’s mom, Tanya Boehm. “PROFYLE provides a key to unlock the door to perhaps more options — or at least provides us more time to wait for some more options to come.”
While there has been dramatic improvement in treatments and outcomes for many pediatric cancers over the last three decades, for the 20 per cent of young people whose cancers have spread, returned, or are resistant to treatment, outcomes remain grim.
Project lead Dr. David Malkin, based at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, says PROFYLE is bringing together the entire pediatric and young adult national clinical and research expertise in precision medicine in a way that has never before been done in Canada.
“One of the big wins for Canada is that instead of working in somewhat independent silos, we have created a massive formulized collaborative and co-operative program to achieve this goal,” said Dr. Malkin. The project was announced today at SickKids.
“The second, longer-term hope is that we will have developed a mechanism as we learn more and more about genetics and genomics of cancer, so that every newly diagnosed child, adolescent and young adult will eventually have the genome of their tumour sequenced, to give them more opportunities for therapy and accelerate their return to health.”
Funding for Terry Fox PROFYLE is expected to grow over the life of the five-year project as new funders join on.
“We are extremely thrilled the TFRI has been instrumental in bringing these top-tier Canadian cancer researchers and funding partners together for what we believe is one of the most important cancer initiatives in our country. Our sincere thanks to everyone for this formidable, generous collaboration,” said Dr. Victor Ling, TFRI president and scientific director.
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