Federal investment backs BC project in cancer screening

Dr. Christoph Borchers

Vancouver, BC – A $3.3-million dollar project, led by Dr. Christoph Borchers, affiliated with the University of Victoria, McGill University, and the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, is analyzing the expression and functionality of cancer-related proteins.

In some instances, this analysis can significantly inform the effectiveness of drug therapies.

“Our technology uses antibodies and mass spectrometry to look for multiple forms of the Akt protein in a single test and hopes to identify where an anti-cancer drug is effective and where it is not.” says Dr. Christoph Borchers, director of the UVic-Genome BC Proteomics Centre and professor, University of Victoria. “We are using the anti-cancer drug AZD5363, which is in clinical development by AstraZeneca, as evidence that this test works. AZD5363 has been shown to stop tumour growth by inhibiting Akt but only in some people. This project can guide its best use.”

Dr. Gerald Batist
Dr. Gerald Batist

The research is being co-led with Dr. Gerald Batist, Segal Cancer Centre, Jewish General Hospital, McGill University (academic) and the user partner, AstraZeneca.

Dr. Borcher says that ultimately, this project will help identify patients with specific types of protein and pathway to identify those most likely to benefit from AZD5363. If successful, it will lead to the development of a diagnostic test that can be commercialized by Victoria-based MRM Proteomics Inc. that will be used in clinics to screen cancer patients to determine more accurately, who will respond best to Akt inhibitors such as AZD5363.

“The ability to determine patients’ responsiveness to treatment will help ensure patients receive the most effective therapy, and avoid other, less effective, costly and possibly toxic treatments,” says Dr. Pascal Spothelfer, president and CEO, Genome British Columbia. “We’re excited to be contributing to this important proteomic research that can help optimize cancer care, improve patients’ quality of life and produce healthcare savings worth millions of dollars a year.”

The ability to use cutting-edge proteomics to identify those most likely to benefit from particular treatments could also help Canada attract biopharma investment dollars to further develop protein-based biomarkers.

“Second Generation Diagnostics: iMALDI-based Assays for Protein Activity to Improve Patient Selection for Therapeutic Akt Inhibitors in Cancer Treatment,” was funded through Genome Canada’s Genomic Applications Partnership Program (GAPP) which partners academic researchers with users in the private and public sectors to promote genomics-derived solutions to address challenges or opportunities facing users. Genome Quebec, Genome British Columbia, AstraZeneca, Mitacs and MRM Proteomics are providing additional funding support for this project.

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