Brain cancer research led in Ontario gets a $10M boost

Ottawa, ON – May 25, 2017 – Dr. Reza Moridi, Minister of Research, Innovation and Science, today announced five translational research grants funded by the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR), one of which will boost a first in-human phase one clinical trial to test the safety and efficacy of an oncolytic virus vaccine called Farmington that was engineered at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) Research Institute (RI) in Dr. David Stojdl’s lab.

The grant is worth $10 million of which $2.2 will go directly to Dr. David Stojdl’s group at the CHEO RI. The clinical trial will target adult patients with glioblastoma, the most aggressive cancer that begins in the brain. The balance of funds will support work at labs in Toronto and McMaster University to study the genetic make-up of glioblastoma using advanced sequencing technology.

“We think Farmington could be transformative, creating a therapy that is less toxic, more effective, and capable of helping more patients,” said Dr. Stojdl, senior scientist CHEO RI and professor at the University of Ottawa. “We know that glioblastomas are very genetically different, each patient has defects in a different set of genes. There are thousands of targets across the population, and every patient is unique. So we believe that proceeding with an oncolytic virus vaccine that can help each patient raise an immune response against their own cancer is the right approach.”

The trial will aim to answer three main questions: is Farmington safe to administer; does the virus unshackle the immune response in the tumour; and can the unique virus vaccine generate potent anti-tumour immune cells to help fight the disease. Farmington has oncolytic properties so it seeks out cancer cells and doesn’t harm surrounding healthy cells, in addition it triggers the patients’ own immune system to help fight at the same time. Unlike other oncolytics though, Farmington is also not neurotoxic, so it doesn’t destroy the nervous system and has proven to work in lab testing.

The Stojdl Lab has already started the process of manufacturing Farmington. The phase one trial is set to start in 18 months, including time for the regulatory steps with Health Canada and ethics approval. The trial is expected to initially begin enrolling patients at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

The Farmington trial will be conducted in collaboration with Dr. Sunit Das, a neurosurgeon at St. Michael’s Hospital, and Dr. Trevor Pugh, an investigator at Princess Margret Hospital as part of the Brain Cancer TRI grant led by Drs. Peter Dirks and Michael Taylor from SickKids in Toronto.

Dr. David Stojdl is also a co-investigator on another OICR translational grant announced today, co-led by Dr. John Bell at The Ottawa Hospital, which supports a clinical trial of Dr. Stojdl’s Maraba virus combined with an immune-stimulating drug.

About the CHEO Research Institute

The CHEO Research Institute coordinates the research activities of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and is affiliated with the University of Ottawa. Its three programs of research include molecular biomedicine, health information technology, and evidence to practice research. Key themes include cancer, diabetes, obesity, mental health, emergency medicine, musculoskeletal health, electronic health information and privacy, and genetics of rare disease. The CHEO Research Institute makes discoveries today for healthier kids tomorrow. For more information, visit or @CHEOhospital

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