MUN joins prostate cancer research project

Andrew Robinson
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Dr. John Thoms said it’s an honour to have a role to play in a $5-million research project focused on prostate cancer. — Photo by Andrew Robinson/The Telegram

Memorial University will be one of six institutions with a role to play in a multimillion-dollar research project focusing on identifying new molecular targets for treating prostate cancer.

Prostate Cancer Canada’s Movember Foundation awarded

$5 million through its Movember Team Grants program to a collaborative project involving researchers from across Canada.

According to Dr. John Thoms, a radiation oncologist at the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Centre in

St. John’s and an assistant professor of oncology at MUN, work in Newfoundland will focus on identifying new therapeutic targets, or drug targets, for prostate cancer.

It will also look to identify unique biomarkers that can be used to help predict which patients will best respond to the therapeutic targets.

“It’s really moving towards personalized medicine, in that sense,” he said. “The project is kind of two-fold. It’s to identify new therapeutics, but also to identify which patients are more likely to respond to those new therapeutics.”

The Phase 2 clinical trials will involve Eastern Health patients.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer among men in Newfoundland and Labrador. In 2013, the organization estimates, 500 men in the province will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and that 65 will die from that form of cancer.

Thoms worked with Dr. Robert Bristow at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto as part of a two-year fellowship. Bristow is amongst the chief co-investigators for the research project, and Thoms is one of 22 co-investigators for the five-year project.

“It’s a real privilege to be asked and be invited to be a part of this group,” said Thoms. “There’s a number of very distinguished senior scientists and oncologists that are a part of this group. This project has a very significant potential in terms of making a significant impact (for) improvement in prostate cancer outcomes.”

Thoms expects a team of three to four people will handle research in St. John’s.

Twitter: @TeleAndrew

Organizations: Movember Foundation, Movember Team Grants, Canadian Cancer Society Princess Margaret Cancer Centre

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, Toronto

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