McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Ontario leads fight against breast cancer

Published: January 23, 2009
Ali Ashkar
From left: John Valliant, CEO and Scientific Director, Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization; Murray Martin, President and CEO, Hamilton Health Sciences; Peter George, President and Vice-Chancellor, McMaster University; Peter Robertson, General Manager, GE Healthcare Canada; Tom Hudson, President and Scientific Director, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research.
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Hamilton — with its strong partnerships between McMaster University, Hamilton Health Sciences and the new Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization — will be leading the development and evaluation of new technologies for detecting breast cancer.

GE Healthcare has chosen Hamilton to be the first site in the world to receive new prototype technologies for use in a molecular breast imaging research program.

Hamilton researchers will design and lead clinical trials to evaluate new technologies which use molecular imaging probes that target breast cancer. This cutting-edge strategy has the potential to find very small tumours, leading to early intervention. Trials will be geared towards high-risk women who are not currently well served by mammography.

The Ministry of Research and Innovation has committed $450,000 toward the project through the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR). The ministry has committed $435 million since 2003 in the world-leading work of these institutions.

"Our goal is for cancer to be diagnosed at the earliest stage," Tom Hudson, president and scientific director of the OICR, said at the announcement today. "These technologies may have a significant impact on care for high-risk patients whose tiny tumours cannot be seen by mammography. We hope this will lead to earlier detection, better treatment and ultimately, save lives."

The project has been developed by a triumvirate of scientists:

  • John Valliant, professor and scientific director and CEO of the Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization
  • Mark Levine, professor and chair of the Department of Oncology of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine
  • Karen Gulenchyn, associate clinical professor of medicine and chief of nuclear medicine for Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton

"As my family has been directly impacted by cancer, I am personally pleased that McMaster University and our partners are taking such an important global initiative in breast cancer research," said McMaster President Peter George. "Our collaboration with the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, the new Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization, our hospital partner Hamilton Health Sciences, GE Healthcare and the Government of Ontario holds much promise for early diagnosis and better outcomes."

Peter Robertson, general manager of GE Healthcare Canada, said that as a native Hamiltonian, he was happy to make the announcement.

"At GE Healthcare, we are dedicated to early detection, and developing technologies to better manage breast disease. We are thrilled with the possibility of bringing to Ontario and to the CPDC a new breast imaging technology platform, the first of its kind, to be utilized as part of their clinical study."

"These new technologies provide us with a novel method for potentially detecting malignant breast lesions that are difficult to find and for measuring response of breast cancers to therapies such as chemotherapy," said Mark Levine. "This initiative will benefit from Ontario Clinical Oncology Group's expertise in clinical trial design and conduct, and the track record of the breast cancer disease site group of the Juravinski Cancer Centre. Most importantly, this project will result in new knowledge and the hope for a brighter tomorrow."

Early detection makes an enormous difference to breast cancer survival rates. According to the Mayo Clinic, the five-year survival rate for early-stage, localized cancer is 98 per cent. Clinical trials using the new technologies established at the Henderson Hospital of Hamilton Health Sciences, are not expected to start until next year.

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