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Terry Fox’s inspiration keeps pushing cancer research efforts 39 years later

Darrell Fox, younger brother of Terry Fox, his daughter Alexandra (left) and his niece Kirsten Fox stand at the Terry Fox monument in downtown St. John’s on Friday. They represented the Fox family at an event announcing a new national network for cancer research, led by the Terry Fox Research Institute.
Darrell Fox, younger brother of Terry Fox, his daughter Alexandra (left) and his niece Kirsten Fox stand at the Terry Fox monument in downtown St. John’s on Friday. They represented the Fox family at an event announcing a new national network for cancer research, led by the Terry Fox Research Institute. - Joe Gibbons

New network will bring together leading cancer hospitals and research universities across Canada

Memorial University is set to join hospitals, cancer centres, universities and research institutes from across Canada to improve delivery of personalized and precision medicine to cancer patients.

The pan-Canadian Marathon of Hope Cancer Centres Network, led by the Terry Fox Research Institute (TFRI), was announced Friday in St. John’s.

A news release notes the network of regional and cross-country consortia includes the Montreal Cancer Consortium in Quebec and the B.C.-Ontario pilot project, which have already begun their work. The Prairies Cancer Consortium and the Atlantic Canada Cancer Consortium (ACC) – led by Memorial researcher Sherri Christian – hope to become operational later this year.

The news release states this “unprecedented collaboration” will bring together resources to improve cancer diagnoses, predict how different people will respond to treatments and deliver more personalized and effective treatments with fewer side-effects.

Christian is an associate professor in the department of biochemistry, faculty of science, and is cross-appointed with the faculty of medicine.

“This is a new era for cancer research, backed by precision medicine, and we’re proud to be working towards finalizing our role as a galvanizing force behind the creation of this collaborative network,” Christian said. “Our hope is to be able to officially launch the ACC later this year and join the national Marathon of Hope Cancer Centres Network soon after.”

The national network has received seed funding of $150 million from the federal government to create linkages between researchers and institutions across Canada, and enable a team of dedicated cancer researchers to share knowledge, harness technology and champion collaboration. Partner institutions will have to match these funds to join the network.

“To demonstrate the cohesiveness of our cancer research community and leverage the unique strengths in Atlantic Canada, the ACC will make an application to the national network next month for funding to launch a pilot project focused on colorectal and lung cancers, the two most prevalent cancers in the region,” Christian said. “During this first phase, the ACC will include 40 researchers and clinicians from across the region, half of them from Newfoundland and Labrador.”

The initiative comes 39 years after Terry Fox began his Marathon of Hope to run across Canada, starting in St. John’s.

The Marathon of Hope Cancer Centres network is named in honour of Fox’s 1980 efforts to raise funds for cancer research. It was launched at the Terry Fox Memorial Statue in downtown St. John’s.

Memorial researchers included are: Lourdes Pena-Castillo and Sheila Garland, faculty of science; Kara Liang, Sevtap Savas, Touati Benoukraf, Michael Grant, Ken Hirasawa, Ken Kao, Peter Wang, Jane Green, Tom Belbin, Darren O’Rielly, Sheila Drover, John Thoms, Angela Tate, Crispin Russell and Melanie Seal, as well as Mitch Sturge, associate director, Centre for Health Information and Analytics, and graduate student Daniel Evans, all from the faculty of medicine; and Renee Lester and Stephanie Reid from Eastern Health.

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