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Dr. Laszlo Radvanyi, President and Scientific Director, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research

In the coming years, more people than ever will be diagnosed with cancer. COVID-19 has exacerbated this problem, with delays in diagnosis and treatment resulting in higher rates of late-stage cancer and death. Innovative solutions are needed to give patients a better chance at beating cancer and help our health system.

The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) is leading a collaborative effort in Ontario to solve problems in detection, diagnosis and therapy. Along with Canadian and international partners, we are laying the groundwork for the future of cancer care. Together, researchers, clinicians and patient partners are generating new insights and developing clinical tools to detect cancer earlier, when it is most treatable. It is critical that we quickly move these innovations into clinical use.

Clinical trials are crucial to this, allowing for leading-edge treatments and technologies to be tested in the real world. OICR supports innovative clinical trial approaches, including through its Window-of-Opportunity (WOO) Network, which is testing new therapies during the window of time between diagnosis and when tumours are removed via surgery. This gives researchers a deeper look at how potential treatments affect tumours at a molecular level, whether drugs are hitting their intended targets, and provide early hints of whether a new treatment will be beneficial. All this will help propel promising therapies forward to give patients access to better, more targeted cancer treatments.

In addition to being benefactors of these studies, patients are also key contributors. OICR has championed patient partnerships through our Patient Family Advisory Council and other initiatives. Patient partners are an integral part of the research team for the WOO Network and other programs, providing insights that ensure research is more likely to have a positive impact.

The Ontario Hereditary Cancer Research Network (OHCRN) is a collaborative effort that is helping individuals who have inherited high-risk genes known to cause cancer. Those with hereditary cancer syndromes are spread out across Ontario, and some have difficulty accessing cancer screening, timely diagnosis and care. This cross-provincial team is removing such roadblocks, enabling access to the highest standard of genetic testing, and establishing a large database to track hereditary cancer gene carriers. This will provide people at high risk with opportunities to participate in early detection studies and therapeutic trials regardless of where they live in Ontario.

The WOO Network and OHCRN are just two examples of the role OICR is playing to bring together individuals and institutions from across Ontario, Canada and around the world to solve the cancer problem. The challenge we face is immense, but by uniting researchers, clinicians and patients, we can transform cancer care and save more lives.

The views expressed are those of OICR and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Province of Ontario.

Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

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