New Cancer Stem Cell Dream Team to Fight Brain Cancer in Children and Adults

Canada-wide team of researchers to use genomics to develop safe and effective brain cancer treatments.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Toronto, Ontario

Canada has a brand new team of researchers working to develop novel treatments for brain cancers in children and adults. Terry Beech, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science, was at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto today to announce that the Government of Canada is providing $10 million in funding to the Stand Up To Cancer Canada Cancer Stem Cell Dream Team. The announcement coincides with World Cancer Day, an opportunity to further raise awareness about the disease and unite global populations in this cause.

The objectives of the new Dream Team are to understand the abnormalities in brain tumour stem cells and identify vulnerabilities that can be used to develop new drugs that are effective against brain cancers. The team will be co-led by Dr. Peter B. Dirks, a neurosurgeon and senior scientist at SickKids, and Dr. Samuel Weiss, Director of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute and a professor at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine. Dr. Dirks was the first to identify cancer stem cells in brain tumours in 2003, and Dr. Weiss was awarded the Canada Gairdner International Award in 2008 in part for his discovery of adult neural stem cells in the brains of adult mammals.

The Dream Team aims to change the outlook for adults and children with brain cancer by studying the cancer stem cells that drive its relapse and resistance to drugs and by providing safe and effective drugs to combat this devastating cancer.


“My heartfelt congratulations to the Dream Team researchers who are collaborating to pave the way to better and faster cancer treatments for Canadians and people around the world. In supporting the Dream Team, the Government of Canada is investing in promising discoveries that could improve the outcome of patients who live with brain cancer.”

– The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science

“Canada is a leader in stem cell research, and the Dream Team is carrying on this proud tradition. I am optimistic that this team of top Canadian scientists has what it takes to find new ways of fighting brain tumours and improve the lives of children and adults living with brain cancer.”

– The Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health.

“Many important breakthroughs have been achieved in Canada thanks to the long-standing research that has been conducted here. The Government of Canada is proud to support this effort that aims to give new hope to children, parents and everyone struggling with these devastating forms of cancer.”

– Terry Beech, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science

“Genome Canada is proud to participate in this new Dream Team that is tackling a very tough problem in cancer genomics. Canadian scientists lead the world in this complex field, and we are certain their expertise will lead to progress against brain cancer.”

– Marc LePage, President and CEO, Genome Canada

“Targeting cancer stem cells is a key piece of the puzzle for improving outcomes for brain tumour patients. The Dream Team’s research will help us better understand how the cancer progresses and how to stop it.”

– Dr. Stephen Robbins, Scientific Director, Institute of Cancer Research, Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Quick facts

  • The Stand Up To Cancer Canada Cancer Stem Cell Dream Team will receive a total of $11.7 million over four years from Stand Up to Cancer Canada, Genome Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Cancer Stem Cell Consortium and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research.

  • Stem cells are immature cells that mature into an adult cell type, like a liver cell or a nerve cell. This process is essential to normal development. In tumours, however, cancer stem cells do not mature; instead, they continually regenerate and grow, sustaining the tumour. And it takes only a few, maybe even just one, cancer stem cell to start the process of tumour growth and regrowth.

  • The Stand Up To Cancer Canada Cancer Stem Cell Dream Team is the second Canadian Dream Team to be announced. The first, launched last year, received funding for clinical trials in six provinces to study aggressive types of breast cancer.

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Associated Links

Stand Up To Cancer Canada
Genome Canada
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Ontario Institute for Cancer Research

Follow the Minister on Twitter: @ScienceMin

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Camille Martel
Office of the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science
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Media Relations
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
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Media Relations
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
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Andrea Matyas
Director, Communications
Genome Canada
Office: 613-751-4460 x 231
Cell: 613-790-0106
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