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Cancer Stem Cell Consortium members congratulate Dr. John Dick on breakthrough research in leukemia and stem cells

Major new findings published today in the journal Nature

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Ottawa, Ontario

Members of the Cancer Stem Cell Consortium (CSCC) today congratulated Dr. John Dick, a Senior Scientist at the University Health Network and Director of the Cancer Stem Cell Program of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, on major new findings published today in the journal Nature.

Dr. Dick and his team have identified pre-leukemic hematopoietic stem cells in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). AML is an aggressive blood cancer that the new research shows has its origins in bone marrow stem cells. These cells survive chemotherapy, may acquire mutations and thereby could be responsible for relapse. The discovery lays the groundwork to detect and target the pre-leukemic stem cell – which is linked to a gene mutation in 25 per cent of AML patients – and thereby potentially stop the disease at a very early stage when it may be more amenable to treatment.

“The superb work of Dr. Dick and his team provides renewed hope to patients affected by leukemia and their families that early detection and treatment are possible. It also brings us a step closer to personalized cancer medicine where an individual can get targeted treatment based on his or her unique genetic makeup – a much more effective and efficient way to do medicine. On behalf of the members of the CSCC, I wish to sincerely congratulate Dr. Dick and his team, including collaborators from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, for their notable achievement,” said Dr. Pierre Meulien, Chair of CSCC Board and President and CEO of Genome Canada, a primary funder of the research.

Funding for this research was provided by the Government of Canada through the Cancer Stem Cell Consortium with approximately $20 million in funds from Genome Canada, through the Ontario Genomics Institute, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) for the HALT Leukemia Disease Team project. The research also received $27 million in support from the Ontario government through the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research’s Cancer Stem Cell Program, as well as funding from other public and not-for-profit organizations.

“As a member of the collaborative leadership of the CSCC, CIHR is proud to support Canadian health research excellence as evidenced by the findings published today in Nature”, said Dr. Alain Beaudet, President of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. “Dr. Dick’s research significantly advances our knowledge of leukemia and will inform the development of new approaches to detection, care and treatment for many AML patients”.

“The Ontario government is proud to support world-class research and innovation. I congratulate Dr. Dick and his research team on a remarkable discovery that will have significant impact on how we detect and treat leukemia, bringing hope to Ontarians and their families,” said

Reza Moridi, Ontario Minister of Research and Innovation.

In 2007, Canadian funders came together to form the CSCC, in an effort to drive innovation in cancer stem cell research through collaboration. “It was this collaboration that made today’s findings possible, and illustrates more generally the power of collaborative research,” said Dr. Tom Hudson, President and Scientific Director of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and co-author of the study reported in Nature. “A project of this magnitude would not have been possible without the contributions and support of so many organizations and individuals working together. In this respect, we are able to take on bigger and more complex challenges and get significant results that will change our understanding of how cancer develops.”

View the official press release and short video featuring Dr. Dick on the University Health Network (UHN) website at:http://www.uhn.ca/corporate/News/.

About the Cancer Stem Cell Consortium (CSCC) The Cancer Stem Cell Consortium is a not-for-profit corporation that was incorporated in 2007 to coordinate an international strategy for cancer stem cell research and related translational activities.  The strategy will allow the biomedical community to move quickly and effectively from discoveries to application in the clinic; establish partnerships among organizations from Canada, California and other jurisdictions to accelerate and synergize research and translation opportunities related to cancer stem cells; and secure investments from governments, private foundations and the private sector for sustained and stable research funding.  Current Consortium members include:  Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Genome Canada, Michael Smith Foundation for Medical Research, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) and the Stem Cell Network.

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For further information please contact:

Andrea Matyas

Director of Communications

Genome Canada

Phone: 613-751-4460, ext. 231

Cell: 613-790-0106

amatyas@genomecanada.ca

David Coulombe

Media Specialist

Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Phone: 613-941-4563

Cell: 613-808-7526

David.Coulombe@cihr-irsc.gc.ca

Christopher Needles

Manager, Strategic Communications

Ontario Institute for Cancer Research

Tel: 416-673-8505

Christopher.needles@oicr.on.ca