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University of Saskatchewan to Advance Ovarian Cancer Tumor Bank, Genetic Test With Government Grant

NEW YORK – The University of Saskatchewan on Friday said it has received C$709,500 ($560,771) from the provincial government to develop resources to personalize treatment for ovarian cancer patients.

The government of Saskatchewan provided the funds through Ovarian Cancer Canada's OvCAN research initiative. The project, led by Laura Hopkins, professor of oncology and gynecology at the University of Saskatchewan's College of Medicine, will establish a tumor testing and ovarian cancer drug prediction program. Around C$250,000 of the funds will support the creation of a tumor bank, which will include anonymized biological samples and linked clinical data, such as treatment and disease outcomes, from ovarian cancer patients.

The grant will specifically help researchers advance a gene panel they're developing at the university to test ovarian cancer patients for biomarkers that can help personalize their treatment. Currently, the university sends patients' samples to the US for such analysis, which costs up to C$4,000 per test.

Hopkins said in a statement that the testing program could start by January 2022, and the test could eventually become a resource for cancer patients not just in Saskatchewan but throughout Canada. "If this is successful, this kind of project can go across other sites for breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and other cancers," she said.

Hopkins and her team are also studying two PARP inhibitors recently approved in Canada to explore which is best at keeping ovarian cancer patients in remission.

The project involves six Saskatchewan gynecology oncologists, including Hopkins, who are collaborating with pathologists and other university scientists as well as cancer experts at the University of British Columbia, and quality-of-life specialists in Australia and California. "We will be the first to implement this type of precision medicine in Canada," Hopkins said. "Hopefully we can make a business case across the three-year duration of the grant so that we can continue the precision medicine approach."