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IWK doctors join national project to give young people across the country a fighting chance against high risk cancers

November 23, 2017 By kreid

November 23, 2017 

For Immediate Release – Halifax: For the first time in Canadian history, more than 30 pediatric cancer research and funding organizations have joined forces to give children, adolescents and young adults who are out of conventional treatment options another chance to beat their cancer. Dr. Jason Berman and Dr. Conrad Fernandez of the IWK Health Centre join top scientists, clinicians, research centres, cancer charities and foundations at children’s hospitals across the country to create new hope for young people who need it most.

Terry Fox PROFYLE (PRecision Oncology For Young people) boasts many of Canada’s leaders in pediatric, adolescent and young adult cancer research and care. The multidisciplinary team consists of more than 50 investigators and collaborators, all working to improve the outcomes of young Canadians with high-risk cancers. The pan Canadian team will work together to molecularly profile the tumours of these patients, no matter where they live in Canada.

Eight-year-old Marlow Ploughman is one of these children. When her late-stage rhabdomyosarcoma (muscle cancer) relapsed for the fourth time, doctors told Marlow’s parents there were no more conventional treatments left to try. The news was devastating – but then the Kingston, Ont. family learned about Terry Fox PROFYLE.

“[Terry Fox PROFYLE] is extremely important, because with children like Marlow we have very few options except the one conventional protocol that we’re given,” said Marlow’s mom, Tanya Boehm. “PROFYLE provides a key to unlock the door to perhaps more options -- or at least provides us more time to wait for some more options to come.”

While there has been dramatic improvement in treatments and outcomes for many pediatric cancers over the last three decades, for the 20 per cent of young people whose cancers have spread, returned, or are resistant to treatment, outcomes remain grim.

“PROFYLE strives to find new genetically focused, biologically relevant therapies for hard to treat refractory tumours in children,” says Dr. Berman, co-lead for the disease modelling node and founder of the Berman Zebrafish Lab. “A child that has cancer that is refractory to current treatment, that we have told that we have nothing else to offer, we are now offering them some hope. We are now offering them the possibility of treatments that have the potential to make a difference.”

“The PROFYLE project is a milestone for Canadian children, adolescents and young adults with hard to treat cancers. For the first time, we have the opportunity to have a national strategy to offer genomic and proteomic sequencing of these tumors and potentially match these findings to existing drugs or to clinical trials,” says Dr. Fernandez, lead of the Bioethics node of PROFYLE. “We have every confidence that the PROFYLE project will result in enhanced quality of life and provide hope for improved life expectancy in these patients with hitherto incurable cancer.

About the IWK Health Centre The IWK Health Centre is the Maritime region's leading health care and research centre dedicated to the well-being of women, children, youth and families. In addition to providing highly specialized and complex care, the IWK provides certain primary care services and is a strong advocate for the health of families. The IWK is a global leader in research and knowledge sharing, and a partner in educating the next generation of health professionals. Visit www.iwk.nshealth.ca for more information. 

Media Contact:

Ben Maycock
IWK Communications & Public Affairs
T: 902-470-7086
M: 902-223-7090
Ben.Maycock@iwk.nshealth.ca

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