Ontario Institute for Cancer Research

Impact report 2019-20

OICR's research brings health and economic benefits to the people of Ontario

OICR was established to maximize the health and economic benefits of cancer research for all Ontarians.

We were built on the knowledge that the impact of cancer research is enhanced and accelerated through partnerships across sectors, locations and scientific disciplines. Over the last 15 years, OICR has worked together with partners from across Ontario and around the world to make Ontario a world-recognized destination for cancer research.

This 2019-2020 Impact Report highlights the many ways that our research is benefiting the people of the province and its economy. We’re proud to be making a positive impact on the lives of those affected by cancer in our province and around the world, while also helping to expand the province’s innovation economy, creating new start-up companies and jobs and attracting new investment to Ontario.

Cancer is personal

In Ontario, one in two people will receive a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime and one in four are expected to die from the disease. That’s far too many people.

We are dedicated to finding new solutions to reduce the risk of cancer, detecting it earlier, improving treatment options and enhancing quality of life and care. Our research leads to new technologies, therapies, cancer prevention policies and care guidelines that are used daily across Ontario and globally. Over the last 10 years alone, we’ve touched the lives of more than 21,000 Ontario patients who participated in OICR-supported clinical trials and countless other patients who have benefitted from the diagnostic tools, treatments and clinical guidelines we’ve helped bring to the clinic.

“Cancer is personal. We’re motivated by those living with cancer and those who have died from the disease. We continue to drive research forward to help people so we all can live longer, healthier lives.”
— Dr. Laszlo Radvanyi, President and Scientific Director, OICR

21,000+ Patients on OICR funded Clinical Trials

*Metric since 2012

Clinical Trials - up 80%

*Metric since 2016

3,300+ Patients sequenced

*via OCTANE, since 2016

a compass

The Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Network (3CTN) launches new pilot project in Windsor to help patients understand their treatment options and access current clinical studies.

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Image of Patience and Doctor

OICR network of researchers and clinicians embrace the window of opportunity between a cancer diagnosis and treatment with a coordinated approach to clinical research.

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David Palma

OICR Investigator-led phase II clinical trial shows long-term advantage of ablative therapy for patients with multiple tumours. Technology enters phase III clinical testing.

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We both conduct and enable cutting-edge translational cancer research

Driving science forward

As a translational cancer research institute, OICR brings the benefits of technologies such as genome sequencing, artificial intelligence and other -omics research to patients. Our combined expertise across many fields helps us develop new cancer prevention strategies, diagnostic tools and therapies for future cancer patients. In addition to making discoveries, we enable future innovations by developing new software tools and algorithms, data pipelines and databases, experimental models and tools, clinical guidelines and frameworks, and share these tools with researchers around the world.

"OICR is a world-class research institute that has built on existing cancer research strengths in the province and fostered the commercialization of new therapies and innovations that benefit people in Ontario, Canada, and worldwide."
— 2020 OICR External Review Report

275 Researchers Recruited

*Metric since 2010

OICR Publications

*Metric from 2014-2018

OICR works well with other Institutes

*Metric from 2018-19

Rima and collaborator

International research group finds leukemia drugs and other small molecules may shrink treatment-resistant lung tumours.

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MRI Machine

OICR-supported trial finds new, more sensitive imaging technique can inform treatment decisions and benefit those with recurring prostate cancer.

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Brain Illustration

OICR researchers and collaborators identify the earliest traces of brain cancer long before the disease becomes symptomatic.

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Unprecedented exploration generates most comprehensive map of cancer genomes charted to date

The Pan-Cancer Project, led by OICR, has completed the most comprehensive study of whole cancer genomes to date, significantly improving our fundamental understanding of cancer and signposting new directions for its diagnosis and treatment. The Project has discovered the causes of previously unexplained cancers and pinpointed early cancer-causing events that will allow us to zero in and potentially prevent the development of the disease.

AI Algorithm image

OICR researchers develop deep learning system that can determine where a cancer originates with better accuracy than human experts.

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Ivan Bosan at work in MaRS

OICR researchers scan thousands of whole cancer genomes for unknown cancer-causing viruses and identify new ways that these pathogens may lead to the disease.

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Juri Reimand

With Pan-Cancer data, OICR researchers discover cancer-driving mechanisms in the non-coding regions of the genome, opening new avenues of research for better diagnostic tests and precision therapies.

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Mobilizing the community

Our programs, platforms and initiatives are designed to maximize collaboration in cancer research across Ontario, in Canada and around the world.

We focus on amplifying our province’s research strengths while building connections between silos in our research community. We collaborate with more than 50 organizations in Ontario alone and our research resources enable collaboration between academic, research and private institutions across the province. Our large-scale, multi-institutional Translational Research Initiatives bring together laboratory and clinician scientists to advance Ontario research and improve cancer patient outcomes. Cancer remains a complex problem to solve, but working together we can have greater impact, and turn more discoveries into solutions for cancer patients.

"With help from OICR and FACIT together we have been able to achieve commercial success for our research far beyond what we could have done without a big picture, collaborative approach"
— Dr. John Bell, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute scientist and Co-lead, OICR Immuno-oncology Translational Research Initiative

35% of OICR publications are Ontraio Collabs

*Metric from 2014-2018


*Metric since 2017

Chemist in the lab

OICR adds two new projects to its Cancer Therapeutics Innovation Pipeline initiative, a unique funding program to advance and accelerate cancer drug development across the province.

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OICR and Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) launch the third generation of Health Services Research Network (HSRN) projects to optimize cancer care and services across the province.

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Three New IAs

Three internationally-recognized cancer researchers join OICR’s Investigator Awards Program.

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Training the next generation of leaders

Our students and trainees represent the next generation of researchers, oncologists, entrepreneurs and leaders in cancer research and care.

We’re proud to partner with Ontario’s colleges and universities to provide opportunities for post-secondary students to engage in research, gain highly sought-after skills and experience a career in the rewarding, yet challenging, field of cancer research.

By offering high-quality research and training opportunities, we’re building a sustainable legacy of researchers and clinicians with roots in Ontario. OICR research supports more than 1,700 highly-qualified personnel each year and offers training opportunities at more than 2,400 educational events with more than 121,000 attendees.

"I joined OICR because of its strong research reputation and training opportunities. My positive experiences have motivated me to teach computational skills to a broad audience, from high school students to professional scientists."
— Heather Gibling, PhD student at OICR
OICR supports training in Ontario

OICR has co-ops

*Metrics since 2016

Dr. Ina Anreiter joins OICR as a Schmidt Fellow, bringing her background in behavioural genetics to bioinformatics

Dr. Ina Anreiter joins OICR as a Schmidt Fellow, bringing her background in behavioural genetics to the genomics and bioinformatics hub at OICR.

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Image placeholder - make responsive

Every year, many students join OICR labs for valuable research experience and hands-on training. Here are five of their unique stories.

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The Ontario Molecular Pathology Research Network (OMPRN) helps establish new training standards for pathologists across Canada.

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Realizing the economic benefits of Ontario’s breakthroughs

We translate research breakthroughs into solutions with health benefits for patients and economic benefits for the people of Ontario.

With our strategic partner, FACIT, we’re ensuring cancer research has a viable path to the clinic through commercialization. Together, we created skilled jobs and sustainable start-ups that help ensure the economic benefits of our scientific discoveries benefit the people of Ontario. These 27 companies have helped build a stronger innovation ecosystem in Ontario, attracting $1.2B in follow-on investment while providing high quality jobs for graduates from Ontario’s leading colleges and universities.

Our investment in cancer research has resulted in:

jobs Metric $850m in Funding generated by FACIT
23 Start ups

*Metrics since 2010 | ** Start-up companies since 2004/05

Last year, OICR’s Drug Discovery team collaborators established a $1 billion (USD) partnership with a pharmaceutical partner to develop a new potential drug for leukemia. This partnership demonstrates how OICR researchers are developing cutting-edge cancer therapies for patients worldwide while boosting Ontario’s economy.

Looking ahead

While we’ve made progress in our understanding of cancer that will have a lasting impact on Ontario’s research system, health system and the economy, there’s much more work to be done. As we plan for the future, we look forward to deepening existing collaborations and forging new partnerships to accelerate cancer research for years to come.

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