Canadian and Israeli researchers meet to discuss underlying mechanisms that drive pancreatic cancer

Leading Canadian and Israeli scientists gathered at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Medicine to attend a forum on pancreatic cancer research and help dedicate the Alex U. Soyka Pancreatic Cancer Research Project.

Launched one year ago, the Alex U. Soyka Pancreatic Cancer Research Project is an international research collaboration between the Hebrew University’s Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC) in Jerusalem, the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) in Toronto.

Alex U. Soyka was a dedicated supporter of the Hebrew University through the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University (CFHU) in Montreal. After his death from pancreatic cancer in 2010, his daughter Sylvia M. G. Soyka, director, and the Board of Trustees of the SMGS Family Foundation, made a multi-year commitment to CFHU to launch the Alex U. Soyka Pancreatic Cancer Research Project.

The project has brought together Canadian and Israeli researchers to uncover the molecular landscape of pancreatic cancer and the underlying pathways that drive the disease. The ultimate goal of this collaborative effort is to discover new biomarkers for detection and diagnostics, and potentially to find new targeted therapies that will improve patient outcomes.

Researchers based in Toronto and Israel are working to build a powerful research infrastructure and a large bank of biospecimens and data by collecting material from patients with tumors. At IMRIC they are using the collected patient specimens, as well as a variety of disease models, to conduct detailed molecular analyses and experimental studies. At OICR they are using state-of-the-art technologies for high-throughput molecular analysis of tumors and providing the support for extracting molecular data.

Pancreatic cancer remains the most deadly common solid tumor in developed countries. Approximately 80 per cent of patients present with advanced disease, are not eligible for surgery, and have an extremely poor prognosis. Advances in combating this aggressive disease will require detailed molecular analysis of tumors to uncover the pathways driving tumor growth and dissemination.

“My father, Alex U. Soyka, was a remarkable and vital man who spent six weeks downhill-skiing and was not yet retired at the age of ninety. He did not die of old age; he died of metastasized pancreatic cancer three months to the day after formal diagnosis. It is a privilege to be able to pay tribute to the man he was by supporting this team of dedicated, skilled and passionate researchers,” said Sylvia Soyka.

“This collaboration, made possible by Sylvia Soyka’s support, brings together world-class researchers from Canada and Israel, all of whom are experts in the field of pancreatic cancer research. This partnership could lead to important new insights into these most deadly cancers, hoping to find new approaches and modalities for treatment. IMRIC is continually seeking such fruitful scientific collaborations,” said Prof. Haya Lorberboum-Galski, Chairperson of IMRIC, the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada.

“This research partnership opens new avenues for scientific interaction by bringing together a unique combination of research approaches, cutting edge technologies, and clinical data and material. This will open a whole range of possibilities for tackling a terrible disease for which we currently have very few tools,” said Dr. Ittai Ben Porath, the program coordinator at IMRIC.

On June 1, the OICR committed an additional $4.6 Million to the research efforts initiated by Sylvia Soyka, with the announcement of a $4.6 million investment over two years in PanCuRx. The multidisciplinary PanCuRx initiative will support research to better understand pancreatic cancer on a molecular level and to develop better, more personalized diagnostics and therapies for patients, with a focus on pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), the most common type of pancreatic cancer.

“The Alex U. Soyka Pancreatic Cancer Research Project brings together world-class pancreatic cancer researchers from Canada and Israel to gain important new insights into one of the most deadly cancers. There have been huge scientific advances over the past few decades on many types of cancer, but statistics on pancreatic cancer have remained largely unchanged. OICR is proud today to announce support for PanCuRx and help to improve these statistics and bring new solutions to patients,” said Dr. Tom Hudson, President and Scientific Director of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR).






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