BRAS DRUG DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
Welcome to our website! We are 16 years old. Our site was created in January 2001, as my husband Robert fought prostate and gallbladder cancer. We created the Bras Drug Development Program to give other cancer patients the choice of receiving new drugs, a choice my husband didn’t have. Sadly Robert passed away September 4, 2002.
Robert was gutsy, smart, strong, impatient, stubborn, challenging, fun loving, and hardworking husband and father to our blended family of 6. He was an entrepreneur with a big and generous heart, and would go out of his way for those in need. And so it was fitting that The Robert & Maggie Bras and Family New Drug Development Program (BRAS DDP) was born and set about creating new drugs for all cancers, and 16 years later we have done just that!
Today, our program is led by Director, Dr. Amit Oza, and Co-Director, Drs. Lillian Siu, Philippe Bedard. Principal investigators, Drs. Albiruni Razak, Anna Spreafico, Aaron Hansen and Staff Physician, Dr. Stephanie Lheureux. The BRAS DDP has grown into Canada’s largest and premier drug development program with 10 doctors and more than 80 staff including: nurses, coordinators, managers, fellows and scientists. The team has treated more than 5000 patients on over 200 clinical trials, developed and led by BRAS DDP investigators from Princess Margaret and a consortium of sites through Canada!
The BRAS DDP investigators continue to push the boundaries of our understanding of cancer and how we can advance the next generation of precision anti-cancer agents. Whether this means honing in on particular changes in the DNA of cancer, like targeting its Achilles’ heel, or harnessing the power of the immune system, the BRAS Drug Development Program has contributed important new information over the last year to help conquer cancer.
Drs. Lillian Siu and Phil Bedard have led the field looking at how to incorporate genomic testing to improve precision of cancer treatment. There have also been major new programs initiated in women’s cancers, with significant new funding from major philanthropic donors, pharmaceutical companies and granting agencies. These new initiatives will allow us to learn from every patient – to understand why treatments work or fail, to understand the biology and importantly, to try and improve effectiveness of treatment using this information.
Phase I clinical trials are the bridge between the laboratory and the clinic. They represent the first time a promising new agent, which has been tested extensively in the lab, is given to humans. The purpose is to understand what the drug does to the body and what the body does to the drug. The goal is to determine whether it’s safe and whether there is any hint of activity to warrant further development. The Phase I program is the largest in Canada is recognized internationally as a leader in first-in-human clinical trials!
Within the Phase II setting, our staff have been closely involved with participating in key trials examining the effect of PARP inhibitors (DNA–repair enzyme), exploiting key vulnerabilities in cancers such as ovarian, targeting this Achilles heel with well tolerated oral agents, which have now been approved for clinical use across the world!
Our upcoming 9th edition of our Helping Hands newsletter, will highlight the breakthroughs in our cancer research. It will also showcase milestones such as the welcoming of several new faculty members who bring expertise in gynecologic, genitourinary and pancreatic cancers, cancers of the head and neck, as well as melanoma and immune therapy. You will also learn about several of our Clinical Research Fellows who have travelled from the farthest reaches of the globe to train from our internationally renowned faculty. When they return to their home countries, they apply their new knowledge and skills to treat cancer patients around the world.
Our newsletter will also invite you to follow Janet’s journey. Janet is a patient in the BRAS DDP’s Phase I clinical trials program. She will take you through her devastating diagnosis, and her decision to join the Phase I clinical trial. Lee-Anne Stayner, Janet’s Phase I clinical trials nurse, will guide us through her care of Janet, and explain her role and that of the 8 clinical trial nurses. She will explain what is so unique about this group of clinicians and the dynamics of the Phase I system.
We will also pay tribute to Lee Pettersen, a patient, a friend and a true inspiration to all those who had the privilege to know her. She was quite the gal! www.thepmcf.ca/leepettersen
Our challenge is to continue to improve treatment for cancer. Our success is measured not only the quality and rigor of our work, but by the impact we have on patients and their families. The program continues to succeed because of the dedication and enthusiasm our entire team brings to providing longer and better lives for our patients in Canada and around the world.
President, BRAS DDP Advisory Committee
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BRAS DDP LANDMARK GRANT FUNDING ANNOUNCEMENT
Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and Ministry of Research, Innovation & Science
We are thrilled to announce that the Bras Drug Development Program has been awarded a large grant to support clinical and translational research in high grade serous ovarian cancer. Bras DDP’s Dr. Amit Oza and his Co-Principal Investigator Scientist, Dr. Robert Rottapel, will receive $9.9m in new funding from the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) to support next-generation laboratory research and several early phase clinical trials through the Bras Drug Development Program. This investment will support an Ontario-wide program that will profile just over 250 women who have been diagnosed with high grade serous ovarian cancer. Over the next four years, the program will help identify the biology that drives this disease and how it can be overcome. This is one of the largest early phase trials set to profile women with ovarian cancer that incorporates robust clinical and biological endpoints.
This investment will go towards leading discovery work to uncover how ovarian cancer develops, becomes resistant to treatment, and most importantly, how to overcome this clinically.
The Ovarian TRI leverages our Ontario-wide Princess Margaret Phase ll Consortium that allows findings from the lab to be directly tested in the clinical setting. With a total of nine clinical trials receiving support, Dr. Oza and the Bras DDP are providing the clinical leadership alongside Drs. Stephanie Lheureux, Marcus Bernardini, Blaise Clarke, Sarah Ferguson, Anthony Joshua, Patricia Shaw, Lillian Siu and Anna Spreafico – Princess Margaret Cancer Centre – Toronto; Jacob McGee and Steven Welch – London Regional Cancer Program; Laurie Elit and Hal Hirte – Juravinski Cancer Centre – Hamilton; Al Covens and Helen Mackay – Sunnybrook Odette Cancer Centre – Toronto; Julie Francis and Jim Biagi – Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario – Kingston; and Joanne Weberpals and Michael Fung Kee Fung – Ottawa Regional Cancer Centre.
The research grant also provides significant support to laboratory research activities, which are being led by Dr. Robert Rottapel and include internationally respected scientists; Drs. Ken Adalpe, Laurie Ailles, Daniel DeCarvalho, Benjamin Haibe-Kains, Pamela Ohashi and Trevor Pugh – Princess Margaret Cancer Centre; Daniel Durocher – Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute; Trevor Shepherd – London Health Research Institute and Madhuri Kot – Queen’s University.
The investment announced by the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science, is bringing together Ontario’s brightest scientists and clinicians to tackle the problem of treatment resistance in ovarian cancer. With this investment, our clinical trials findings can be linked directly to the lab to influence and direct future studies which are biologically driven announced the support of a Translational Research Initiative focused solely on high grade serious ovarian cancer.
The Bras Drug Development Phase l Program has been instrumental in providing data from first-in-class and first-in-human studies that has laid the foundation for the subsequent development of many anti-cancer agents, some of which are now considered the standard of care in several cancer types. This is a strong clinical translational program that has had a major influence on early phase clinical trials in Canada and trained many leaders.
…the good news is, that the doctors at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and the BRAS Drug Development Program, don’t give up! They continue to be able to offer me the latest treatments.
I think it is a good time to be in the cancer field, because we are now finding out more about ‘why’ and ‘how’ cancer develops. We are at a point when we now have the technology to analyze a particular patient’s tumour, and to choose the most appropriate drug for them. We are able to select patients with particular mutations, and match them to specific trials, investigating targeted drugs that act on those specific mutations. We are able to see a lot more responses to treatment, and certainly a lot more patients are able to benefit.
I’ve heard stories of people being on ten to twelve drug trials, and this is only my second, and it’s been remarkable, and in both cases I’ve had a positive outcome. The first drug trial, my tumours shrank, certainly not as much as they have now, and when the medications stopped working in the first trial, the tumours grew back. And so, as I have said, having 47% shrinkage is quite remarkable. I am healthy, and I am lucky.
We have an excellent referral base because we have a big catchment area at Princess Margaret. We have the right science, we have the experts, and we have the support of the Institution who consider this an important program. All this together, plus the spirit of the Phase l Program, I think has taken it very far.
WE EXPECT THAT THE BRAS DRUG DEVELOPMENT CENTRE WILL BE ONE OF THE PRIMARY BENEFICIARIES OF THE SCIENCE SUPPORTED BY THE ‘BELIEVE IT’ CAMPAIGN AND THE OPPORTUNITIES FOR OUR PATIENTS ARE EXTREMELY EXCITING TO CONTEMPLATE.