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 filed 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 larges 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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The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and the BRAS Drug Development Program, have gained international recognition, which has made it a great place to learn and grow.
When I told my bosses in Spain that I met Dr. Lillian Siu, and we had been talking about my coming to Toronto to do a Fellowship at the Bras Drug Development Program, at the Princess Margaret in Toronto, they told me: “Don’t look for anything else! Just go there. This is one of the best hospitals around the world, and this is one of the best drug programs. You are not going to get better training anywhere else.” And so my choice was clear. I was not going to look for anything else!
As Honorary Chair of the BRAS Drug Development Program, I am most proud of the wonderful work that has been done to date and the exciting new initiatives being planned for the future.
The Bras Family was remarkably visionary in establishing this center, and Canadian cancer patients are certainly indebted to the family for their generosity.
….the Bras center has probably influenced the future of cancer care at Princess Margaret, as much or more than any other program that has been started in the past 10 years…
The dedication of our physicians, nurses and staff continues to be my driving motivation for changing how we understand this disease. Importantly, it is my patients that remain my inspiration and my daily reminder that better is a choice. Every day we must choose to do better, so that we ask better questions and ultimately, do better for our patients. This is what they deserve and what we are joined by as a community of researchers.