It is a pleasure to see how the BRAS Drug Development Program has grown in personnel, stature, and impact, over the time since the Bras Family decided to make this transformational investment in patient care, at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. Indeed, 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, and it is important to reflect on how this remarkable impact was created.
The first element that has provided the framework for influence, relates to the vision of the founding philanthropists. Through their own experience, caring for husband and father – Robert Bras, the Bras Family understood the critical importance of studying the effectiveness of new drugs in the context of Ontario, and environment. The family understood that the presence of a drug development activity at Princess Margaret, would not only contribute to our understanding of what drugs are effective, in what cancer treatment situations, it would also allow our patients at Princess Margaret, and across Ontario, to get earlier access to potentially lifesaving or life extending pharmaceuticals. The increasing numbers of studies undertaken over the years, shows that the founders were accurate in their assessment of the importance of their gift.
Secondly, it is important to have visionary, and capable leadership for a program. The selection of Dr. Malcolm Moore as the initial leader of the Bras Center, was crucial to its continuing success. Dr. Moore now leads by far the largest Department of Medical Oncology and Malignant Hematology in the country. The addition of Drs. Amit Oza and Lillian Siu to the team, enabled its international success. Both Dr. Oza and Dr. Siu, have now moved to take a leadership role in the Bras Drug Development Program, and also, they both play important leadership roles in the overall research program at Princess Margaret, as well as internationally. More recently, the addition of Drs. Philippe Bedard, Albiruni Razak, and other new recruits, has markedly broadened the reach of the program, so that virtually any cancer patient at Princess Margaret may get access to the program. The recognition of the Bras Program’s capacity, continues to be recognized through the very important arm’s length review of the programs productivity, which has resulted in continued funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in the USA for the Phase 1 and Phase 11-111 elements of the Bras Program. This continued peer reviewed success, is particularly strong affirmation of the excellence of the people, and work that goes on in the Bras Drug Development Centre.
Finally, it is important that a center recognizes the need for synergy, and capturing resources outside the program to support continued growth. The Bras Drug Development Program is at the forefront of the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation’s Billion Dollar Campaign for Personalized Cancer Medicine. The Foundation has invested many millions of dollars a year, in support for genomic analysis, and sequencing of cancer mutations present in our patients’ cancers. Doctors at the Bras Program, can then analyze this genetic advice, to select potentially effective chemotherapy, based on the mutations evident in the patient’s cancer. This advanced form of personalized cancer medicine, combines the expertise, and funding in the Bras Program, with the expertise in the sequencing of cancers funded by the Foundation. It is a very powerful combination for innovative therapy, based on a careful cancer analysis.
In summary, the BRAS Drug Development Program is an essential element of what makes Princess Margaret so special. The Bras Family was remarkably visionary in establishing this center, and Canadian cancer patients are certainly indebted to the family for their generosity.
Robert S. Bell, MDCM,MSc,FACS,FRCSC,
President and Chief Executive Officer,
University Health Network,
R. Fraser Elliott Bldg., 1S-417,
190 Elizabeth St.,
Toronto, ON. M5G 2C4
Tel – 416-340-3300