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Personalized Medicine on the Horizon for BC Cancer Patients

“Genomics Applied to the Management of Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)” led by Dr. Aly Karsan, Medical Director of the Cancer Genetics Laboratory at the BC Cancer Agency and Dr. Marco Marra, Director of the BC Cancer Agency’s Genome Sciences Centre, is one of three projects being funded by Genome BC’s Personalized Medicine Program. Genome BC and the BC Cancer Foundation are contributing $1 million each to the AML project. Additional co-funding is provided through other sources including Simon Fraser University and Illumina.

At the  Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, BC Cancer Agency  Dr. Alan Winter, President and CEO of Genome BC, announced the funding  of "Genomics Applied to the Management of Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)" a major research initiative led by Drs. Aly Karsan and Marco Marra.

Aly Karsan speaks at the project launch.

Dr. Aly Karsan

AML affects approximately 200 British Columbians per year, including former BC MLA Sindi Ahluwalia Hawkins, who passed away in September 2010 after two occurrences of the disease. Her sister, Rupinder Sachdeva, says, “Sindi was humbled and proud of the quality of care she received at the BC Cancer Agency. BC has some of the best cancer survival rates and Sindi was a prime example: she survived almost seven years with AML that had a prognosis of several months. She would have been absolutely thrilled about this project, which holds such great promise for cancer patients and their families.”

Personalized Medicin Launch

Mr. Manohar Ahluwalia and Ms. Rupie (Ahluwalia) Sachdeva,

father and sister of the late Ms. Sindi Ahluwalia Hawkins; Dr.

Samuel Abraham (VP Research & Strategic Relationships, BCCA);

Dr. Aly Karsan (Principal Investigator on AML project); and Mr.

Doug Nelson (President & CEO, BCCF)

AML is presently treated with stem cell transplantation or chemotherapy. This AML project will increase the use of genomic data to identify different AML sub-types found in patients, leading to targeted and more personalized treatment and hopefully improved outcomes.

Dr. Aly Karsan, project lead and head of Clinical Diagnostic Genomics at the BC Cancer Agency, says, “We are ecstatic to begin this project, which will identify all genetic markers and mutations associated with AML. We have a perfect storm of resources in BC, including tissue samples from the BC Cancer Agency’s unique hematology cell bank, cutting-edge, whole genome sequencing capabilities, and generous funding from Genome BC and the BC Cancer Foundation. These invaluable resources have come together to ensure we evolve the identification of genetic mutations in AML into a clinical tool to better treat each patient’s individual cancer.”

Douglas Nelson, President and CEO of the BC Cancer Foundation says, “This is the news that BC’s more than 22,000 cancer patients and their families have been waiting for. The AML project is a tangible, practical step towards bringing personalized medicine research into the clinic. The BC Cancer Foundation and its donors are proud to be standing at the beachhead of this historic initiative.”

“We applaud Genome BC for launching this Personalized Medicine Program,” says Lynda Cranston, President and CEO of the PHSA. “The funded projects will demonstrate the impact of applied genomics on improving patient outcomes and maximizing the benefit of the healthcare dollars we spend.”

Dr. Alan Winter, CEO and President Genome BC

Dr. Alan Winter, CEO and President Genome BC


For more information contact:

Armelle Troussard, Project Manager
Genome Sciences Centre, BC Cancer Agency

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Page last modified Jul 04, 2011