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You are here: Home / About / News Releases / The Terry Fox New Frontiers Program Project Grant in Core Pathogenic Pathways in Human Leukemia funds Dr. Martin Hirst

The Terry Fox New Frontiers Program Project Grant in Core Pathogenic Pathways in Human Leukemia funds Dr. Martin Hirst

Martin Hirst has been awarded 3 years of funding support for his research into the Epigenetic basis of acute myeloid leukemia. Dr. Hirst is one of two B.C. researchers receiving Terry Fox New Investigator awards totaling close to $1 million as part of a co-investment partnership with the B.C. Cancer Foundation.


Vitamin C may be best known for its role in preventing the common cold, but Dr. Martin Hirst’s research suggests it may also reverse abnormal and potentially cancer-causing changes to the epigenome, which is involved in regulating the expression of genes. Read Janis Warren's interview with Martin Hirst in the Tri-City News.
“Abnormal changes to the epigenome are associated with cancers such as acute myeloid leukemia (AML),” says Dr. Hirst, head of epigenomics at the BC Cancer Agency. “We have discovered that vitamin C directly regulates the machinery that maintains a normal epigenome.”
Dr. Hirst compares the genome to the hard drive and the epigenome to the software. The genome contains an organism’s entire DNA instructions, and the epigenome refers to the chemical changes of proteins and DNA that controls the genome’s activity.
His collaborative research suggests that vitamin C ‘turns-up’ the activity of an enzyme called TET that is recurrently ‘turned-down’ in AML through genetic mutation. Under specific circumstances vitamin C may be able reverse some of the abnormal epigenomic changes in AML and provide therapeutic benefit, he says.
AML typically has a poor long-term prognosis, particularly in adults. Dr. Hirst hopes that his research could lead to better therapeutics for patients.
“One of the issues with current chemotherapeutics or treatments in general is harmful off-target effects,” he says. “An increase in vitamin C shouldn’t have these detrimental impacts.”

About The Terry Fox Foundation (TFF)

The Terry Fox Foundation maintains the vision and principles of Terry Fox while raising money for cancer research through the annual Terry Fox Run, Terry’s CAUSE on Campus, National School Run Day and other fundraising initiatives. To date, over $700 million has been raised worldwide for cancer research in Terry Fox's name. The first Terry Fox Run was held in 1981, with The Terry Fox Foundation being created in 1988. Its national headquarters are located in Chilliwack, BC and it has offices in nine provinces.

About The Terry Fox Research Institute (TFRI)

Launched in October 2007, The Terry Fox Research Institute is the brainchild of The Terry Fox Foundation and today functions as its research arm. TFRI seeks to improve significantly the outcomes of cancer research for the patient through a highly collaborative, team-oriented, milestone-based approach to research that will enable discoveries to translate quickly into practical solutions for cancer patients worldwide. TFRI collaborates with over 65 cancer hospitals and research organizations across Canada. TFRI headquarters are in Vancouver, BC.

About the BC Cancer Foundation

The BC Cancer Foundation is the bridge that connects philanthropic support and research breakthroughs in cancer knowledge.  As the fundraising partner of the BC Cancer Agency and the largest funder of cancer research in this province, we enable donors to make contributions to leading-edge research that has a direct impact on improvements to cancer care for patients in British Columbia.

Page last modified Sep 14, 2015