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Pilot project at the Jewish General Hospital aims to accelerate access to new and highly effective treatments for cancer patients

A new grant will support digital health solutions to advance precision medicine in cancer care, translating into personalized treatment matching and optimized outcomes for thousands of patients.

A pilot project led by the Jewish General Hospital proposes a new promising approach to cancer treatment known as data-based precision oncology to accelerate access to new and highly effective treatments for cancer patients. This innovative strategy involves tailoring cancer treatments based on intricate details unique to each patient’s tumor.

In the 1990s, the inception of precision oncology saw doctors identifying specific DNA mutations within tumors in an attempt to identify drugs capable of targeting these alterations. The team aims to take precision medicine to new heights by not only analyzing the DNA of tumors but also incorporating medical images and microscopic characteristics of these tumors. Researchers will use this information to provide a more complete picture of the tumor, enhancing the ability to align the treatment more effectively with the patient’s specific tumor characteristics. Supported and accompanied by MEDTEQ+ through its IMPACT program, this ambitious undertaking involves a collaboration between esteemed entities: the McGill Centre for Translational Research in Cancer (MCTRC) from the Segal Cancer Centre (SCC)of the Lady Davis Research Institute (LDI)at the Jewish General Hospital (JGH), OROT – CIUSSS West-Central Montreal’s connected health innovation hub, Exactis Innovation – the National Centre of Excellence in Personalized Medicine. The collaboration of this project reaches beyond Quebec, with the inclusion of industry partner Radiomics, a Belgian (Liege) based biotech with a Quebec subsidiary since 2022 working within the domain of bespoke image analysis for oncology clinical trials and development of software as a medical device (ISO 13486 compliant). The project is also supported by the JGH Foundation and the Institute TransMedTech.

“The project emerged from recognizing the value of integrating multiple data in advancing precision medicine and cancer research. We plan to use computer tools and artificial intelligence to gather data in an automated fashion instead of doing it all manually. Right now, there are many big sets of data that no one is looking at simply because we cannot easily access this information,” says Professor Shirin Abbasinejad Enger, Tier II Canada Research Chair in Medical Physics, tenured Associate Professor at the Gerald Bronfman Department of Oncology, Director, Medical Physics Unit and Researcher at the MCTRC of the Lady Davis Research Institute of the Jewish General Hospital.

Pr. Abbasinejad Enger co-leads the project with Dr. Mark Basik, Principal Investigator of the PMT registry, Surgical Scientist at the LDI, and Head of the Cancer Genomics and Translational Research Laboratory at the SCC at the JGH: “By creating computer programs that use artificial intelligence and can analyze images and written information, we can get important data about each patient from their medical pictures, reports, and records and bring it together with the analysis of their tumors. These programs will help us determine the best treatment for each person.”

“Our project will enhance the quality and value of our already ongoing Personalize My Treatment (PMT) patient registry in partnership with the National Centre of Excellence in Personalized Medicine in Cancer – Exactis Innovation,” outlines Exactis Innovation CEO, Kostas Trakas. “As a pilot at the JGH, it will include four datasets: medical images, pathology, molecular and clinical data. This will enable cancer research to use more defined patient subpopulations for specific drug development, treatment selection and monitoring, and potentially prevention. We will then leverage the power of advanced image analysis and statistical modelling to gain insights into the database.”

The project is expected to have a wide-reaching impact:

  • Cancer patients will benefit from a better treatment selection. Once the prediction algorithm is developed, it would be possible to identify that a traditional first-choice treatment would not be the optimal treatment for a specific patient based on analysis of the combined information on their pathology slides, genetic markers, and medical imaging. This can potentially shorten the patient’s time on treatment, reduce exposure to unnecessary cytotoxic treatments, and improve treatment outcomes.
  • Cancer researchers will be empowered to develop new models for their research based on these data.
  • Clinicians will have at their disposal models based on real-world data collected from their patients.
  • Having access to such real-world data may help reshape Quebec and Canada’s drug approval and reimbursement programs by supporting avant-garde approaches that accelerate patient access to new and highly effective treatments.
  • For the industry, it means the availability of unbiased multimodal data sets, which facilitates finding patient populations for clinical trials of new drugs.

Also, the project will generate long-term employment among the involved partners, with the hope of extending the Exactis Innovation network to other sites in Quebec hospitals, and, subsequently to other provinces.

The collaborative research project, which is entitled “Digital Health to Advance and Support Precision Oncology”, is supported by a grant of $358 825 from the Ministry of Economy, Innovation and Energy (MEIE) within the framework of the MEDTEQ+ IMPACT program and by $75,000 from TransMedTech Institute. This amount was exceeded by the contributions of other public and private funding partners, the JGH Foundation, Exactis Innovation, Mitacs and Radiomics.

“As part of its mission, MEDTEQ+ is proud to support and contribute to this innovative and collaborative research project. We are delighted to financially support this digital health solution to advance precision medicine in cancer care through our IMPACT program, funded by the Ministère de l’Économie, de l’Innovation et de l’Énergie du Québec (MEI),” said Iris Leroux, vice-president, Collaboration and Operations at MEDTEQ+ Consortium. “In addition to meeting all the objectives of our funding program – such as facilitating knowledge transfer, accelerating the integration of new technologies and care pathways within the health system, and supporting the creation of new markets for consortium partners – it offers potential solutions to improve patient care and addresses healthcare system challenges.”

“The TransMedTech Institute is privileged to be associated with and contribute to this visionary, innovative and collaborative initiative, which addresses important issues in our healthcare system,” says Pr. Carl Eric Aubin, Executive and Scientific Director. “This project is fully in line with TransMedTech’s vision of making innovation in medical technologies an asset for population health and socio-economic development. As part of our mission, we are committed to supporting this innovative initiative, in order to facilitate and catalyze its development and implementation.”

The project’s findings and advancements could have lasting effects on precision medicine, shaping the future of cancer treatment and management.