The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) is dedicated to research in prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The Institute is an independent, not-for-profit corporation, funded by the Government of Ontario through the Ministry of Research and Innovation.

The Institute brings together multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional collaborations, which will allow research that can overcome the challenges of the complexities of cancers.

Established in December 2005, the Institute will support more than 50 internationally recognized principal investigators; there will be a strong core of scientists at the MaRS Centre with the remainder in nodes of excellence around the province.

The Institute will leverage the current research excellence at universities, research hospitals and health research institutes across Ontario, leading to greater integration of cancer research efforts across institutions. In addition to investigating fundamental aspects of cancer, the Institute will focus on translating research findings into programs, technologies and therapies as well as fostering commercialization and private sector partnerships.

In July 2006 Dr. Thomas Hudson was appointed President and Scientific Director of OICR. He was previously the founder and Director of the McGill University and Genome Quebec Innovation Centre in Montreal, Quebec and prior to that, Assistant Director of the Whitehead/MIT Center for Genome Research in Boston, Massachusetts. Dr. Hudson is internationally renowned for his work in genomics and brings extensive expertise in research and in building large, multi-disciplinary research groups.

OICR offers opportunities to biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies for collaboration on research leading to prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. OICR can help cancer researchers involved in the early stages of drug development or in testing new therapies by connecting them with the brightest cancer researchers working in a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional environment.

The Ontario Cancer Research Network, established in 2002, has been incorporated into the Institute. Its initiatives will continue under the umbrella of the Institute and include:

  • Cancer Research Fund;
  • Clinical Trials Programs;
  • Ontario Cancer Research Ethics Board;
  • Ontario Tumour Bank.

Cancer Research Fund 

The Cancer Research Fund supports translational cancer research projects through bi-annual peer-reviewed grant competitions. To date, eight competitions have been held, awarding a total of $48 million to 88 projects. The Ontario Cancer Biomarker Network (OCBN), whose core facility is located in the MaRS Centre, was awarded $6 million in December 2005 to fund biomarker analysis and discovery platforms for clinical studies in Ontario. OCBN also provides management and support for academic and industry-sponsored research.  It offers access to the best scientists in biomarker research in Ontario, a well-provisioned biorepository; state-of-the-art facilities, leading-edge technologies and methods, and regulatory-compliant processes and facilities.

Clinical Trials Programs

OICR is improving the environment for the conduct of cancer clinical trials in Ontario. This is resulting in faster study start-up, increased patient recruitment, more efficient study management and reporting and an overall improvement in quality. maintains a searchable database listing 360 trials in Ontario and provides a simple questionnaire for patients to determine their eligibility. It is a comprehensive site that meets World Health Organization criteria as a registry.

Clinical Trials Infrastructure Fund

The Clinical Trials Infrastructure Fund awarded $12.7 million to Ontario cancer centres and hospitals to support clinical trials staff, resulting in increased enrolment into clinical trials and access to novel therapies sooner. To date 28 hospitals, including five paediatric hospitals have received funding and hired more than 100 new personnel. Enrolment has increased from between three and five per cent of cancer patients to 11 per cent in Ontario.

Clinical Trials Network

The Clinical Trials Network is a partnership between OICR and Ontario cancer centres and community hospitals. Its membership currently includes more than 250 oncology clinical trials professionals from 30 provincial sites. Its Standard Operating Procedures have been adopted by 29 cancer centres and hospitals and other institutions have expressed an interest in adapting them for use in clinical trials for other diseases. Through a series of workshops, more than 200 people have been trained on regulations and guidelines governing cancer clinical trials.

Ontario Cancer Research Ethics Board

The Ontario Cancer Research Ethics Board (OCREB),, is an oncology-specific provincial resource providing scientific and ethical review and ongoing monitoring of multi-centre research.  Launched in 2004, OCREB works with Ontario cancer centres and hospitals to ensure oncology research involving human subjects meets the highest standards of scientific and ethical conduct with the most efficient use of resources. In its second year of operation, there was a 64 per cent increase in the number of new submissions over year one and the volume continues to increase. Eleven of the 30 Ontario hospitals that conduct cancer clinical trials have authorized the use of OCREB.

Ontario Tumour Bank

The Ontario Tumour Bank (OTB) is a biorepository and data bank that collects human tumour and other tissues across the province and provides real-time access to its inventory to academic and industry-based cancer researchers through its website at Researchers are assured of high quality specimens and associated clinical data derived from more than 35 disease sites, since dedicated OTB-funded staff directly control the banking process including collection, storage and data management. Researchers have access to fresh-frozen tumour and normal adjacent tissues, paraffin-embedded tissues and peripheral blood. Consent is obtained from each patient and comprehensive information is collected including pathology, patient and family history, treatment, toxicity, and outcome data.