Western Economic Diversification Canada

Western Economic Diversification Canada

October 09, 2013 12:00 ET

Harper Government and Government of Saskatchewan Invest in New Cancer Treatment Technologies

SASKATOON, SASKATCHEWAN--(Marketwired - Oct. 9, 2013) - Patients suffering from breast cancer or leukemia could benefit from a new, less toxic cancer treatment announced today by the Honourable Michelle Rempel, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification.

Today's announcement will equip researchers at the University of Saskatchewan with specialized tools to generate commercial quantities of therapeutic-grade antibodies for treatments associated with leukemia and breast cancer.

"Our Government's investments in scientific research and technology development strengthens Canada's knowledge-based economy, creates jobs and fosters economic growth," said Minister Rempel. "The commercialization of this innovative research will provide economic benefits to Canada while providing improved treatment for cancer patients."

The university's approach is distinguishable from conventional methodology, which employs animal immune systems to create engineered antibodies. The benefits of test-tube antibodies are lower production costs and improved effectiveness.

"Saskatchewan has established a good track record in health research and development through its research parks and universities," Economy Minister Bill Boyd said. "A major plank in our Growth Plan is providing support to our innovation sector for research and development of new and existing products. This treatment technology will strengthen the linkages here in Saskatchewan between research investment and technology commercialization."

Using their patented technology, the U of S will generate therapeutic-grade antibodies that treat breast cancer and leukemia. With a global market of $26 billion for antibody therapies, Saskatchewan is poised to be at the forefront of this highly-competitive research industry.

"Cancer is a major challenge in terms of suffering for people and their families, and it is likely to be even an even greater challenge to society as our population ages," said U of S Vice President Research, Karen Chad. "The knowledge these outstanding researchers are creating promises to lessen the impact of cancer with new, effective treatments."

WD along with the Government of Saskatchewan are investing 1.7 million in this project along with support from the Breast Cancer Foundation, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Jean Murray Trust Fund for a combined investment totalling $652,860.

Since 2006, the Harper Government, through Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD), has invested in job-creating small and medium-sized businesses, aerospace, marine and defence industries, and supported innovative entrepreneurs in pursuing emerging markets. By continuing to promote new economic opportunities, WD is helping to create jobs, economic growth, and long-term prosperity.

Note to News Editors & Assignment Desks: Backgrounder attached


Traditional treatments for cancer include radiation and toxic chemotherapy, both of which can have severe side effects and give no guarantee of success. This is especially true of metastatic cancer.

Drs. Ron Geyer and John DeCoteau and their colleagues will use Western Economic Diversification Canada's investment to identify targets for and develop a platform technology that produces synthetic antibodies to treat breast cancer and leukemia.

Over the past decade, researchers have been working to create antibodies that bind to proteins associated with cancer. Unfortunately, current technologies for producing these antibodies are expensive, cannot be scaled up for mass production, and may not be effective.

Geyer, DeCoteau and their team will use genetics to find molecular targets on cancer cells. This knowledge will allow them to use their platform technology to tailor therapies for various cancers, beginning with breast cancer and leukemia. The researchers hope to be testing their first therapeutic antibodies in initial clinical trials soon.

Geyer and DeCoteau lead the Cancer Stem Cell Research Group, which is working to find out how cancer stem cells differ from normal stem cells and how these differences might be exploited for new, more effective and less toxic treatments. The group has established the Saskatchewan Therapeutic Antibody Resource (STAR), a research group of a dozen scientists that is developing synthetic antibodies.

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Contact Information

  • Emily Goucher
    Office of the Minister
    Western Economic Diversification

    Joanne Johnson
    Executive Director, Marketing & Communications
    Ministry of the Economy
    Regina, Saskatchewan
    (306) 787-7967

    Jennifer Thoma
    University of Saskatchewan
    Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
    (306) 966-1851

    WD Toll-Free Number: 1 888 338-WEST (9378)
    Teletypewriter (TTY): 1 877 303-3388
    Website: WD is online at www.wd-deo.gc.ca