03:14am Friday 24 January 2020

Unique Genetic Pathology Centre set to change the way we treat cancer

Vancouver – Located at Vancouver General Hospital and a partner of the BC Cancer Agency, the Genetic Pathology Evaluation Centre, led by three prominent pathologists, is a recognized world leader in cancer research in the area of biomarker technology. Today, with an additional unrestricted grant of $250,000 from sanofi-aventis, GPEC is ready to make even more scientific breakthroughs.

GPEC is responsible for a number of important cancer related discoveries, including a genetic change in a tumour previously thought to be an aggressive form of arthritis, that ovarian cancer is at least five distinct diseases and new methods for diagnosis of breast cancer subtypes in hospital pathology laboratories. The value and the impact of these and other accomplishments has allowed this relatively small but productive centre – which has published more than 200 peer-reviewed articles in the last five years – to establish itself as a worldwide leader in its field.

“The results of our research have changed the way cancers are either diagnosed or managed,” said Blake Gilks, one of the three lead investigators at GPEC. “However, promising discoveries are dependent on sustained sources of funding from organizations like sanofi-aventis, who has been behind us for seven years now. This additional funding is the lift we need to help us continue to move away from a one-size-fits-all to a personalized approach to cancer treatment.”

The centre now wants to focus on building on the important work it has already accomplished in the realm of breast cancer. GPEC played a leading role in defining the molecular subtypes of breast cancer in 2004 – their first paper on the topic became the fourth most cited paper ever in the Clinical Cancer Research journal. Today, they are at the cutting edge in determining the response of different breast cancer subtypes to different treatments. Subtype specific treatments for breast cancer, which are tailored to the molecular abnormalities in each subtype, are saving lives.

Another GPEC project concerns a little understood and difficult to treat tumour of the ovary. After having helped decode ovarian cancers with state-of-the-art genome sequencing technologies, in collaboration with the BC Cancer Agency’s Genome Sciences Centre, they identified a recurring mutation in granulosa-cell tumours of the ovary, and GPEC is now working on new diagnostics and treatments for this cancer.

With the work already accomplished and the many projects ahead, the centre is well-positioned to play a critical role in translating fundamental research into clinic practice.

“Sanofi-aventis believes that research into personalized medicine is a great way to deliver value to the Canadian healthcare system,” said Hugh O’Neill, President and CEO of sanofi-aventis Canada. “By identifying the appropriate and inappropriate patients for various treatments, organizations like GPEC are reducing costs for the Canadian healthcare system and realizing the true value of innovative medicines.”

About the Genetic Pathology Evaluation Center (GPEC)

The Genetic Pathology Evaluation Centre (GPEC) is a laboratory specialized in the assessment of novel cancer biomarkers by means of tissue microarray technology. The Centre was founded in 2001 and is a collaborative research venture of the Prostate Research Centre at the VGH, the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute (VCHRI) and the BC Cancer Agency. GPEC is Canada’s top tissue-based research centre and is one of the world’s leading centres in its field. The laboratory’s ultimate goal is improved patient outcomes, brought about by personalized cancer treatments through molecular subclassification of tumours using biomarkers. For more information, please visit: http://www.gpec.ubc.ca

For more information about:

BC Cancer Agency, please visit:


Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute (VCHRI), please visit: http://www.vchri.ca

sanofi-aventis, please visit:


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To coordinate interviews with either the BC Cancer Agency (BCCA), GPEC, the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute (VCHRI) or sanofi-aventis, please contact:

Papinder Rehncy
BC Cancer Agency
Tel: (604) 877-6261
Pager:  604-806-2338

Lisa Carver
Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute
Tel: (604) 875-4111, ext. 61777
Cell: (604) 319-7533

Claire Alter
NATIONAL Public Relations
Tel: (604) 691-7393
Cell: (604) 812-5464

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