Press Releases

Stand Up To Cancer Canada, Canadian Cancer Society & Canadian Institutes of Health Research Announce Dream Team Focused on New Approach to Metastatic Breast Cancer

MONTREAL—August 12, 2019—At a press conference at McGill University today, Stand Up To Cancer Canada (SU2C Canada), the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) announced the launch of the SU2C Canada Metastatic Breast Cancer Dream Team to pursue the development of a new drug combination that may help stop the spread of breast cancer to other organs of the body.

The Dream Team is investigating a new way to treat metastatic breast cancer by making it impossible for breast cancer cells to manufacture the proteins they need to be aggressive and continue to spread to organs beyond the breast.

“This new approach strikes at the very heart of metastatic breast cancer, a potentially fatal disease,” said Phillip A. Sharp, PhD, a molecular biologist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Nobel laureate who serves as co-chairperson of the SU2C Canada Scientific Advisory Committee (CSAC). “If successful, the work would open a new approach to control metastatic breast cancer.”

The team will receive up to $6 million CAD supported by SU2C Canada, the CCS, and the CIHR. The first phase of funding ($2 million CAD) will support the initial clinical trial. Dependent on positive outcomes of that initial work, subsequent phases of funding will support additional preclinical and clinical studies. All SU2C Canada Dream Teams undergo semi-annual progress reviews. Scientific management and oversight is supported by SU2C Canada’s Scientific Partner, AACR International-Canada.

Leading the team is Nahum Sonenberg, PhD, a professor and Gilman Cheney Chair in Biochemistry of the Department of Biochemistry at McGill University in Montreal. Serving as co-leader is Michael Pollak, MD, who holds the Alexander Goldfarb Research Chair in cancer research at McGill and directs the Division of Cancer Prevention of the Department of Oncology. Pollak is a senior investigator at the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research at Jewish General Hospital in Montreal.

“The new Dream Team is composed of distinguished Canadian scientists, led by Nahum Sonenberg, one of the world leaders on the mechanism of translation, the process by which our cells translate genetic information into proteins,” said Alan Bernstein, OC, PhD, FRSC, president and CEO of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) and co-chair of the CSAC. “Canadian scientists have contributed enormously to our understanding of translational dysregulation and the consequences for driving cancer. The goal of this Dream Team is to find ways to overcome it.”

The pan-Canadian clinical trial planned by the Dream Team will involve about 40 patients receiving treatment at the BC Cancer Agency in Vancouver, the University of Alberta in Edmonton, and McGill University in Montreal. The team is composed of several units, with members including:

Clinical Trials

  • Wilson H. Miller, MD, PhD, Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research, Montreal
  • Michael Pollak, MD, Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research, Montreal
  • John Mackey, MD, Cross Cancer Centre, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Karen Gelmon, MD, BC Cancer Agency, Vancouver
  • Elizabeth Eisenhauer, MD, Kingston (Ontario) General Hospital Research Institute

Molecular Pathology Core

  • Poul Sorensen, MD, PhD, University of British Columbia
  • Lynne Postovit, PhD, Cross Cancer Centre, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Brad Nelson, PhD, BC Cancer Agency’s Deeley Research Centre
  • Nahum Sonenberg, Goodman Cancer Centre, McGill University, Montreal
  • Michael Pollak, MD, Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research, Montreal
  • Sam Aparicio, MD, PhD, BC Cancer Agency

Young Investigators

  • Daniela Quail, PhD, McGill University
  • Sonia del Rincon, PhD, Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research
  • Claudia Kleinman, PhD, Department of Human Genetics, McGill University

Patient Advocates

  • Lynn Gentile, founder and director, Lynn and Joe Gentile Hope Fund
  • Candace Cook, breast cancer patient

“It’s an honor to work with SU2C Canada, CCS, and CIHR on this important project,” Sonenberg said. “As we better understand the process by which the genomic code is translated into proteins, we also gain a better understanding of how this process can go wrong and promote cancer and metastasis. We believe we can keep this aberrant process from occurring and thereby prevent metastatic cancer. The funding of our Dream Team makes it possible for us to investigate drug intervention very thoroughly.”

“Metastatic breast cancer accounts for the majority of deaths related to breast cancer and there is an urgent need for innovative new treatments to target this disease,” said Jennifer Wilson, director, research operations at CCS. “That’s why we are thrilled to partner with SU2C Canada and CIHR to support this game-changing project to help people with metastatic breast cancer live longer and have a better quality of life. As the largest national charitable funder of cancer research, we are committed to funding research that will help create a world where no Canadian fears cancer.”

“CIHR is pleased to collaborate with SU2C Canada and CCS to support top scientists who offer an innovative approach to metastatic breast cancer,” stated Stephen Robbins, PhD, scientific director of CIHR’s Institute of Cancer Research. “The strength of the new Dream Team resides in its composition; a multidisciplinary group of researchers from different institutions that unite to address the most pressing problems in cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. I congratulate the researchers for their important work that will contribute to better treatment and care for metastatic breast cancer patients.”

About this team’s research

The SU2C Canada Metastatic Breast Cancer Dream Team is investigating a new way to treat metastatic breast cancer by making it impossible for breast cancer cells to manufacture the proteins they need to be aggressive and continue to spread to organs beyond the breast.

Great progress has been made in the treatment of breast cancer, and disease that remains localized to the breast can be treated successfully in most cases. However, truly curative treatments are not yet available for metastatic disease that has spread to the lungs or the bones or other organs.

Metastatic breast cancer is driven, in part, by out-of-control production of proteins by the cancerous cells. This happens when the basic machinery of the cell that translates genetic instructions carried by messenger RNA (mRNA) into living protein becomes dysfunctional and aggressively produces matter that healthy cells don’t need.

The Dream Team is taking a new, small-molecule inhibitor of the kinases MNK 1 and 2, enzymes that are key regulators of the mRNA translation process. They are using it to block this out-of-control production of proteins. The inhibitor works against the proteins needed for aggressive, metastatic behavior and may also help the body’s immune system fight the cancer.

The agent being tested—eFT508 (tomivosertib)—is known to inhibit the translational process but has not yet been applied to metastatic breast cancer. It will be given, in combination with paclitaxel or nab-paclitaxel, to metastatic breast cancer patients for whom the standard of care has not been effective, in the hope that the combination will halt or slow down the metastatic process.

About Stand Up To Cancer Canada

Stand Up To Cancer Canada is a Canadian registered charity (Reg: # 80550 6730 RR0001), launched by the U.S.-based Entertainment Industry Foundation in 2014. Stand Up To Cancer Canada (SU2C Canada) raises funds to support collaborative cancer research teams, as well as education and awareness programs conducted in Canada.

Under the direction of our SU2C Canada Scientific Advisory Committee, co-led by Alan Bernstein, PhD, president of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) and Nobel laureate Phillip A. Sharp, PhD, SU2C Canada operates rigorous competitive review processes to identify the best research proposals to recommend for funding, oversee grants administration, and ensure collaboration across research programs. SU2C Canada currently supports three “signature” Dream Teams engaging dozens of the best and brightest researchers in different disciplines from 15 institutions across the country. In addition to a board of leading Canadian broadcaster representation, SU2C Canada is guided by the SU2C Council of Founders and Advisors (CFA) including Katie Couric, Sherry Lansing, Kathleen Lobb, Lisa Paulsen, Rusty Robertson, Sue Schwartz, Pamela Oas Williams, and Ellen Ziffren. The late Laura Ziskin and the late Noreen Fraser are also co-founders. Sung Poblete, PhD, RN serves as SU2C president and CEO. The CFA includes entertainment industry leaders who utilize these communities’ resources to engage the public in supporting this new, collaborative model of cancer research, to increase awareness about cancer prevention, and to highlight progress being made in the fight against the disease.

For more information on Stand Up To Cancer Canada, visit

About Canadian Cancer Society The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1-888-939-3333 (TTY 1-866-786-3934).

​Media Contacts:

SU2C Canada: Jane Rubinstein, 646-386-7969,

Canadian Cancer Society: Brooke Kelly, 416-934-5321,

Canadian Institutes of Health Research: David Wolkowski, 613-952-9709,

AACR International – Canada: Richard L. Lobb, 215-446-8298,