Princess Margaret Cancer Centre physicians utilize innovative approaches to target brain tumors 

Approximately 55,000 Canadians are living with brain cancer, and there are more than 120 distinct types of brain tumors that exist.    

To enhance Canada’s capacity in brain cancer research, Brain Canada in partnership with the Cancer Research Society (CRS) launched a national grant program in 2022 to fund translational research. The aim is to promote effective translation and application of knowledge of brain cancer across the expanse of pre-clinical, clinical and health services delivery domains to improve patient outcomes. 

Dr. Eric Chen, alongside Dr. Warren Mason, Dr. Mary Jane Lim-Fat, Dr. Gelareh Zadeh and other colleagues, from the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network (UHN), have received the prestigious 2022 Brain Canada-Cancer Research Society Translational Research Grant in recognition of their outstanding accomplishments. 

The project led by Dr. Chen, titled “Targeting IDH mutation induced BRCAness: a phase II study of olaparib and durvalumab in IDH mutated grade 4 astrocytomas,” has been awarded a $1 million grant which will support his research for a duration of three years.

The normal functioning of cells relies on the crucial role played by isocitrate dehydrogenase (IDH) enzymes. In the first stage of the study, the team enrolled 10 patients diagnosed with IDH-mutated (IDHmt) gliomas. Two of these participants experienced significant reductions in tumor volume following olaparib and durvalumab treatments. Prior to participating in this study, both patients were diagnosed with grade 4 astrocytomas, and their disease had progressed despite undergoing standard therapies.  

During this trial, the patients exhibited excellent tolerance to the new medication combination. Moreover, this study demonstrated promising results. Indeed, one patient undergoing treatment for 10 months achieved a 69% reduction in tumor size. Even more remarkably, a second patient had a reduction of over 91% in tumor size. Their treatment is still ongoing after more than 12 months.

Our research aims to assess the effectiveness of olaparib and durvalumab in patients diagnosed with IDHmt grade 4 astrocytomas. By examining tumor tissues and regularly collecting blood samples, we hope to gain insights into the factors contributing to patients’ positive response to the combination treatment of olaparib and durvalumab.” 

Dr. Eric Chen, Recipient of the 2022 Brain Canada-Cancer Research Society Translational Research Grant

The research by Dr. Chen and colleagues is illuminating novel perspectives on improving the treatment of brain cancer. Currently, treatment options for brain cancer are limited and not always effective, and more research is required to improve these therapies and discover alternative options. 

“The preliminary results of Dr. Chen’s study are extremely encouraging,” says Dr. Viviane Poupon, President and CEO of Brain Canada. “The results of Dr. Chen’s research will serve as a catalyst for the development of future trials, ultimately leading to significant improvements in outcomes for both patients with brain cancer and their families.” 

“The work by Dr. Chen’s team resonates with the heart of our mission”, declares Manon Pepin, President and CEO of the Cancer Research Society. “ We are very proud to fund such a large-scale program that brings hope to brain cancer patients. Dr. Chen’s contribution promises a new era of novel and effective treatments.” 

The Brain Canada-Cancer Research Society Translational Research Grants funding program is intended to provide opportunities for multi-disciplinary collaborations between researchers and clinicians to translate fundamental research into novel approaches for the study, diagnosis and/or treatment of pediatric or adult brain cancer.  

This program has been made possible by the Canada Brain Research Fund (CBRF), an innovative arrangement between the Government of Canada (through Health Canada), Brain Canada Foundation, and Cancer Research Society. To date, Health Canada has invested $200 million through the CBRF which has been matched by Brain Canada Foundation and its donors and partners. 

To learn more about Brain Canada or CRS’s funding opportunities, please visit and

About Cancer Research Society 

Since 1945, the Cancer Research Society (CRS) is one of the only Canadian organizations exclusively dedicated to research into all types of cancer. To date, the CRS has distributed over $355 million in research grants and scholarships and supported thousands of researchers who have made significant advances to prevent, detect and treat cancer thanks to the generosity of partners and donors throughout Canada. To learn more, visit @SRC_CRS.