Each year, more than 3,000 Canadians receive a diagnosis of Liver Cancer. Unfortunately, due to the persisting stigmas surrounding this disease, research efforts in this realm have historically been underserved in comparison to other types of cancer.
This generous donation will bolster the launch of a groundbreaking, multidisciplinary program dedicated to developing innovative technologies and exploring more effective treatment strategies.
Techcouver had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Thomas Madden, the President & CEO of Acuitas Therapeutics, to discuss the inspiration behind the generous donation and the profound impact it’s intended to make.
You recently announced a $1 million donation to the BC Cancer Foundation to support liver cancer research. What was the motivation behind the decision to work with BC Cancer and the BC Cancer Foundation?
TM: As a Vancouver-based biotechnology company, we are committed to supporting our community and believe that the work undertaken by the BC Cancer Foundation is truly exceptional. We also understand the importance of research and the potential it has to transform lives.
Why did Acuitas decide to support liver cancer research specifically?
TM: Currently, there are very few treatment options available to people with liver cancer and we wanted to support research that can potentially address this unmet need. Dr. Hoodless’s research team is dedicated to understanding the molecular basis for liver cancer to identify potential new therapeutic approaches.
How is Acuitas working to support the liver cancer research project at BC Cancer?
TM: At BC Cancer, Dr. Hoodless is establishing a unique multi-disciplinary liver cancer program to increase understanding of the disease and develop treatments. Research, however, is not a one-year endeavour. By providing multi-year support, we felt that our donation would help to make a sustained difference in this area.
One exciting area of liver cancer research is the use of lipid nanoparticles (LNP) – essentially “delivery vehicles” for therapeutics at the molecular level – in targeting cancerous cells. These lipid nanoparticles will play an important role for the team testing their research on hepatocellular carcinoma tumour organoids and potentially developing new, more effective therapeutic alternatives. As the global leader in LNP technology, we are excited to see LNP technology applied in various fields.
What is the long-term goal for what is to come from the donation? Do you see it having a lasting impact on liver cancer care?
TM: We have been told that our support will allow Dr. Hoodless to expand her team and importantly, bring together experts from the research and clinical sides of BC Cancer. This collaborative approach has been incredibly successful in cancers such as breast and lung and has led to breakthroughs that have drastically improved outcomes for patients facing those cancers.
It is our hope that, by using this model for liver cancer, BC Cancer will be at the forefront of this critically understudied cancer.
Dr. Hoodless’s team is hitting the ground running with the launch of three initial projects looking at specific gene mutations found in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) to better understand what causes these mutations and how the disease progresses. HCC is the most common type of liver cancer, representing 90% of cases. Using HCC tumour organoids – 3D tumour cell structures grown in tissue culture dishes – they will now also have the ability to test their hypotheses around how the disease behaves.
What message would you like to convey to other businesses and organizations about the importance of supporting research in BC in critical areas like liver cancer?
TM: We hope our contribution to the BC Cancer Foundation inspires other companies to donate. Research is the catalyst for real treatments that will make a difference in the lives of patients and their families and friends. Finding a cure, however, takes time and requires financial support for research. At Acuitas, we strongly believe in supporting research programs like the ones at BC Cancer.
It isn’t just big businesses that can help – personal contributions, no matter how small, add up and can make a huge difference. At Acuitas, we believe that if each of us does what we can when it comes to contributing to our communities – together, we can make the world a much better and healthier place.
What other projects is Acuitas currently involved in?
TM: Acuitas has a history of contributing to our communities, including BC Cancer’s cutting-edge research into ovarian and breast cancers. The Acuitas team also invests personal time and effort in supporting organizations doing good work. Acuitas’ Chief Legal Officer & Vice President, Business Development, Miranda Lam, chairs the Foundation’s Beyond Belief campaign cabinet – sharing her leadership and expertise to help the Foundation realize its current historic $500 million fundraising goal to transform cancer care and research in BC.
In our own research programs, the Acuitas team is working on therapeutics focused on addressing cancer, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and other serious and historically challenging diseases.