Dear Valued Harbour Air Guests,
We hope you all enjoyed the Holiday Season and are as excited to welcome 2023 as much as we all are. As it is the start of a new year, we wanted to update all our loyal travellers on the success of our 2022 Share the Fare Program. As you may recall, on every Friday of every month throughout the year, Harbour Air donates $1 from every passenger towards a carefully selected project at the BC Cancer Foundation. Occasionally, we also ask our guests if they would like to donate as well with 100% of the funds going directly to the project.
This program works alongside our ongoing commitments to giving back in our communities and, in addition to our passenger donations, we also lean on our suppliers as well as our own employees to help us raise additional funds. The original objective, as many of our donors may recall, was to donate directly to the Sorenson Lab that was working to research the efficacy of immunotherapy as an alternative treatment in pediatric cancers where traditional chemotherapy can be too toxic to a rapidly developing child. We partnered with Anthem Properties and through our partners at the BC Cancer Foundation, were able to secure an agreement that 100% of the funds raised would go directly to Poul Sorenson and the work being done there.
Today, we are excited to report to you all that in 2022, thanks to the generosity of our staff, our suppliers and, most importantly our guests, we, once again, surpassed all expectations and along with our partner donors, our Blood, Sweat and Cures team raised an additional $1.1mm for the Sorensen Lab. We have now leveraged that into approximately $4.5mm through various private and government grants and have included below an abbreviated update from our committee ‘Captain’, Alex Blodgett on the details of their work.
The Team at Harbour Air
Abbreviated Update from Alex Blodgett of the BC Cancer Foundation Board of Directors
- Childhood sarcomas (bone and soft tissue) remain a significant unmet clinical need. The prognosis for children with metastatic sarcomas is dismal and has not changed in 40 years. That’s unacceptable, and we are trying to change that by focusing on immunotherapy. The Sorensen Lab has now identified at least 40 targets for potential immunotherapy in Ewing sarcoma, and another 40 targets in osteosarcoma. Think of “targets” as hooks (they are unique proteins) that grow out from malignant cells. What the Lab is doing is developing drugs and treatment protocols (think: warheads) that are attached to the front of antibodies (stealth missiles) that circulate around the body searching for malignant cells, then grabbing onto these targets or hooks, and blowing the cells up. The Lab has an extensive network across North America that can quickly develop the new antibodies that can attack these newly discovered targets. These new antibodies thus can be used as immunotherapy reagents for clinical applications.
- The Sorensen Lab’s studies uncovering the IL1RAP surface protein target as a promising target in Ewing sarcoma (the second most common bone malignancy of childhood cancers) was published in November 2021, in the very high impact journal, Cancer Discovery, and received a great deal of international attention. The Lab has subsequently performed studies on mice with targeting antibodies to IL1RAP that show extremely promising results, and is rapidly moving this towards a clinical trial in Ewing sarcoma through its international network.
- As a side note, this study and subsequent publication funded by our investment was a significant contributor in securing an additional $1mm grant – this is how the leverage works!
- The Lab checked other tumor types and found that certain types of lymphoma, ~25% of pancreatic adenocarcinoma, 50% of melanomas, some brain tumors, and high-risk acute myeloid leukemias may also express IL1RAP on cell surfaces. This indicates that there is the potential to also utilize the above IL1RAP targeting strategies for these diseases. This is a great example of the positive and unintended consequences that come from a singular focus on a specific cancer.
- Poul Sorensen and his team are working with TRIUMF at UBC to generate so-called radio conjugates that can turn antibodies to IL1RAP into radioactive tools for diagnostic detection of tumor cells. They are very close to testing these reagents in animal models.
- Five years ago we worked to fund our Daryl’s Heidelberg Hope project; the $18mm contribution to build BC Cancer Labs at the new Advanced Institute for Medical Isotopes at TRIUMF, funded through BC Cancer Foundation, will be one of the few facilities in the world to produce these radioactive isotopes used in cancer research and treatment. Additionally, BCCF this year committed to also funding $3.5mm to purchase a new cyclotron at TRIUMF to add more capacity to deliver these isotopes.
- The Sorensen Lab is using the same approach in Ewing sarcoma to characterize new targets for immunotherapy in osteosarcoma, which is the most common childhood bone cancer and the disease that Terry Fox had.
- Also, there is a new project just starting to identify novel immunotherapy targets in childhood medulloblastoma, the most common type of childhood brain tumor. This disease is very difficult to treat because current therapies, which include toxic drugs and irradiation, can have devasting effects on developing nervous system tissues. The hope is to change that by using immunotherapy to harness patients’ immune systems rather than highly toxic standard therapies.
- The Lab is working hard to generate T cells with the ability to bind to and kill sarcoma cells, with its colleagues at Seattle Children’s Hospital. These reagents called CAR T cells, are under intense investigation in the international immunotherapy community to target solid tumors.
- And finally, I was honored to participate in the ceremony last week where Poul Sorensen was presented w/ The Order of BC (29:00 minutes in) by our new Premier. I’m proud to call Poul a friend and immeasurably impressed by the whole team at The Sorensen Lab. Congratulations to all of them!
About BC Cancer Foundation
The BC Cancer Foundation believes that together, BC CAN break down cancer.
We are the fundraising partner of BC Cancer. Every dollar we raise stays at BC Cancer to advance research and enhance care for the people of BC and beyond by connecting personalized care, innovative research and opportunities to contribute.
At the BC Cancer Foundation we believe that with your help, BC CAN make a difference in the lives of all British Columbians. We know that one in two people in our province will face cancer in their lifetime and we’re igniting progress to break down cancer, piece by piece, in the labs and clinics. For more information, please visit bccancerfoundation.com