York research project will focus on diagnostic tests for head and neck cancers

York Professor Michael Siu will lead a project using biomarkers that have been discovered and verified in head and neck cancers to develop an efficient and effective test for use in diagnosis and prognosis.

Siu, director of York’s Centre for Research in Mass Spectrometry and associate vice-president research, science & technology, will receive funding for the project from International Science & Technology Partnerships Canada Inc. (ISTPCanada). An initiative of ISTPCanada and the Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT) under the Canada-India Scientific and Technological Cooperation program, it is one of four such projects for which ISTPCanada announced a total of $6.7 million in funding recently.

Right: Michael Siu

A challenge for the health care system is to identify cancer early and to predict which pre-cancer cases will have high probability in turning malignant. Siu’s project titled “Translating Head and Neck Cancer Markers into Diagnostic Assays” will determine efficient ways to identify cancers and prognosticate clinical outcomes. Through this project, Siu, his collaborators at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital and Xphase Pharmaceuticals Inc., along with their Indian partners, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Imgenex India Pvt. Ltd., will determine efficient ways of creating diagnostic methods and test kits for head and neck cancer diagnosis.  

“It is wonderful that ISTPCanada and DBT India see the importance of translating head and neck cancer biomarkers that we discovered in our fundamental research into a diagnostic/prognostic assay,” says Siu. “We hope that this project will improve health care delivery in both India and Canada for patients suffering from this dreadful disease."

The federal government has supported these initiatives as part of the Canada-India Science and Technology support. "Our government understands the critical role research plays in improving the lives of Canadians and people around the world,” says Stockwell Day, federal minister of international trade and minister for the Asia-Pacific gateway. “We also understand the critical role of connecting pure research in laboratories with applied research in factories. Major advances occur when the two are hand in glove.”

"Today’s most complex health care challenges can find solutions through innovative, interdisciplinary research & development collaborations such as this one,” says Stan Shapson, vice-president research & innovation at York. “We are tremendously proud of Professor Siu’s research in breakthrough technologies for head and neck cancer markers, for its potential benefits to global health care and strong R&D linkages between Canada and India."

A complete list of projects funding through this initiative is available on the ISTPCanada Web site.