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Stand Up To Cancer Canada – Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation Breast Cancer Dream Team, supported by CIBC

Background on Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Research into the mechanics of breast cancer has revealed many new treatment strategies and contributed to the 88% survival rate we have today. One effective strategy involves controlling levels of hormones, which send messages to proteins on cancer cells that cause them to grow. Despite these great advancements, a subset known as triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is able to defy these treatments because it lacks three hormone receptor proteins (estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2). Because its growth doesn’t depend on hormone levels, treatment options for TNBC are limited to chemotherapy, which brings with it toxic side effects. Many cases of TNBC can learn to resist chemotherapy, which leaves very few options for these patients.

On the competition:

Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and Stand Up To Cancer Canada, with the support of CIBC, have joined forces along with Ontario Institute for Cancer Research to fund a Breast Cancer Dream Team. This initiative is designed to accelerate advances in research by establishing a collaborative translational research team who will mobilize their expertise to bring the most promising new therapies to patients. Applications to this competition underwent a rigorous review process with world class researcher reviewers before selecting the winning team.

The successful Dream Team is comprised of some of Canada’s top scientists across a variety of disciplines and institutions, selected for the best idea to accelerate research on a new treatment for breast cancer. This grant offers funding for a 4-year research term.

On the Dream Team:

SU2C-CBCF_TNBC_Infographic_thumb.pngThe Stand Up To Cancer Canada – Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation Breast Cancer Dream Team, supported by CIBC, is led by Dr. Tak Mak at the University Health Network in Toronto, and co-led by Dr. Samuel Aparicio of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Their $9 million/4-year project, “Translational development of novel drugs targeting tumour vulnerabilities,” will design new targeted treatments for aggressive breast cancers – particularly subtypes categorized as triple negative breast cancer, which comprise 10-20% of all breast cancers. Using innovative laboratory modelling, this team will develop three promising drug candidates and bring them to clinical trials with advanced breast cancer patients across Canada. Unlike chemotherapy, which delivers toxic substances to cancer and healthy cells alike, these drugs are designed to tell the difference between cancer cells and healthy ones, targeting only the cancer cells so that patients experience fewer side effects. 

The team will also identify new biomarkers to help clinicians make the best match between drug and cancer subtype, so that patients can receive a treatment personalized to their form of the disease. By creating therapeutic options that are customized, less toxic, and less vulnerable to drug resistance, this project has the potential to bring hope and relief to people with aggressive breast cancers and their families.


“I believe in the power of human creativity to conquer this disease.” 

- Dr. Tak Mak