Building a national network to drive research discoveries and expand access to immunotherapies for people with biliary tract cancers

A team led by Dr Carolina Ilkow and Dr Rebecca Auer is expanding access to clinical trials and personalized treatments for people with biliary tract cancers (BTC), accelerating progress and providing hope to people with this devastating disease.

Biliary tract cancers (also called cholangiocarcinomas) although rare, are the second most common liver cancer. They have an alarmingly low survival rate and there are few treatment options available to those facing BTC. Most people are diagnosed in Stage 4, when surgery is no longer an option and chemotherapy may extend the duration of life but take a significant toll on its quality. There is an urgent need for new and innovative treatments for people with BTC, and immunotherapy has shown promising results.

With support from the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, a world-class team of experts across Canada will establish the Canadian Cholangiocarcinoma Collaborative (C3). This first-of-its-kind partnership between people with cancer, caregivers, clinicians and scientists will aim to provide new treatment options and establish a national registry for people with BTC. The C3 will also boost access to clinical trials and provide opportunities for participation through a national referral network. The C3 will develop and manufacture the first-in-Canada personalized T cell product to offer hope for Canadian patients with BTC and establish an immunotherapy pipeline for innovating novel therapies.  

This targeted and collaborative approach will provide equitable access to new treatment options that are rarely accessible in Canada and, if successful, would significantly enhance survival and quality of life for people with biliary tract cancer. 

Total Amount Awarded over 5 years: $ 7,404,250

Team Members

Co-Principal Investigators
  • Rebecca Auer, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
  • Carolina Ilkow, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
  • Jad Abou-Khalil, The Ottawa Hospital
  • Francine Aubin, CHUM
  • Arif Awan, The Ottawa Hospital
  • Melinda Bachini, Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation
  • John Bell, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
  • Sean Bennett, Queen's University
  • Catherine Forse, The Ottawa Hospital
  • Sharlene Gill, BC Cancer
  • Rachel Goodwin, The Ottawa Hospital
  • Robert Holt, Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre (BCGSC)
  • Paul Karanicolas, Sunnybrook
  • Natasha Kekre, The Ottawa Hospital
  • Peter Kim, Vancouver General Hospital
  • Jennifer Knox, University Health Network
  • Carmen G. Loiselle, McGill University
  • Brad Nelson, Deeley Research Centre
  • Faiyaz Notta, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
  • Trevor Pugh, University of Toronto
  • Jennifer Quizi, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
  • Laszlo G. Radvanyi, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research
  • Michael Raphael, Sunnybrook
  • Pablo Serrano, McMaster Univesity
  • Simon Turcotte, Centre de recherche du CHUM
  • Cynthia Walsh, The Ottawa Hospital
  • Steve Welch, London Health Sciences Centre 
Patients, Survivors and Caregivers
  • Adam Auer, Canadian Patient Support and Advocacy Group
  • Sylvie Breton, Canadian Patient Support and Advocacy Group
  • Neil Marr, Canadian Patient Support and Advocacy Group
  • Ambuj Srivastava, Canadian Patient Support and Advocacy Group
  • Scott Stennett, Canadian Patient Support and Advocacy Group
  • Judit Zubovits, Canadian Patient Support and Advocacy Group
Additional Authors
  • Leonard Angka, The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
  • Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation
  • Steve Gallinger, University Health Network
  • Steven A. Rosenberg, National Cancer Institute (NCI)
  • George Zogopoulos, McGill University

Team Geography

Team members from 3 provinces, as well as 3 US states (Maryland, Montana, Utah)