By Harriet Feilotter

Happy Summer to all of our members!  As the days get longer and hotter, and our thoughts turn to the lazier pleasures of the season, we at OMPRN also find our thoughts turning to new activities and horizons.  As you all know, the past several years have seen a dramatic shift in the support that OMPRN has to carry out its activities.  In particular, the loss of the research grants program was a blow to the identity of our organization. Over the past two years, we have worked hard to reinvent OMPRN as a vital and substantive partner in molecular pathology in the province and beyond.  That work continues, with the stellar educational and outreach achievements, documented elsewhere in this newsletter. But fundamental questions remain about who we are, why we are here, and where we might be going.

As OICR embarks on another round of strategic planning, this question becomes even more important. The status quo for OMPRN, while it would continue to allow us to develop excellent educational resources, may not be enough. We now need to look towards a more comprehensive and collaborative plan for our future.  It is with this mind that biology comes to the rescue, showing us a path forward that allows OMPRN to remain strong, relevant and timely.

As you are likely aware, the Ontario Hereditary Cancer Research Network (OHCRN), our sister network within the Adaptive Oncology program at OICR, has been going strong, developing a framework for collecting provincial level data on hereditary cancer patients and their family members. The building of a resource to house genomic and clinical data has passed the planning stages and is now well underway, with an immense amount of work done to identify the key players, the relevant data and the patient populations involved. However, as our joint OMPRN/OHCRN conference last fall highlighted, there is a strong and necessary linkage between germline and somatic variants, and even the concept of a somatic tumour must be understood in the context of background germline genetics. Our evolving understanding of the connections between germline genotypes and tumour behaviour makes this a rich area to explore.

With that in mind, our first foray into a formalized association with OHCRN was the aforementioned conference, which was well attended, well received and reviewed in a previous newsletter.  Now, we have embarked on another initiative that recognizes the need to include somatic considerations into the OHCRN builds. An invite to OMPRN members to join a working group designed to focus on the somatic aspects that could be important in the OHCRN undertaking was met with enthusiasm from our members, and we are pleased that the first joint working group has been formed.

While this may seem a smallish step, it is in fact a sea change in our way of thinking. OMPRN’s path to growth must include collaboration with other groups and entities that represent the communities that impact the practice of molecular pathology. Through more connections with groups like OHCRN, but also with others, including clinical trials, professionals who use artificial intelligence, digital pathology experts, bioinformaticians and many others, OMPRN will continue to be a vibrant and relevant entity, focused on bringing learning and understanding about this constantly evolving field to our members, while showcasing the incredible breadth of our world.


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