Oct Nov 2015 Kudos

Publications and Quality

Jeffery Dillworth was recently awarded $2.3 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Dr. Dilworth’s research focuses on epigenetics: studying how factors in the muscle environment can change how DNA is packaged and used within muscle stem cells. High-throughput screening will be used to identify key epigenetic enzymes and drugs to control them, potentially leading to new therapies for diseases such as muscular dystrophy and muscle weakness associated with aging and cancer.

John Bell’s internationally-recognized team was provided with a $5 million grant for viral therapy research. The Movember Foundation has joined forces with Prostate Canada Cancer to support the development of a viral therapy for prostate cancer. The grant will provide a multi-disciplinary, internationally-recognized team with funding through to 2020. Members of the team have already developed a viral therapy currently in clinical trials, and they are now customizing this approach for prostate cancer. Co-investigators: Dean Fergusson …

Susan Dent wrote an editorial in a special supplement of the National Post, focusing on the urgent need for more coordinated care and research to predict, prevent and treat cardiac complications from cancer therapy.

Greg Knoll and Dean Fergusson published an international clinical trial in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology which has shown that a blood pressure-lowering drug called ramipril has no benefit for kidney transplant patients, and is associated with potentially dangerous side-effects. The trial, is expected to change practice around the world. An accompanying editorial noted “the scale of this achievement cannot be underestimated”. This is the third practice-changing kidney transplant study led by Drs. Knoll and Fergusson this year.

Mirna Azar (first Bariatric Medicine Fellow) completed her first year with two first-authored publications accepted for publication. The first is in Obesity, “Can response to dietary restriction predict weight loss after Roux-en-Y gastroplasty?” and the second in C. J. Cardiology – “Adverse effects of beta-blocker therapy on weight loss in response to a controlled dietary regimen”.

David Stewart has published in AACR The Urgent Need for Clinical Research Reform to Permit Faster, Less Expensive Access to New Therapies for Lethal Diseases

A new study from Dr. Michael Rudnicki’s group is poised to completely change our understanding of Duchenne muscular dystrophy and pave the way for far more effective treatments. The study, published in Nature Medicine, is the first to show that Duchenne muscular dystrophy directly affects muscle stem cells. “For nearly 20 years, we’ve thought that the muscle weakness observed in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy is primarily due to problems in their muscle fibres, but our research shows that it is also due to intrinsic defects in the function of their muscle stem cells,” said Dr. Rudnicki. The news was covered by the Ottawa Citizen, the Globe and Mail, the Ottawa Sun, CTV Ottawa, CTV News Network, CBC Ottawa TV and Radio, Radio Canada, CFRA, News1310, the Hamilton Spectator and many other media. Co-authors: N.A. Dumont, Y.X. Wang, J. von Maltzahn, A. Pasut, C. F. Bentzinger, C.E. Brun.

New research led by Dr. Mark Clemons shows that asking breast cancer patients a few simple questions, and inputting their answers into a mathematical model, can help minimize nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy. The questions include age, history of pregnancy-associated morning sickness, motion sickness and alcohol consumption, among others. In a randomized clinical trial, patients who received anti-nausea therapy based on the mathematical model experienced less nausea and vomiting than those who received anti-nausea therapy based on their physician’s choice. “We think these findings can lead to a much better, much kinder, much gentler way of treating cancer patients,” said Dr. Clemons. The study could also reduce the use of anti-nausea medications in people who don’t need them. See JAMA Oncology. Co-authors: N. Bouganim S. Smith, S. Mazzarello, L. Vandermeer, R. Segal, S. Dent, S. Gertle, X. Song, P. Wheatley-Price, G. Dranitsaris.

Hsiao-Huei Chen and Alexandre Stewart led a study on a novel genetic risk factor for heart disease which was published in Circulation, chosen for the cover of the September 25 edition of Circulation Research and was highlighted as an “Editor’s Pick”. The study uncovers a novel molecular pathway that controls inflammation and plaque build-up in blood vessels to prevent and treat heart disease.


Mark Freedman, a professor of neurology at the University of Ottawa and director of the multiple sclerosis research unit at the Ottawa Hospital, said he’s skeptical of Brian Clement’s claims that his institute has helped patients ‘reverse’ MS. “To say that they can reverse deficits that lead to crippling disease — very unbelievable. It’s not science.” -CBC

Michael Rudnicki, a leading Canadian stem cell researcher based at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, has called on the federal government to make leadership changes at the CIHR, including replacing president Alain Beaudet. Rudnicki and others say there is less money for basic research and that reforms have distorted the peer review system. Morale among scientists has bottomed out and many are struggling to hang on, he and others said. – Ottawa Citizen

Dr. Peter Liu of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute was interviewed on CTV about looking at the signs of heart failure.

L’Hôpital d’Ottawa investira trois millions de dollars pour un nouveau centre d’excellence en dermatologie puisque les services actuels ne suffisent plus à la demande. Dans la capitale nationale, la période d’attente pour voir un dermatologue est passée de six semaines à huit mois. De plus, le cancer de la peau arrive au deuxième rang de tous les cancers chez les gens de 20 à 44 ans. Le docteur Ken Kobayashi dirige le service de dermatologie à l’hôpital d’Ottawa. À ses dires, les nouveaux investissements de trois millions de dollars devraient permettre de soigner plus de patients en plus de réduire la liste d’attente. – Radio Canada

Hepatitis C study finds that new treatment could cure many in 12 weeks. Previously, therapies for those with hepatitis C were “difficult” with “really serious side effects,” such as fatigue, weight loss, headaches, poor sleep and mental health issues, said Dr. Curtis Cooper, the director of Ottawa Hospital and Regional Hepatitis Program, in a phone interview with Yahoo Canada. On top of the side effects, the treatments required injections for a period of 24 to 48 weeks. “It was a long and difficult path, with only a 40 to 50 per cent success rate,” said Dr. Cooper. – Yahoo

According to CBC Radio Canada International, “doctors and research scientists in Ottawa continue to poke holes in conventional medical wisdom.” Dr. Greg Knoll was recently interviewed about his research showing that three drugs commonly used in kidney transplant patients are not nearly as effective as previously thought.

Mark Freedman cautioned patients to be skeptical about two highly questionable “treatments” for multiple sclerosis. He was interviewed on 60 Minutes Australia and CBC’s The National.

As November was Lung Cancer Awareness month, a number of lung cancer specialists have been in the news raising awareness and talking about research. Dr. Garth Nicholas was interviewed on CTV Ottawa. Dr. Paul Wheatley-Price was interviewed on CBC Radio Ottawa. And one of Dr. Scott Laurie’s patients was interviewed by the Ottawa Citizen about her experience being treated for lung cancer while pregnant. Her tumour shrank by more than 50% after she received a new targeted therapy.

David Stewart was quoted in The ASCO Post about delays in drug approvals and approaches to streamline this for the benefit of cancer patients.

Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the approval of the first viral therapy for cancer. The therapy is based on a modified version of the herpes virus that attacks cancer cells directly and also stimulates the immune system to fight tumours. It was approved for the treatment of advanced stage melanoma. Dr. John Bell was interviewed for the Boston Globe’s new medical publication, STAT, saying “this is huge for the whole field, and for cancer patients”. Dr. Bell also commented on the news in a video produced by BioCanRx. In the same week, Turnstone Biologics, a company co-founded by Dr. Bell, announced its first round of funding. As the development of a new therapy can cost close to a billion dollars, private sector investment is essential. A media release in May described the formation of the new company.


David Stewart has outlined nine proposals for developing new drugs in the latest edition of Clinical Cancer Research. The proposals range from reducing the need for unnecessary preclinical toxicology studies to replacing excessive documentation with sensible post-marketing surveillance. This could ultimately change clinical research regulations, streamline process and improve health without comprising safety, particularly in the cases of such lethal diseases as cancer.

Alaa Rostom has been selected as the recipient for the Canadian Association Of Gastroenterology (CAG) Education Excellence award for 2016. The CAG Education Excellence Award is awarded to a member of the CAG who has made an outstanding contribution to education on a national or international basis. The contribution may be in the areas of direct teaching, research in education or development of educational programs.

Shawn Marshall won the 2015 Health Care Provider of the Year Award at the Personal Injury Alliance (PIA) Law Back to School Conference. This year’s awards were presented by the Ontario Brain Injury Association (OBIA) in collaboration with the Personal Injury Alliance (PIA Law).

Marc Rodger is co-leading a new national research network (Canadian Venous Thromboembolism Clinical Trials and Outcomes Research Network) – the first of its kind in the world – dedicated to improving care for patients with blood clots in the lungs and legs (called venous thromboembolism or VTE). The new network, called CanVECTOR, aims to improve VTE diagnosis and therapeutic management, improve the safety of anticoagulant delivery, and enhance the quality of life of those impacted by VTE. It has been awarded $5.2 million from the CIHR, the Fonds de recherche Québec – Santé and a consortium of public and private funders.

Susan Dent, medical oncologist at the Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre, has been the medical adviser for Bust a Move Ottawa for the previous two years, participating in the event as well. “It’s events like Bust a Move that raise funds so that, as health care providers, we can conduct research that will ultimately lead to better care for our patients,” she said. – Ottawa Community News

The Ottawa Hospital, the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and The Ottawa Hospital Foundation have developed a new tagline: Inspired by research. Driven by compassion. It’s all part of a larger initiative to speak with a unified voice, in partnership with the University of Ottawa. The initiative is expected to enhance the culture of and support of research at The Ottawa Hospital, increase participation in clinical trials and enhance recruitment of the best and brightest clinicians, trainees and staff. Drs. Bill Cameron, Kevin Burns and Dar Dowlatshahi spoke at open forums on the topic, along with Dr. Jack Kitts, Tim Kluke and Allison Neill. See joint CEO Message for details, as well as this video featuring our new messaging and several of our researchers. And stay tuned for new tools and templates on December 1st.

The Ottawa Hospital, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, Hôpital Montfort and Bruyère Continuing Care hosted representatives from the Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario (CAHO) for a two-day field trip this week, designed to showcase how Ontario’s research hospitals are making the province Healthier, Wealthier and Smarter. The Ottawa Hospital’s part of the tour included a visit with Dr. Marc Rodger in the Ottawa Blood Disease Centre, Dr. Dean Fergusson in the Centre for Practice-Changing Research, Drs. Rozanne Arulanandam and Mark Clemons in the Centre for Innovative Cancer Research, and Drs. Bernard Thébaud and Jennifer Collins in the Sinclair Centre for Regenerative Medicine. CAHO also spent the morning at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute’s Annual Research Day, taking in the talks and posters. More information about the Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter campaign can be found on the website through #onHWS on twitter.

A number of trainees based at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute won awards for their presentations at the uOttawa Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine (CMM) Research Day. Peter Feige (in Dr. Michael Rudnicki’s group) had the best poster in the MSc category in CMM. Mohamad Taha (in Dr. Duncan Stewart’s group) had the best oral presentation in CMM. Dr. Jean-Francois Thibodeau (in Dr. Christopher Kennedy’s group) had the top poster in the postdoctoral fellow category in CMM. And finally, Mehdi Eshraghi (from Dr. Rashmi Kothary’s group) had the best poster in the PhD student category in neuroscience.

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