Two of Krembil’s leading researchers received prestigious awards for their research excellence in neurological disorders.
Dr. Andres Lozano (Krembil Senior Scientist) adds to his long last of accolades with the Bachmann-Strauss Prize for Excellence in Dystonia Research from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. Dr. Lozano is a recognized pioneer in the use of deep brain stimulation, a technique in which the brain is stimulated electrically in specific regions. He received this award for his evaluation of the technique for dystonia, a movement disorder that is characterized by painful, prolonged muscle contractions that result in abnormal movements and postures. Dr. Lozano discusses his work in this video.
Dr. Mary Pat McAndrews (Krembil Senior Scientist) received the 2017 Excellence in Research Award from the Canadian League Against Epilepsy. She was recognized for her pioneering research using sophisticated imaging technologies to understand how brain networks process memory and language in people undergoing surgery for epilepsy. With more than two decades of impactful contributions to the field, her epilepsy research program aims to identify factors that can be used to individualize the best therapeutic strategies and outcomes.
Congratulations to Drs. Lozano and McAndrews for receiving these highly respected awards.
Surveillance cameras and security systems are often used to protect against criminal activity. Their effectiveness, however, depends on their ability to identify suspicious activity.
Just as some criminals can avoid detection by obscuring themselves from surveillance cameras, cancer cells in the body have features that enable them to evade the body’s immune system.
To this end, researchers are developing new strategies—collectively known as immunotherapy—to boost the immune system’s ability to detect and eliminate tumours.
Among the many types of immunotherapy is a class of drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors, which ‘release the brakes’ on the immune system and unleash powerful immune cells that migrate to and destroy tumours. The checkpoint inhibitor, ipilimumab, is an effective drug for several types of cancer, but its usefulness in treating women with cervical cancer—over 90% of whom have an associated infection with human papillomavirus (HPV)—is not known.
Dr. Amit Oza (PM Clinical Researcher and Director of the Bras Family Drug Development Program) initiated a clinical trial to address this gap in knowledge. A part of the Princess Margaret Phase II Consortium, the trial followed 42 women with HPV-related cervical cancer who were treated with ipilimumab. The drug was generally considered safe, although some unwanted effects were seen in certain patients.
The research team found that few immune cells were present in patients’ tumour tissues, suggesting that immune cells were not migrating to the tumour. Furthermore, the treatment did not stop the progression of cancer in the majority of patients. The team also found that immune cells circulating in the blood were primed for action, despite the lack of anti-tumour activity.
“Our study is the first to evaluate the effectiveness of ipilimumab in HPV-associated cervical cancer,” says Dr. Oza. “While the drug did not demonstrate significant anti-tumour activity on its own, it is clearly activating immune cells in the blood. As such, its effectiveness combined with other drugs—for example those that target cancer’s ability to evade the immune system—warrants further investigation.”
This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health and The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.
Lheureux S, Butler MO, Clarke B, Cristea MC, Martin LP, Tonkin K, Fleming GF, Tinker AV, Hirte HW, Tsoref D, Mackay H, Dhani NC, Ghatage P, Weberpals J, Welch S, Pham NA, Motta V, Sotov V, Wang L, Karakasis K, Udagani S, Kamel-Reid S, Streicher HZ, Shaw P, Oza AM. Association of ipilimumab with safety and antitumor activity in women with metastatic or recurrent human papillomavirus-related cervical carcinoma. JAMA Oncol. 2017 Nov 16. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2017.3776.
UHN Launches Canada’s first ORCID Opt-in portal
UHN has launched a new ORCID resource for the UHN research community, and the first opt-in ORCID portal in Canada. This is part of a larger initiative by 30+ university and research organization members of the recently established ORCID Canadian Consortium. ORCID at UHN is being launched to simplify and enhance reporting of research activity at the individual and institute level.
Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCID) is a unique digital identifier that links you with your research activity, including funding, publications, IP and more. ORCID enables centralized and integrated profile management, and provides you with full control over who can view it.
Used globally by over four million researchers as well as funders, publishers and academic institutions, ORCID plugs into advanced metrics platforms to streamline research tracking and reporting. Having an ORCID allows you to submit to the growing number of funders and publishers who require it (e.g. PLOS) and provides a comprehensive view of your research activity, or the activity of your trainees and staff.
To quickly create your own ORCID or link an existing ORCID to research at UHN, click on the following link:
ORCID Example: orcid.org/0000-0002-8187-592X.
The notion of reproducibility is fundamental to good science.
If a finding cannot be reproduced by independent research groups, its relevance is very limited, regardless of its validity. It is therefore imperative that scientists describe their experiments in sufficient detail so that they can be reproduced, challenged and built upon.
However, due to recent technological advances in the biological and computational sciences, experimental protocols, data analysis and interpretation have become increasingly complex. This has made reproducing research findings more challenging.
As the number of high-profile cancer studies that cannot be reproduced continues to grow (see eLife Reproducibility Project), some researchers have suggested that the biomedical sciences are experiencing a “reproducibility crisis”.
To address this important issue, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) led the MicroArray and SEquencing Quality Control (MAQC/SEQC) projects to assess the reproducibility of the new high-throughput biotechnologies used in cancer research for diagnosis and prognosis. Recognizing that new technologies and analytical approaches are being developed at a rapid pace, members of the MAQC/SEQC consortium decided to form a new international society, the Massive Analysis and Quality Control (MAQC) Society, whose mission is to promote the best research practices for enhanced reproducibility.
As described in a letter published in Nature Biotechnology, the initial focus of the new society will be on data analysis. “While it is obvious that assays used in biomedical studies must be robust, the reproducibility of computational analyses is a relatively new concept that is yet to be fully adopted by the scientific community,” says Dr. Benjamin Haibe-Kains, Scientist at the Princess Margaret (PM) Cancer Centre and co-founder of the MAQC Society.
Given the complexity and diversity of the computational analyses used in biomedical research, the society will select examples of fully reproducible studies, which will be collectively analyzed in order to draft practical guidelines for future studies. “This is an ambitious initiative that will only be possible with the support of the society members who will directly benefit from the resulting guidelines,” adds Dr. Haibe-Kains.
To foster collaborations and the active involvement of the community, Carl Virtanen, Director and Research Lead of UHN Digital and head of the Bioinformatics and HPC Core, created the MAQC Society website. “I followed with great interest the previous efforts led by the FDA to assess the reproducibility of cutting-edge technologies used in cancer research and was involved in similar initiatives back in the era of microarrays. Because the Bioinformatics Core also runs clinical software pipelines for genetic testing at UHN which are, by law, mandated to be fully reproducible, I was eager to get involved and help build a web-resource for the new MAQC Society,” says Mr. Virtanen. “Data analysis is a critical part of all cancer studies, and we must ensure that the studies’ findings are fully reproducible. This initiative is vital and will help to ensure that the massive investments in cancer research deliver benefits to patients and the health system in the long-term.”
This initiative was supported by The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.
The international MAQC Society launches to enhance reproducibility of high-throughput technologies. Shi L , Kusko R, Wolfinger RD, Haibe-Kains B , Fischer M, Sansone SA, Mason CE, Furlanello C , Jones WD, Ning B, Tong W. Nature Biotechnology, Volume 35, Number 12, December 2017.
TGHRI researchers won three of the Canadian Society of Transplantation’s awards for 2017. The Canadian Society of Transplantation is the professional organization for physicians, surgeons, scientists and allied health professionals working in the field of transplantation; it has more than 600 clinical and research members from across Canada, covering all transplant fields.
Dr. Gary Levy (TGHRI Senior Scientist) won the Society’s prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award for his “internationally recognized work in the field of transplantation and participation in the development of transplantation activities in Canada.” Dr. Levy helped established the UHN Multi-Organ Transplant Program in 1990 and has since continued to make advances in transplantation research in his thriving lab.
Dr. Joseph Kim (TGHRI Clinical Researcher) received the Society’s Research Excellence Award for his body of research achievement and excellence in the field of transplantation. He is the Co-Director of the Kidney Transplant Program at UHN.
Dr. Nazia Selzner (TGHRI Scientist) received the Astellas Clinical Research Grant to investigate a novel approach to improve the outcome of liver transplantation.
UHN’s Multi-Organ Transplant Program is Canada's largest organ transplant program. Home to many transplant firsts and a world leader in transplant research innovation, it performs more than 500 transplantation procedures each year—representing one quarter of all transplants in Canada—and provides follow-up care to over 5,000 transplant recipients.
PM researchers have spent the past few months receiving prestigious awards. The following researchers add to the institute’s ever-growing list of recognitions for world-class cancer research and innovation.
Dr. Eleftherios Diamandis (PM Clinical Researcher and TGHRI Clinical Researcher) was presented with the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Ontario Society of Clinical Chemists. The award recognizes “an individual who has devoted their professional life to providing exemplary service and improving the field of Clinical Biochemistry”. An internationally renowned leader in clinical biochemistry, Dr. Diamandis has made many significant contributions to clinical research throughout his career, such as the development of predictive tests for cancer.
The Canadian Cancer Research Alliance presented Dr. Michael Jewett (PM Clinical Researcher and Techna Affiliated Faculty) with the 2017 award for Exceptional Leadership in Patient Involvement in Cancer Research. Dr. Jewett was recognized for his “long-standing commitment to and advocacy for greater patient involvement in clinical research prioritization, research proposals, funding decisions, research design, and patient-relevant outcome measures.” His efforts have given patients a voice in helping to shape priorities for cancer research and care.
Dr. Wey-Liang Leong (PM Clinical Researcher) received a grant to develop a biodegradable scaffold that helps tissues regenerate following surgery for breast cancer. Called ReFilx, the technology aims to improve patients’ quality of life and reduce the need for further surgeries. The funds were awarded by the Canadian Medical Association company, Joule, and Dr. Leong’s project received $25,000 as part of the Early Stage Initiatives program.