UHN is pleased to announce the publication of its Strategic Research Plan 2019–2023.
The plan defines UHN's research mission—Together we drive excellence in discovery and innovation to create A Healthier World—and articulates the institution's research values and its goals for impact and excellence across all of its institutes and programs.
It was developed over the past year by a Core Working Group and a Steering Committee, and with input from close to 300 individuals across and external to UHN, including patient partners. The Strategic Research Plan presents five priorities:
All UHN staff are welcome to attend a town hall to introduce the plan:
Over the coming year, specific new initiatives will be launched within each of the above priorities and action plans will be developed to operationalize them. In alignment with the priorities and initiatives of the UHN Strategic Plan 2019–23, these initiatives will help TeamUHN to achieve its shared vision of A Healthier World. The research community is excited to embark on this journey, and there’s no telling what TeamUHN can achieve together.
Dr. Gang Zheng, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (PM) Senior Scientist and Scientific Lead at Techna Institute, has been appointed as the new Associate Research Director of PM. He succeeds Dr. Aaron Schimmer, who left the position to take on the role of PM Research Director on February 15, 2019.
Dr. Zheng is a world-leading scientist in nanomedicine, molecular imaging and phototherapy. He is an accomplished inventor of nanotechnology-based tools for biomedical applications, including cancer diagnostics and therapeutics. His lab is recognized for discovering porphysome nanoparticles—spherical nanovesicles that can be used to image and deliver drugs to specific tumor sites. This transformational discovery was published in Nature Materials in 2011 and was listed as one of the “Top 10 Cancer Breakthroughs of 2011” by the Canadian Cancer Society. Throughout his scientific career, he has published extensively in high-impact journals, including Nature Nanotechnology and Chemical Reviews.
In addition to his research program, Dr. Zheng has assumed multiple leadership roles. At UHN, he is the Director of the Nanomedicine Fabrication Centre (NanoMedFab). He is also an Executive Committee Member and Chair of the Core Facility and Equipment Committee at PM. Within the broader scientific community, he serves on various review panels and advisory boards for national and international funding bodies.
Welcome to the latest issue of Research Spotlight (formerly known as NRx).
This newsletter highlights top research advancements across UHN and from over 450 researchers appointed at five research institutes. As Canada’s largest research hospital, UHN is a national and international source for discovery, education and patient care.
Stories in this month’s issue:
● DOWN TO THE WIRE: UHN researchers engineer a model heart to test drugs for heart disease.
● CLEARING THE SMOKE: Study suggests cannabinoid use may be linked to higher patient-reported postoperative pain.
● YOUR HEART ON CARDIAC REHABILITATION: Blood test could provide readout of rehabilitation-related improvements in heart fitness.
● CANCER RESEARCH IN THE LOOP: New study reveals that circular genetic material is essential for prostate tumour growth.
PM Senior Scientist Dr. John Dick was named the 2019 recipient of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) Award for Innovation. The award recognizes individuals who have made original and transformative discoveries in the field of stem cell research, and whose work has offered new insights for studying and treating human disease.
Dr. Dick was acknowledged for his breakthrough discovery of leukemia stem cells (LSCs) in acute myeloid leukemia—a type of cancer that arises in the bone marrow and the blood. LSCs are a rare population of tumour cells that initiate the cancer and also play a role in treatment failure and disease recurrence.
LSCs were the first type of cancer stem cells to be characterized. This foundational work, which was carried out in the laboratory of Dr. Dick, paved the way for the identification of cancer stem cells in other solid human tumors. Dr. Dick’s isolation of LSCs also set the stage for the eventual development of cancer stem cell-targeted therapies, illustrating the far-reaching translational impact and clinical implications of his work.
The society will recognize Dr. Dick’s achievements at their annual meeting in June.
The UHN Office of Research Trainees (ORT) is proud to announce the release of the latest issue of The ORT Times!
The ORT Times is UHN's monthly trainee-focused newsletter. It highlights news and editorials about trainee life, articles to help developing researchers get the most out of their training experience at UHN, tips on career development, and research training opportunities within and outside of UHN.
Conference Reports: Read conference reports from Anjali, Zaved, Tina and Janelle.
Read and download the full issue now!
To see past issues of The ORT Times, please visit ORT’s website.
Some bacteria, viruses and fungi are like unwelcomed guests who crash a party and cause trouble. Without an invitation, they discreetly slip into the body where they cause an infection that damages tissues and threatens a person’s health.
Luckily, the body is staffed with immune cells—known as neutrophils—responsible for removing these party crashers. Neutrophils have several tactics at their disposal to eliminate microscopic invaders, including the release of neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs). NETs are web-like structures of DNA and proteins that bind, disarm and kill invaders.
“Although NETs are a powerful weapon in the fight against infections, accumulating evidence suggests that NETs might also contribute to the spread of a cancer to other sites in the body,” says Dr. Scott Bratman, a Scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.
Recently, Dr. Bratman and his colleagues published a report describing a series of experiments that helped clarify the importance of NETs in this process.
They discovered that high blood levels of toxic molecules known as reactive oxygen species (ROS) triggered the release of NETs from neutrophils in the absence of microscopic invaders. They also found that NETs accumulated in the lungs more than in any other organ.
Next, the researchers examined how high ROS levels and NETs effected experimental models of breast cancer, and head and neck cancer. They found that when ROS levels were high, both cancers were more likely to spread to the lungs.
The researchers also obtained evidence suggesting that this phenomenon occurs not only in experimental models of cancer, but also in cancer patients. ROS levels were found to be much higher in head and neck cancer patients whose cancer eventually spread to their lungs.
Commenting on his findings, Dr. Bratman says, “We found that cancer can spread to the lungs by using NETs released in response to high ROS levels. Because of this, we believe that ROS could represent a new and promising anticancer target that could help stop the spread of cancer.”
This work was supported by The Terry Fox Foundation and The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation. M. Ikura holds a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Cancer Structural Biology.
Inoue M, Nakashima R, Enomoto M, Koike Y, Zhao X, Yip K, Huang SH, Waldron JN, Ikura M, Liu FF, Bratman SV. Plasma redox imbalance caused by albumin oxidation promotes lung-predominant NETosis and pulmonary cancer metastasis. Nat Commun. 2018 Nov 30. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-07550-x.