Kudos December 2014



Gonzalo Alvarez was interviewed by the Ottawa Citizen about tuberculosis and its continued prevalence among Canadians. In the interview, Dr. Alvarez said that it is important for Canada to continue to treat tuberculosis as a public health concern and added that “complacency could result in a resurgence of the disease.” Dr. Alvarez develops and studies the effectiveness of public health strategies to reduce tuberculosis in the population, with a specific interest in Canada’s north.

Lucian Sitwell was interviewed by CTV news regarding the use of Botox to relieve headaches. Dr. Lucian Sitwell explains, “A dermatologist giving cosmetic Botox had patients come back and said my headaches are better.” Dr. Sitwell now treats about 16 patients a month in Ottawa with Botox injections. They all suffer from chronic migraines; the injections are costly and involve multiple sites on the head and neck. “It helps control the migraines but doesn’t cure the migraine by any stretch of the imagination at least in most people.”

Swapnil Hiremath was quoted widely in the media concerning his finding that, as many as one in 12 home blood pressure monitoring machines may be inaccurate in their readings. He recommends that these home devices be validated at a physician’s office before relying on their measurements. Dr. Hiremath presented his findings at the American Society of Nephrology Kidney Week in Philadelphia in mid-November, and is also preparing a paper for publication.

Curtis Cooper was interviewed by CTV news about a costly hepatitis C medication which has a 90% to 100% cure rate after only 12 weeks of treatment. The medication comes at a cost: more than $650 a pill, at that rate, the three-month treatment works out to more than $55,000. The Canadian Liver Foundation estimates 250,000 Canadians are infected with hepatitis C. An estimated 500 people a year die from liver failure. Health Canada approved the drug in January, and the results have been impressive so far but Quebec is currently the only Canadian province that funds the Sovaldi (some private insurance providers also pay for the drug).

Kumanan Wilson and Katherine Atkinson were featured in the latest edition of the University of Ottawa Journal of Medicine (UOJM), which focused on eHealth and included interviews with Dr. Kumanan Wilson and Katherine Atkinson on their ImmunizeCA app for the management of patient immunization records.


Kumanan Wilson leads the Grand Challenges Explorations team who have won a $100,000 grant in a competition called “Explore New Ways to Measure Fetal and Infant Brain Development.” Dr. Wilson has previously found that the level of certain compounds in the blood of newborn babies changes with gestational age. Knowing the precise age of infants is important for evaluating development of brain function. It is currently measured by ultrasound, which requires expertise and expensive equipment, and is not available in many countries. Using existing data from over one million newborns in Canada, they will analyze levels of metabolites to see if they can be used to predict gestational age shortly after birth. This approach could be fully automated and performed with portable equipment to make it usable in developing countries.


Michael Schlossmacher and Julianna Tomlinson and their colleagues have been awarded $300,000 from the Weston Brain Institute for two research projects aimed at developing new therapies for Parkinson disease and dementia with Lewy bodies. These projects stem from the Schlossmacher group’s recent research revealing how GBA1 gene mutations contribute to both of these diseases. This grant will allow them to use the mouse model to see if small molecules that target GBA1 may be able to improve behavioural and biochemical abnormalities.


John Bell is developing strategies to safely and effectively treat tumours that are widely spread throughout the cancer patient’s body. What makes Dr. Bell’s work with oncolytic viruses so exciting is that they are designed to attack cancers in multiple different ways. The viruses directly infect and destroy tumours but they also destroy the blood vessels that feed the cancer, in effect strangling the tumour. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the viruses stimulate the patient’s own immune system to recognize the cancer as a foreign entity and attack it.

Greg Knoll and Dean Fergusson led a study on the Effects of sirolimus on malignancy and survival after kidney transplantation, which was published in the British Medical Journal. Sirolimus was once thought to be a promising new kidney transplant drug, because it seemed to be able to prevent organ rejection without the increased risk of cancer. But Drs. Greg Knoll and Dean Fergusson’s study shows that while sirolimus does indeed lower the risk of cancer, patients who took the drug were 43% more likely to die overall.

This clinical trial was also recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). According to the research team, taking levofloxacin for three months could actually increase a patients’ risk of adverse events. While the failure of this drug is disappointing, this rigorous evidence should ensure that kidney transplant patients are no longer exposed to this unnecessary and potentially harmful drug.

Mark Clemons, Brian Hutton and Demetrios Simos published a paper in the Journal of Oncology Practice (JOP) where they evaluated whether the 2012 ASCO Top Five List, which recommended against imaging for patients with stage 1 or 2 breast cancer, had any impact on requests for imaging. The JOP paper showed none. Broader strategies beyond publication are needed if recommendations are to be implemented into routine clinical practice. The team is currently working to develop more effective ways of getting physicians to change their practices when evidence clearly says they should.


Michele Turek has helped launch the Canadian Women’s Heart Health Centre at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, a first of its kind in Canada. The centre will work on prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease, which cardiologists say is the number one killer of women over the age of 35. Dr. Turek said she has watched the number of female patients soar in recent years. “When I started out in practice as a cardiologist a few years ago, most of my patients were men,” she said. “I can tell you, there’s been an incredible turnaround because now it is at least 50-50, if not more women.”

Marc Rodger received the Chrétien Researcher of the Year Award for his work into blood clot treatments affecting pregnant women at the Ottawa Hospital Gala on November 1, 2014. Over $400,000 was raised by this year’s Gala.

Duncan Stewart has been awarded a $75,000 Idea Grant from the new Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine to define epigenetic mechanisms by which mesenchymal stem cell therapy can reduce inflammation in sepsis. Dr. Stewart is collaborating with Lauralyn McIntyre on the world’s first clinical trial of this therapy at The Ottawa Hospital.

Jeremy Grimshaw is part of an international team that recently received a prestigious award for developing an evidence-based training program that reduced disability and death from stroke by 16% and reduced hospital stays by two days. The program involves relatively simple interventions for improving the management of fever, blood sugar and swallowing difficulties in acute stroke patients. Dr. Grimshaw helped design and implement this study while in Australia on sabbatical. This program was recently awarded the 2014 New South Wales Premier’s Public Sector Award for Improving Performance and Accountability.

Alexander Sorisky has been awarded a grant worth $276,000 by the Heart and Stroke Foundation to study human pre-fat cells in obese people and see how they respond to stress. By studying pre-fat cells and their response to stresses that include high glucose levels, Dr. Sorisky hopes to find a way to make the fat tissue healthier, even if weight loss is not preventable or treatable.

Al Foster was interviewed by the Ottawa Citizen concerning a pilot project at TOH to improve patient care and reduce the number of people returning to hospital after being discharged. Data drawn from the post-discharge phone calls will be analyzed. Dr. Forster says that will allow the hospital to design targeted interventions that addresses any systemic issues that may be contributing to the problem. “Patients are the best people to give us a sense as to whether care has met expectations: No one else can do that for us,” says Dr. Forster.

Rob deKemp and Ran Klein were awarded a Canadian patent for – ‘Rubidium Elution System Control’ issued Nov 2014 (more details to come).

Luc Beauchesne, Martin Green and Derek So – A heartfelt congratulations to our fellowship training directors and teams – the Division of Cardiology now has three Areas of Focused Competence (AFC) – the first program in Canada to have this designation! This was a tremendous amount of work for each of these individuals and their teams.


Twelve scientists from the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute have been shortlisted for prestigious Foundation grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The short-listed applicants (and their areas of research) include: The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute’s success rate in this round of the competition is 40%, compared to the national average of 34%. Duncan Stewart was the only scientist (among 1,366 applicants) to score a perfect 100%. CIHR’s new Foundation grants are meant to provide long term (5-7 year) support Canada’s top research leaders. Final results are expected this summer. Department of Medicine applicants:

• Shawn Aaron (lung disease)

• Rebecca Auer (perioperative cancer therapies)

• Jeff Dilworth (muscle regeneration),

• Dar Dowlatshahi (stroke),

• Dean Fergusson (transfusion epidemiology),

• Jeremy Grimshaw (implementation of evidence-based care),

• Greg Knoll (kidney transplantation),

• Lynn Megeney (protein aggregation diseases)

• Duncan Stewart (blood vessel regeneration)