Nov/Dec Kudos 2016

Publications and Quality

Harold Atkins and his colleagues led a clinical trial published in JAMA that has resulted in an MS breakthrough. The team looked back on data from seven severe myasthenia gravis patients who wree treated at TOH with an intensive procedure which wipes out the immune system and regenerates a new one using the patient’s own blood stem cells (autologous HSCT). All seven patients became free of symptoms and no longer needed treatment for myasthenia gravis. The treatment can have serious side effects and risks, and would only be appropriate for a small proportion of people. Co-authors: Harold Atkins, Elizabeth Pringle, Grizel Anstee, Isabelle Bence-Bruckler, Mitchell Sabloff, Jason Tay, Christopher Bredeson…

Harold Atkins and Mark Freedman recently published in Nature, on a feature story on stem cell transplantation for MS. The story notes that stem cells may finally be starting to live up to their potential for MS, but some questions remain and the treatment is not appropriate for all patients.

Peter Lawlor co-authored a trial published in JAMA Internal Medicine. This randomized controlled trial found that two antipsychotic drugs commonly used to manage delirium in patients receiving palliative care actually make symptoms worse. Patients were given oral doses of risperidone, haloperidol or a placebo for three days and the team found that patients given the antipsychotics had worse delirium symptoms and were 1.5 times more likely to die compared to patients given a placebo. The authors recommend that antipsychotics not be used to treat palliative care patients with mild or moderate delirium. An accompanying commentary calls the study “remarkable” and hopes the findings will be translated into practice.

Lauralyn McIntyre and colleagues performed a systematic review to evaluate all existing laboratory evidence before launching the first human trial using stem cells to treat septic shock. Their review, published in eLife, found 18 publications that used these stem cells to treat animal models of septic shock and confirmed a consistent reduction in deaths with the treatment. These promising results supported their decision to proceed with their world-first clinical trial. They hope their method of considering all the laboratory evidence first can help researchers launch more successful human trials in the future. Authors: Dean A. Fergusson, Duncan J. Stewart, Lauralyn McIntyre.



Harold Atkins – A stem cell transplant has given a Kemptville woman a new lease on life after being on life support twelve times. The man behind it all is Dr. Harold Atkins, the very same doctor who has been using stem cell transplants here in Ottawa to treat people with Multiple Sclerosis. Anne Scott said she had just one request when she met with Dr. Harry Atkins: to attend her daughter’s wedding. He exceeded those expectations. Fifteen years later, she is alive and pretty much symptom free. Further details can be found at CTV news.

Harold Atkins and his colleagues looked back at study data from seven severe myasthenia gravis patients treated at TOH with an intensive procedure that completely wipes out the immune system and then regenerates a new one using the patient’s own blood stem cells (autologous HSCT). All seven patients are now free of symptoms and no longer needed treatment for myasthenia gravis. See full story and CTV Ottawa coverage. Co-authors: Adam Bryant, Harold Atkins, Elizabeth Pringle, David Allan, Grizel Anstee, Isabelle Bence-Bruckler, Linda Hamelin, Michael Hodgins, Harry Hopkins, Lothar Huebsch, Sheryl McDiarmid, Mitchell Sabloff, Dawn Sheppard, Jason Tay, Christopher Bredeson.

Grégoire Le Gal was interviewed by Le Figaro about the Mediator scandal, a weight-loss drug believed to have caused the death of at least 500 people, depicted in a new film La fille de Brest. Dr. Le Gal helped lead a case control study that found the diet pill was associated with fatal heart valve damage.

Lauralyn McIntyre was interviewed about her septic shock clinical trial in this Globe and Mail article on stem cell funding in Canada and the U.S.

Department of Medicine honours physicians and researchersThe Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine featured Dr. Michael Rudnicki in its latest Expressions blog. Dr. Rudnicki discussed his research on muscle stem cells, as well as next steps for translating the finding into possible treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.



Arleigh McCurdy has been presented with a $5000 grant from Myeloma Canada towards establishing MCRN clinical trial initiatives in Ottawa and surrounding areas, and ultimately helping to improve patient outcomes in Canada. The funds were raised by Johanne Gaumond from the Benefit Concert held in Gatineau in the spring, benefitting Myeloma Canada.

Harold Atkins received the Chrétien Researcher of the Year Award for MS breakthrough. As a child growing up in Ottawa, Dr. Atkins dreamed of becoming an architect. However, a high-school biology project on the immune system sparked his interest in medicine. Today the stem cell transplant physician and scientist is a different kind of architect; one that rebuilds his patients’ immune systems from the ground up.

Duncan Stewart received the Grimes Research Career Achievement Award. Dr. Stewart, as a physician engaged in fundamental molecular research, he always strove to bring the separate worlds of basic research and clinical medicine closer together. A turning point in his career occurred in the mid-1990s over a steak dinner. He had been contacted by a well-known lawyer whose young daughter suffered from pulmonary hypertension. The lawyer had heard about Dr. Stewart’s innovative research using gene and stem cell therapy to treat this disease in animal models, and wanted to know more about it.

Edward Spilg was the recipient of the AMS (Associated medical Services Inc.) Phoenix Thematic Grant and Fellowship project. AMS is leading the way when it comes to advancing compassionate care within the healthcare community, aiming to instill and sustain compassion in the environments in which health professionals learn and work. In 2016, a new Thematic Grant Invitational Competition was opened to previous AMS Phoenix Fellows funding multi-site collaborative research in 4 thematic areas; Patient Voice, Resilience, Curriculum Development and Technology. The theme of Dr. Spilgs research is Physician Empathy and Physician Wellness: “Improving Physician Empathy, Compassionate Care and Wellness Through the Development of Resilience-building Communities of Practice and Creating a Culture of Empathy”.

Lauralyn McIntyre, Duncan Stewart, Harold Atkins and their colleagues are now in a better position to answer the question: Could stem cells help the body recover from septic shock, heart attack and liver transplantation. Thanks to $2.2 million in peer-reviewed awards from the Stem Cell Network, this funding will support three clinical trials. The awards include:

• Lauralyn McIntyre and colleagues received $1 million to lead for the first multi-centre clinical trial of mesenchymal stem cell therapy for septic shock. They recently treated nine patients in a Phase I trial of this therapy. Local co-investigators / collaborators include: Duncan Stewart, Shirley Mei, Dean Fergusson, Kednapa Thavorn, Timothy Ramsay, David Courtman and Shane English.

• Duncan Stewart and colleagues received $1 million to advance their world-first clinical trial of a genetically-enhanced stem cell therapy for heart attack. Local co-investigators include: David Courtman and Chris Glover.

• Harold Atkins and Gary Levy received $216,000 to see if a procedure involving blood stem cells and chemotherapy may be able to reprogram the immune system to prevent organ rejection in liver transplant patients.

David Stewart was honoured for pioneering personalized medicine for cancer. Dr. Stewart was recently awarded as one of the Netherlands’ top prizes for medical science – the Federa Award – for proposing “a radical change in strategy for anticancer research.”

Susan Dent, as founder of the Canadian Cardiac Oncology Network, played a key role in the first China Cardio-Oncology Conference, held in Dalian (North-Eastern China) in November. The conference focused on “Prevention, Early Intervention, Multidisciplinary Collaboration”.