Winter Kudos – Jan to March 2017

Publications and Quality

Shawn Aaron recently led a study which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 33 percent of adults recently diagnosed with asthma did not have active asthma. Over 90 percent of these patients were able to stop their asthma medications and remain safely off medication for one year. The study looked at 613 randomly selected patients and asthma was ruled out in a third of these patients. The study also found that in 49 percent of cases, physicians had not ordered the tests needed to confirm an asthma diagnosis Authors: Shawn Aaron, Sunita Mulpuru, Gonzalo Alvarez, Smita Pakhale…

Dar Dowlatshahi and his colleagues have recently published in PLOS ONE about a mobile tablet-based platform they have developed for stoke patients. The platform, believed to be the first of its kind, is called RecoverNow. It allows clinicians to select various publicly-available stroke recovery apps and monitor patients’ progress in real-time. Dr. Dowlatshahi and Karen Mallet recently tested RecoverNow in 30 patients. Patients used the tablet on average two hours per day, and 96 percent found it to be moderately to extremely convenient. The team is now conducting a second feasibility study using a new and improved RecoverNow for Android tablets, developed in collaboration with Julien Guerinet from Dr. Kumanan Wilson’s mHealth Research Team. The next step will be a randomized controlled trial.

Greg Knoll published in the American Journal of Transplantation about the research he led on the chances of getting a potentially life-saving kidney transplant and how this varies depending on where you live in Ontario. According to an article transplant rates across the province ranged from a low of 7.4 per cent of patients in one regional kidney care program, to a high of 31.4 per cent of patients in another. The research was based on data from between 2003 and 2013.

Rashmi Kothary’s group has published in Human Molecular Genetics about Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) which was traditionally thought of as a neuromuscular disease, may also affect the immune system. In mouse models, those with SMA had dramatically smaller spleens with an abnormal inner structure and SMA impaired the development of white blood cells called T-cells in the thymus. The team found they could prevent these defects from happening in mouse models by genetically introducing a human SMN gene. Further research is needed to see if these immune defects exist in SMA patients, and what the implications may be for treatment.

Glen Goss led a clinical trial that was recently published in The Lancet Oncology about a new kind of personalized therapy available for some patients with non-small cell lung cancer. Over the last 15 years, many of these patients have benefited greatly from drugs that target cancer-associated mutations in a gene called epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). But in most cases, further mutations eventually make the cancer resistant, leaving these patients with no standard effective therapy. The new trial, provides the most convincing evidence yet that a new drug called osimertinib can overcome this resistance. After treatment, 70 percent of patients experienced some tumour shrinkage (which lasted about a year) and three percent saw their tumours disappear. Although there was no placebo arm, historical data shows that this kind of advanced cancer typically progresses very rapidly.

Jim Dimitroulakos and his team have recently published in Neoplasia about a gene his team found called activating transcription factor 3 (ATF3) which plays an important role in driving tumour cell killing by platins. Combining platins with other drugs that increase ATF3 levels could lead to even more tumour cell killing, which could be a potential new combination approach to treating non-small cell lung cancer. The team will also test whether ATF3 can help identify platin-resistant tumours even before a patient receives treatment, so they can be directed to other therapies. Dr. Dimitroulakos and Dr. Goss hope to test this in patients, after further research. Authors: Theodore J. Perkins, David J. Stewart, Jim Dimitroulakos…


Harold Atkins was interviewed on CTV national news and on CFRA about stem cell transplantation for scleroderma. While this procedure has been studied in European scleroderma patients, Dr. Atkins and his colleagues are the first in Canada to try it, with promising preliminary results.

Kumanan Wilson was interviewed by the Hamilton Spectator about CanImmunize, a free, bilingual digital platform his team developed to help Canadians keep their immunization information at their fingertips. This was part of a five-part series on immunization, vaccine hesitancy and other challenges and opportunities in Canada’s immunization system.

Kumanan Wilson was interviewed by the Ottawa Citizen about how he teamed up with students from Algonquin College to create Immunity Warriors: Invasion of the Alien Zombies, a digital comic that is part Star Wars, part Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Wilson, got the idea for the comic while preparing a talk for his son’s Grade 6 class.

Ottawa researchers were highlighted in the Ottawa Citizen about cutting-edge research on cancer immunotherapy, thanks to five new peer-reviewed research grants from BioCanRx, worth $5.5 million. The new funding is part of a package of 16 grants awarded across the country. Two of the new projects involve genetically modified immune cells (called CAR-T cells), which have shown great promise in clinical trials in the United States and Europe. The new funding will allow researchers to manufacture CAR-T cells in Canada and developing an evidence-based, patient-centered protocol for a clinical trial. Two additional projects involve using viruses to create personalized vaccines to help the body’s immune system attack cancer. The final project involves improving the design, analysis and reporting of pre-clinical cancer immunotherapy studies, to help researchers efficiently and effectively translate their most promising discoveries into clinical trials. Principal and Key Investigators (local): Harold Atkins, Rebecca Auer, John Bell, Jean-Simon Diallo, Dean Fergusson, Natasha Kekre…

Jeffrey Turnbull was interviewed by CBC’s The Fifth Estate about Ottawa’s Managed Alcohol Program, which gives a regulated, hourly dose of wine to alcoholics to help manage their addiction and keep them safe.

Virginia Roth was part of a panel on TVO. On the agenda with Steve Paikin were the rights and responsibilities patients have, what the system is capable of delivering, but also what patients must do to improve daily interactions.

Chris MacEachern and others at the General Campus were thanked for their exceptional work recently in an Ottawa Citizen Letter to the Editor. The letter reads: “…I offer a special shout out to Chris MacEachern, Physician Assistant, who saved my life. His attention to detail and tenacity provided a link to the Toronto General Hospital and, fortunately, I was a recipient of a new liver in Toronto. If it hadn’t been for my stay on 5NE, I would not have made it to Toronto and the transplant.”

Peter Tanuseputro was interviewed by the Globe and Mail about feeding tubes in older patients with dementia, and his research on end-of-life care.

Peter Tanuseputro was interviewed by the Ottawa Citizen, The Globe and Mail, Yahoo news, and others media after he wrote a commentary in CMAJ on a study that found doctor-assisted suicide could save Canada up to $139 million each year. He stressed the need to improve access to palliative care.

Mark Freedman was interviewed by about stem cell transplantation for multiple sclerosis.

David Moher was interviewed by about predatory journals and steps that can be taken to guard against these.

Antoine Hakim will take part in a public panel discussion on dementia on Parliament Hill on Monday, January 30th. The event takes place from 2:00-4:00 p.m. in 160-S Centre Block.

Mark Clemons, Dean Fergusson, and John Hilton were recently interviewed by the Ottawa Sun regarding a need they saw to quickly study and assess different treatment options for breast cancer patients and include patients in the planning and assessment of what treatment option works best. A program called REaCT (for Rethinking Clinical Trails) allows patients who are enrolled to determine which treatment option is most effective. Dr. Fergusson said the team behind the research program is hoping to see it expand across Canada. “The ideal would be to identify 10 major sites in Canada to join us with at least half of their medical oncologists and general surgeons and oncology specialists on board. We would be revolutionizing cancer care worldwide.”

Duncan Stewart – A New Delhi clinic that has claimed to help paralyzed Canadians walk again by injecting them with stem cells now says it can use the same treatment to make children with Down syndrome “almost near normal.” The Ottawa Hospital’s Dr. Duncan Stewart, who is leading the first trial in the world of a genetically enhanced stem cell therapy for heart attack, says there’s a “remote” chance embryonic stem cells could help with Down syndrome. “But it’s a stretch.”

Duncan Stewart was interviewed about his research on stem cell therapy for septic shock, in partnership with Lauralyn McIntyre, for the Research2Reality blog.

Curtis Cooper was interviewed by Hepatitis News Today regarding HCV patients. “HCV patients with severe chronic kidney disease present a complex challenge for physicians to treat. This is particularly true in those with genotype 2 and 3 infection, and those with cirrhosis,” Dr. Curtis Cooper, said in a press release. “Recent clinical trial results are a positive development in AbbVie’s investigation of the G/P regimen for patients with chronic kidney disease, who currently have limited HCV treatment options.”

Curtis Cooper was quoted in Hepatitis News Today about a potential drug for patients with chronic hepatitis C that is receiving priority review from Health Canada.

Heather MacLean was interviewed by the Ottawa Citizen about the University of Ottawa’s new Academy for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies.

Claire Touchie was awarded The Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada President’s Award for Exemplary National Leadership in Academic Medicine, one of the most eminent recognitions of its kind in Canada for medical educators.

Alaa Rostom was interviewed by the Cornwall Standard-Freeholder about a touring 40-foot colon exhibit that aims to raise awareness about colorectal cancer and the importance of screening.


Smita Pakhale and her team have developed a study to identify the barriers to quitting smoking and to uncover what kind of help would work the best. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death, and about 96 percent of the city’s most marginalized, including people who are homeless, insecurely housed or multi-drug users, are smokers. “This is the toughest addiction, it’s the king of addictions” said Dr. Pakhale. “When you talk to these people, they really want to quit, and it’s not the first time they’ve tried.” Dr. Pakhale realized she needed an insider’s perspective to find the best way to deliver tobacco health care to this community. So with the help of trusted community member’s representative of the project’s target population, the.

Lana Castellucci and her American colleagues have been awarded US$14.8 million ($20 million Canadian) by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to test the safety and effectiveness of three blood thinners in a head-to-head trial. Most patients are prescribed warfarin however this requires them to have regular blood tests and watch for interactions with food and other medications. New drugs called rivaroxaban and apixaban reduce these problems and may have a lower risk of bleeding, but cost over $100 a month. The 60-centre clinical trial will definitively prove whether these new drugs are as safe or as effective as warfarin.

The uOttawa Faculty of Medicine’s Joan Sealy Trust for translational cancer research has awarded $200,000 for the following research projects:

  • Natasha Kekre (PI), Harold Atkins – Immune Response to Vaccinations in Stem Cell Transplant Recipients – co-investigators: Juthaporn Cowan, Harold Atkins.
  • Jim Dimitroulakos (PI) – Ottawa Tumour Tissue Resource Core Facility (OTTR). Co-investigators: John Bell, Christina Addison, Duncan Stewart, Ivan Litvinov, Glenwood Goss, Angel Arnaout, Mark Clemons, Michael Ong, Michael Vickers, Kayvan Amjadi, Avijit Chatterjee…

The Ottawa Hospital Academic Medical Organization (TOHAMO) has awarded a total of $100,000 to several research projects designed to improve quality of care and patient safety at The Ottawa Hospital. This year’s competition focused on patient experience (aligned with the TOH Patient Experience Performance indicator) and the Elizabeth & Mathew Policy. The successful DOM project is:

  • What Do Our Patients and Their Families Want? A Qualitative Study to Explore the Customers’ Perspectives to Improve Inpatient Geriatric Care (led by Dr. Shirley Huang)

Two research teams have received grants from the CIHR for planning, partnerships and knowledge dissemination. The grants are worth $10,000-$20,000 each. They include:

  • 4th Ottawa International Conference on Neuromuscular Disease and Biology. Principal Investigator: Dr. Robin Parks, Co-investigators: Drs. Jodi Warman Chardon, Bernard Jasmin and Rashmi Kothary
  • Reducing HIV Transmission and Improving Health Engagement Among Gay Men in Ontario. Principal Investigator: Dr. Paul MacPherson. 

Claire Touchie was awarded The Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada President’s Award for Exemplary National Leadership in Academic Medicine, one of the most eminent recognitions of its kind in Canada for medical educators.

Jeremy Grimshaw and his colleagues at The Ottawa Hospital’s Centre for Implementation Research have a new partnership with The Canadian Patient Safety Institute (CPSI). They will apply their knowledge of implementation and behavioural science to help increase the success of CPSI’s patient safety programs. The partnership is part of the CPSI’s SHIFT to Safety campaign, which aims to give patients, health-care providers and organizations the tools and resources they need to keep patients safe in a health-care setting.

The Faculty of Medicine recently hosted the Professorial Promotions and Awards Ceremony and formally recognized the following Department of Medicine 2016 professorial promotions.

  • New Full Professors include: Marjorie Brand, Hillel Finestone, Susan Dent, and Jeffrey Dilworth.
  • New Associate Professors include Thanh Nguyen, Dar Dowlatshahi, Debra Pugh, and Theodore Perkins.

Michael Schlossmacher and BioLegend Inc.’s Dr. Peggy Taylor were awarded $200,000 USD by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research to create research tools that can identify various forms of a specific brain protein that is involved in about half of young-onset Parkinson’s disease cases.

AFMC announces 2017 award winners. The DoM recipients of the 2017 AFMC awards celebrating excellence in medical education in Canada is:

  • Claire Touchie, AFMC President’s Award for Exemplary National Leadership in Academic Medicine. Join us as we celebrate her achievements during the AFMC Presidential Address and Awards Ceremony at the Canadian Conference in Medical Education (CCME) on April 30, 2017, 17:00, at the RBC Convention Center in Winnipeg, Manitoba.