Dec 2017 – Feb 2018 Kudos

Marjorie Brand and her team found a way to boost ECFCs’ repair ability in a study published in Stem Cell Reports. The team learned that blood vessel repair pathways are slowed down in ECFCs, and need to be activated by signals from the environment. Dr. Brand’s team was able to improve the repair ability ECFC’s by treating them with a combination of epigenetic drugs before transplanting them into an animal model with damaged blood vessels. These pre-treated ECFCs were better at migrating to the damaged area, and helping to form new blood vessel networks. The pre-treated ECFCs also restored blood flow in animal models much faster, which is important for saving organ function. DoM Authors: Michael A. Rudnicki, Marjorie Brand.

Dean Fergusson co-led a study which found that using lower hemoglobin thresholds to transfuse red blood cells during and after heart surgery is just as safe as using traditional thresholds. In the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, over 5,200 heart surgery patients were randomized to receive transfusions based on either a lower or higher hemoglobin threshold. There was no significant difference in the outcomes of these two groups after surgery. This could help reduce the amount of blood transfused and related health-care costs. DoM Authors: Drs. Fergusson, Verma S.

Tiago Mestre received a $197,000 New Investigator Award from the Physicians’ Services Incorporated Foundation to test a new model of care for people living with Parkinson’s disease. This project, called the Integrated Parkinson’s Care Network, was developed in collaboration with Dr. David Grimes. The doctors and their colleagues will implement and test a model that puts patients in charge of managing their condition and delivers care in one location. Patients will be paired with an easily-accessible expert nurse in a one-stop shop for people with Parkinson’s. This model has the potential to greatly improve patient care with little cost to the system by breaking down silos across Ontario’s health system. It will be tested and refined at The Ottawa Hospital’s Parkinson disease and Movement Disorders clinic, and may be introduced to multiple sites across Ontario and Canada in the future. DoM Authors: Tiago Mestre.

Mark Freedman, Jeremy Grimshaw and David Moher were recently ranked among the world’s top 3,300 “most influential scientific minds”. This puts them in the top 0.05 percent of the estimated 7.8 million full-time researchers worldwide. The list, compiled by Clarivate Analytix, is based on analyzing how often a given research paper is cited or referenced by other research papers. A large number of citations means a paper has had a great influence. Clarivate tracked researcher papers over 11 years in 21 fields of science. Dr. Freedman was recognized in neuroscience, while Dr. Grimshaw was recognized in social sciences. Dr. Moher was recognized in both clinical medicine and social sciences. Drs. Freedman, Grimshaw and Moher are all senior scientists at The Ottawa Hospital and professors at uOttawa. They are the only Ottawa-based scientists on the 2017 list, apart from a uOttawa chemist who passed away in 2009.

Kumanan Wilson and colleagues have made reporting your children’s vaccination records to public health authorities easier by allowing parents of children aged 15 and under to report immunizations directly to Ottawa Public Health using the CANImmunize App and BORN Ontario. Their latest study, published in Healthcare Quarterly, shows that Ottawa parents used mobile reporting to submit vaccination records for more than 2,500 children over the course of two years. Their findings suggest that mobile apps may provide more timely and comprehensive immunization data compared to traditional methods. This first-of-its-kind feature continues to be available in Ottawa and is accessed by downloading the free CANImmunize app on iOS and Android devices. Learn more about CANImmunize. DoM Authors: Kumanan Wilson.

Peter Tanuseputro and a colleague co-authored a publication in JAMA. They found that recent immigrants are more likely to die in ICU compared to other residents. The researchers studied the records of nearly 1 million Ontarians who died between 2004 and 2015. Of these, 47,500 had immigrated to Canada after 1985. These recent immigrants were more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit (24 percent vs 19 percent of long-standing residents), and were more likely to die there (15.6 percent vs 10 percent). Future research is needed to understand why this difference exists. The researchers suggest that individuals from different cultures may have different values about end-of-life care, or there may be barriers to having their wishes understood by health-care professionals. DoM Authors: Peter Tanuseputro.

A JAMA study co-authored by Department of Medicine Garth Nicholas shows that a wearable device that transmits low-intensity electrical fields into the brain can prolong survival in people with a highly aggressive form of brain cancer. The randomized trial included nearly 700 patients from around the world. This study confirms the previously published interim results, showing that people who received the electrical field therapy in addition to chemotherapy survived for 20.9 months compared to 16.0 months for those who received chemotherapy alone. Dr. Nicholas, who led the Canadian arm of the trial, told CTV National: “It is not a cure or as dramatic breakthrough that we would like, but it certainly can improve things for selected patients.” DoM Authors: Garth Nicholas.

Immunotherapy, which helps the body’s immune system attack cancer, has revolutionized treatment for cancers such as melanoma and leukemia. However, many other kinds of cancer remain resistant. A new study from John Bell’s group (led by Dr. Marie-Claude Bourgeois-Daigneault) suggests that a combination of two immunotherapies (oncolytic viruses and checkpoint inhibitors) could be much more successful in treating aggressive “triple negative” breast cancer. The researchers tested the Maraba virus and a checkpoint inhibitor together in models that mimic cancer spreading after surgery. They found that this combination cured 60 to 90 percent of the mice, compared to zero for the checkpoint inhibitor alone and 20 to 30 percent for the virus alone. Ongoing clinical trials are testing oncolytic viruses (including Maraba) in combination with checkpoint inhibitors in people with cancer. This study was featured on the cover of Science Translational Medicine, together with a similar study on brain cancer from another group. See media release. Share on Twitter or Facebook. The story was covered by the Ottawa Citizen, Radio Canada International, Vice Motherboard, Cancer Research UK, CTV Ottawa, 1310News and CFRA. DoM Authors: John Cameron Bell.

Researchers in Jonathan Angel’s team have discovered that the Maraba virus can target and destroy the kind of HIV-infected cells that standard antiretroviral therapies can’t reach. If this technique works in humans, it might possibly contribute to a cure for HIV. While daily medications keep the level of HIV virus in the blood low, there is currently no way to totally eliminate dormant HIV-infected cells in the body. Dr. Angel and his team tried a new approach of identifying these dormant cells by using the Maraba virus. This virus attacks cancer cells that have defects in their interferon pathway, which makes the cells more vulnerable to viruses. Dr. Angel and his team previously found that latently HIV-infected cells also have defects in this pathway. Using a number of laboratory models of latently HIV-infected cells, the researchers found that Maraba targeted and eliminated the infected cells, and left healthy cells unharmed. The story was covered by CBC News Ottawa, CBC Radio Ottawa, MD Magazine and NewsDay. DoM Authors: Jonathan B. Angel.

Juthaporn Cowan and Bill Cameron hope that their research will convince Canadians and their healthcare providers of the importance of the pneumococcal vaccine, especially for adults with weakened immune systems. Invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) is a serious infection of the blood or brain that affects about 3,000 Canadians every year, and about 1 in 5 affected people die. A routine vaccine for babies, the elderly and high-risk adults has been offered for more than a decade, but most adults have not received it. The research team looked at the medical records of all adults diagnosed with IPD at The Ottawa Hospital between 2013 and 2015. Of those they were able to measure, nearly a third had weakened immune systems (low antibody level) before their diagnosis, often linked to cancer or another chronic condition. The majority of these people had not received the pneumococcal vaccine. These findings show the need for vaccination and possibly antibody replacement therapy for at-risk populations. The team’s next steps are to find out how well the vaccine works in patients with weakened immune systems, and how cancer treatment might affect the vaccine response. See Clinical Infectious Diseases for details. DoM Authors: Juthaporn Cowan, Vicente Corrales-Medina, Donald William Cameron.

Researchers regularly make discoveries that have the potential to improve patient care and quality of life. However, getting those findings adopted by health-care systems can be a challenge. Researchers at The Ottawa Hospital are already world leaders in addressing this global challenge, and they are now poised to make an even greater impact with the launch of the hospital’s Centre for Implementation Research. The new Centre, which include 14 scientists, will redefine how research is translated into practice, with the goal of improving health both in Ottawa and around the world. “If we want to realize the full benefits of health research, we need to do a better job of implementing research findings,” said Jeremy Grimshaw, who leads the new centre. “This means using theories and best practices from fields such as psychology, sociology, economics and nursing to understand the barriers to research implementation and to develop and test solutions.”

Sepsis is a major cause of death and illness in newborns worldwide. It occurs when an infection spreads throughout the body and enters the bloodstream. A study led by Deshayne Fell, Steven Hawken and Kumanan Wilson found that blood spots routinely collected from all newborns may have the potential to help identify infants at risk of sepsis. The team linked newborn screening data with health databases to identify cases of sepsis among Ontario newborns between 2010 and 2015. Their findings suggest that sepsis is associated with certain factors already measured in blood spots, as well as with clinical variables, particularly among infants born at term or late preterm gestation. This novel approach may contribute to development of a test for the early diagnosis of newborn sepsis. See Nature’s Scientific Reports or OHRI website for details. DoM Authors: Kumanan Wilson.

Most Ontarians want to die at home, but nearly 70 per cent die in hospitals or long-term care facilities. A new study led by Dr. Peter Tanuseputro shows end-of-life care like doctor house calls or in-home palliative care could reduce the chance of dying in hospital by about 50 per cent. The study, which looked at medical records 264,755 deceased Ontarians, is the largest of its kind to show the effect of doctor home visits on where people die. The researchers found less than one in five Ontarians receive doctor house calls or palliative home care in their last year of life. “Our research points to the need for a structured palliative care strategy across the province to ensure people have a choice of dying in their homes, and not in hospitals, if they wish. As it stands now, who can access home palliative care really varies across Ontario.” The study, which used data from ICES, was published in PLOS ONE. See media release, Ottawa Citizen, CBC Radio Ottawa and CBC website. DoM Authors: Peter Tanuseputro, Douglas G Manuel.

Marc Rodger, Marc Carrier, Phil Wells, Sadri Bazarjani and Gregoire Le Gal recently published in Thrombosis Research on Residual pulmonary embolism as a predictor for recurrence after a first unprovoked episode. The optimal duration of oral anticoagulant therapy after a first, unprovoked venous thromboembolism is controversial due to tightly balanced risks and benefits of indefinite anticoagulation. The results found that residual pulmonary embolism assessed by pulmonary vascular obstruction on baseline ventilation-perfusion performed after 5-7 months of oral anticoagulant therapy for the first episode of unprovoked pulmonary embolism was associated with a statistically significant higher risk of subsequent recurrent venous thromboembolism. Percentage of pulmonary vascular obstruction assessment by ventilation-perfusion scans maybe a useful tool to help guide the duration of oral anticoagulant therapy after a first unprovoked pulmonary embolism.

Grant Announcements – Principle Investigators in the Department of Medicine

  • Infrastructure to Support the Discovery and Development of Innovative Viroceuticals ($1.9 million, Ontario Research Fund (provincial match to previously announced CFI funding)). Principal Investigator: John Bell
  • Impact of a Goal-Directed COPD Care Model on Clinical and Patient-Reported Outcomes: A Pilot Feasibility Study ($47,000, The Lung Association). Principal Investigator: Sunita Mulpuru
  • Diagnostic Utility of Muscle MR Imaging in Genetic Myopathies ($45,000, Muscular Dystrophy Association Canada). Principal Investigator: Jodi Warman Chardon
  • Blood Pressure Measurement: Should Technique Define Targets? ($45,000, Physicians’ Services Incorporated Foundation). Principal Investigator: Marcel Ruzicka
  • ICF Core Sets for ANCA-Associated Vasculitis ($20,000, Vasculitis Foundation) Principal Investigator: Nataliya Milman
  • Measuring development of competency with the Ontario Bronchoscopy Assessment Tool ($11,300, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons). Principal Investigator: Voduc Nha


CIHR Grant Announcements – Principle Investigators in the Department of Medicine

  • Leukemia: Identifying new molecular targets to prevent and treat relapse. Principal Investigator: Marjorie Brand
  • Kidney disease: Could cell fragments from umbilical cord blood treat acute kidney injury? Principal Investigator: Kevin Burns
  • Spinal muscular atrophy: Investigating an unexpected connection with the immune system. Principal Investigator: Rashmi Kothary
  • Muscle cancer: Understanding how a badly repaired gene causes rhabdomyosarcoma in children. Principal Investigator: Lynn Megeney
  • Health among homeless: A holistic approach to improve quality of life among homeless people (and those at risk for homelessness), incorporating e-cigarettes to manage tobacco dependence. Principal Investigator: Smita Pakhale
  • Stakeholder engagement: Identifying how and when to engage stakeholders in the development of health guidelines. Principal Investigator: Peter Tugwell


Douglas McKim was interviewed about the CanVent Program for The Ottawa Hospital’s You’re in my Care series. CanVent has pioneered the development of a non-invasive mouthpiece to help patients with neuromuscular disorders breathe more easily. “Every patient who is on a mouthpiece, versus the tracheostomy, is probably saving the health-care system $200,000 a year,” said Dr. McKim.

Paul Wheatley-Price was interviewed by the Ottawa Citizen about advances in lung cancer research and screening, as well as the stigma associated with the disease. The interview was part of a feature story on a young woman with lung cancer.

Xinni Song was interviewed by the Ottawa Citizen about the challenge some patients face in getting access to new immunotherapy treatments.

Guy Trudel was interviewed by Le Devoir about his research to better understand how living in space affects astronauts’ bone marrow health, and how the marrow recovers after returning to Earth. His research was also mentioned by, SpaceRef, and Space Fellowship.

Antoine Hakim was featured on Global National, as part of a roundup of its 2017 Everyday Heroes.

Shawn Aaron was interviewed by Reuters about research from another group, looking at a possible relationship between long-acting COPD inhalers and heart attacks and strokes.

Kumanan Wilson wrote an opinion piece in the Ottawa Citizen, likening the key role of railways in Canada’s original confederation to the role of digital technology in the “Confederation of Tomorrow.” He discussed CANImmunize as one example of creating “a digital dialogue between citizens and government.”

Smita Pakhale was interviewed by CBC Ottawa about a clinical trial she is planning to see if e-cigarettes may be able to help low-income populations quit or reduce their traditional smoking. The study will be conducted at The Bridge in downtown Ottawa, using a model of community-based participatory research. She was also interviewed by CBC Ottawa News, the Ottawa Citizen, Global Toronto Radio, CBC Radio All in a Day, CBC Ottawa News at 6, CBC Toronto and CBC Metro Morning Live about a study that showed the feasibility of implementing a community-led program to reduce tobacco dependence in inner city areas. Toronto collaborators hope to repeat the results of her project in Ottawa that helped individuals living in poverty cut back on smoking. In addition, Smita was interviewed by Global News about how addictive tobacco can be, after a study from another institution showed that at least three out of five people who try a cigarette for the first time become daily smokers.

Garth Nicholas was interviewed by the Ottawa Citizen about a wearable device that transmits low-intensity electrical fields into the brain. Dr. Nicholas led the Canadian arm of a trial that showed the device improved survival in people with brain cancer.

Gonzalo Alverez’s research to help eliminate tuberculosis among Canada’s Inuit was mentioned in the Nunatsiaq news.

Jennifer Beecker was interviewed by CBC TV Our Ottawa about the skin condition psoriasis.

The Champlain BASE e-consult program, created by Clare Liddy and Erin Keely, was featured on CBC News. The program reduces wait times and unnecessary referrals, and has now been shown to work with children as well as adult patients. Drs Liddy and Keely also wrote opinion pieces in the Ottawa Citizen and the Hill Times on how to get good health-care ideas beyond the pilot phase, using their eConsult system as an example.

Susan Dent was a co-author on a scientific statement from the American Heart Association that was featured on CNN and CTV National. It showed that breast cancer treatments can have a negative impact on heart health.

Manoj Lalu and Natasha Kekre were interviewed by Pembina Valley Online about their research towards a feasible and cost-effective way of making CAR-T therapy for cancer available in Canada.

Michael Rudnicki wrote an opinion piece in the Hill Times about the need for government funding for research, particularly stem cell research.

Kumanan Wilson was interviewed by the Toronto Star about the challenges of keeping vaccinations up to date in the current paper record system, and how his team is working on digital solutions.