Ottawa researchers bring in half of clinical trial awards from Stem Cell Network
Could stem cells help the body recover from septic shock, heart attack and liver transplantation? Researchers from The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa are now in a better position to answer these questions, thanks to $2.2 million in peer-reviewed awards from the Stem Cell Network. The funding will support three clinical trials, representing half of the trials funded in this national competition and nearly a quarter of the overall funds awarded.
Septic shock trial
Dr. Lauralyn McIntyre (of uOttawa and The Ottawa Hospital) and her colleagues* were awarded $1 million to lead the first multi-centre clinical trial of mesenchymal stem cell therapy for septic shock. This deadly condition occurs when an infection spreads throughout the body and over-activates the immune system, causing the heart and other organs to fail. The trial will involve 114 patients at 10 academic hospitals across Canada. Dr. McIntyre and her colleagues recently treated nine patients in a Phase I clinical trial of this therapy. Results will be published in the future.
Heart attack trial
Dr. Duncan Stewart (of uOttawa and The Ottawa Hospital) and his colleagues** were awarded $1 million to advance their world-first clinical trial of a genetically-enhanced stem cell therapy for heart attack. So far they have treated 29 patients in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto. The new funding will help them add additional trial sites and treat approximately 70 more patients.
Liver transplantation trial
Dr. Harold Atkins (of uOttawa and The Ottawa Hospital) and his colleagues*** were awarded $216,000 to see if a procedure involving stem cells may be able to prevent organ rejection in people who have had liver transplants. The procedure involves harvesting blood stem cells from a patient, destroying their immune system with strong chemotherapy, and then giving them back their own stem cells to grow a new immune system. The hope is that the new immune system will recognize the transplanted liver as part of the body, allowing the patient avoid the harsh drugs typically required to prevent organ rejection. The trial will involve 10 people. Dr. Atkins and his colleagues have used a similar procedure to treat auto-immune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and myasthenia gravis.
In addition, Dr. Jing Wang (of uOttawa and The Ottawa Hospital) is a co-investigator on a disease team award that aims to find ways to stimulate stem cells to repair the brain. This project is led by Dr. Freda Miller of SickKids, and was awarded $500,000. This project also has a clinical trial component.
These and other Stem Cell Network awards were announced by the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science for the Government of Canada and David McGuinty, Member of Parliament for Ottawa South, on November 24th at The Ottawa Hospital.
“Ottawa has become a world-leader in stem cell research thanks to a unique culture of collaboration between basic scientists and physicians, as well as experts in trial design and cell manufacturing,” said Dr. Duncan Stewart, professor at the University of Ottawa, Executive Vice-President of Research at The Ottawa Hospital and one of the award recipients. “Today’s funding brings us a big step closer to figuring out how to harness the incredible potential of stem cells to treat devastating diseases.”
“Federal government funding is essential to foster the development of promising health treatments,” said Dr. Mona Nemer, Vice-President, Research at the University of Ottawa. “Our researchers are demonstrating once again the practical applications of their work, and how it might benefit many Canadians in the near future.”
“We are a nation of leaders and innovators, it is in our DNA,” said Dr. Michael Rudnicki, OC, Scientific Director of the Stem Cell Network, professor at the University of Ottawa and Director of the Regenerative Medicine Program at The Ottawa Hospital. “The regenerative medicine research sector is fueled by stem cells and today it is at a tipping point, with the potential to see breakthroughs in our generation. I am thrilled that the Stem Cell Network is able to power the foundation of scientific excellence that exists within Canada’s universities, research hospitals and institutes.”
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Co-investigators and key collaborators
*Septic shock trial: Duncan Stewart, Shirley Mei Dean Fergusson, Kednapa Thavorn, Timothy Ramsay, David Courtman and Shane English (all of uOttawa and The Ottawa Hospital), John Marshall and Claudia dos Santos (both of St. Michael’s Hospital), Keith Walley (University of British Columbia), Brent Winston (University of Calgary), Alexis Turgeon (Université Laval), Geeta Mehta (Mount Sinai Hospital), Robert Green (Dalhousie University), Alison Fox-Robichaud (Hamilton Health Sciences), Margaret Herridge (University Health Network), John Granton (Women’s College Hospital), Paul Hébert (Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal).
**Heart attack trial: David Courtman (uOttawa and The Ottawa Hospital), Michael Kutryk (St. Michael’s Hospital), Chris Glover (University of Ottawa Heart Institute), Hung-Ly Quoc (Montreal Heart Institute).
***Liver transplantation trial: Gary Levy (University Health Network).
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The Stem Cell Network
Supporting and building Canada’s stem cell and regenerative medicine research sector has been the raison d'etre of the Stem Cell Network (SCN) since its inception in 2001. Its work has been supported by the Government of Canada from the beginning. SCN’s mandate is to act as a catalyst for enabling the translation of stem cell research into clinical applications, commercial products and public policy. In just over 15 years SCN has forged a national community that has transformed stem cell research in Canada, brought research to the point where regenerative medicine is changing clinical practice and established an outstanding international reputation. SCN has pushed the boundaries of what was a basic research area towards translational outcomes for the clinic and marketplace. www.stemcellnetwork.ca
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