April 22, 2013
British Columbia researchers are leading key projects for a new Canadian National Transplant Research Program announced today by the Government of Canada. The collaborative and uniquely integrated program aims to improve long-term survival and quality of life for transplant patients.
The new program is receiving $13.85 million in funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and other partners. Of this, $4 million will be directed towards the BC-led projects, including $1 million in funding from Genome British Columbia.
Vancouver scientist Dr. Megan Levings and Montreal scientist Dr. Denis-Claude Roy are leading clinical trials to reduce immune rejection of transplanted tissues. Currently, most transplant recipients have to take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives, and often with significant side effects such as graft-versus-host disease, heart problems, or cancer.
“We’re taking a technology developed in Montreal to improve stem cell transplantation and we’re applying it to kidney transplants to reduce the need for patients to take immune- suppressant drugs,” says Dr. Levings, scientist at the Child & Family Research Institute (CFRI) at BC Children’s Hospital, associate professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of British Columbia (UBC), and Canada Research Chair in Transplantation. “We’re also doing basic science research to develop a new cell-based therapy to prevent graft rejection for both stem cell and solid organ transplantation.”
“As a recipient of both kidney and pancreatic organ transplants, I am always grateful for receiving the gift of life. It is so important that people are working towards making the organ transplant process more effective and I know that, in the future, patients will reap the benefits of this research,” said Sally McKinstry, organ transplant recipient.
Clinical trials for this research project will be managed through the transplant programs at Vancouver General Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital.
Dr. Kirk Schultz, head of Childhood Cancer & Blood research at CFRI and professor, division of hematology and oncology in the UBC Department of Pediatrics, is leading a national core platform to support clinical trials, a national transplant registry effort and a national effort to link biological samples with patient outcomes. The registry data will enable researchers to develop better tests to identify the risk of rejection and infection, among other clinical applications.
“The development of the Canadian National Transplant Research Program is an important step in establishing a national network and building integrated resources for transplant patients,” said Dr. Alan Winter, President and CEO at Genome BC. “The potential outcomes of this will directly lead to a change in clinical care — and Genome BC is proud to support such important work.”
The new national program includes researchers from across Canada collaborating on six national research projects to improve clinical outcomes for transplant recipients, supported by three national core platforms. It is led by Dr. Lori West at the University of Alberta, and includes 105 researchers and 86 collaborators at 13 centres and universities in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, London, Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Fredericton, Halifax and St. John’s.
April 21-27 is National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week.
The BC-Led projects are:
- Project 4: “Translating strategies for immunomodulation and transplantation tolerance,” co-led by Dr. Megan Levings and Dr. Denis-Claude Roy
- Core 2: “Platforms supporting transplant correlative studies, database registries, training and interventional clinical trials” led by Dr. Kirk Schultz.
BC Co-Leads include:
- Dr. John Gill, Nephrologist at St Paul’s Hospital; and Associate Professor, UBC Division of Nephrology
- Bruce McManus MD, PhD, FRSC, FCAHS; Professor, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, UBC; Co-Director, Institute for Heart + Lung Health; CEO, NCE CECR Centre of Excellence for Prevention of Organ Failure
- Dr. Cynthia Toze, Hematologist, The Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program of BC, BC Cancer Agency; and Clinical Associate Professor, UBC Division of Hematology.