Star recruit to run Ottawa’s first molecular oncology lab

Fundraising for state-of-the-art facility reaches halfway mark

OTTAWA – A new era of personalized cancer care begins this week as The Ottawa Hospital and the Eastern Ontario Regional Laboratory Association (EORLA) welcome a star research geneticist who will open Ottawa’s first lab devoted to treating and studying the genetics of cancer.

Dr. Bryan Lo, who most recently worked in the Department of Research at the biotechnology firm Genentech in San Francisco, California, will assume the position of Lead Scientist and Medical Director for The Ottawa Hospital’s Molecular Oncology Diagnostics Laboratory.

The new facility headed by Dr. Lo will function as a clinical diagnostic lab and a research lab. It will revolutionize cancer diagnosis and treatment by allowing health-care providers to analyze the genetic flaws inside tumour cells and tailor therapies to a patient’s individual type of cancer. This will improve cancer care by giving providers the ability to predict which drugs would work best for particular patients and which drugs would not benefit them at all. In addition, wait times for test results will decrease from weeks to days, since tissue samples will no longer have to be sent to other labs in Canada or the United States for the most sophisticated types of genetic testing.

"The lab signals a new era in personalized cancer care for this community," said Dr. Lo. “Molecular genetics is moving forward very quickly and generating a great quantity of information. In the near term, we’ll be using what is most relevant and applying it for an immediate potential impact on all cancer patients in the Eastern Ontario region.”

Research conducted in the lab will give our region’s patients access to the latest experimental cancer therapies before they are available elsewhere. It will be the third lab of its kind in Canada to use the most advanced genetic analysis technology – next generation sequencing – to analyze patterns from large groups of genes or proteins. The end goal is to improve the detection and control of cancer with more precise treatments customized for each patient.

The lab is currently housed in temporary space at the General Campus of The Ottawa Hospital, and a $3 million fundraising effort is well underway to build a permanent facility. The Ottawa Hospital Foundation has raised $1.5 million to date – the halfway mark– and will continue to rally the community to raise the remaining amount.

“This is a great opportunity to participate in building a molecular oncology diagnostics lab with the latest technology, from the ground up,” Dr. Lo said. “Ottawa is an amazing place because much of its medical, research and academic resources are in very close proximity, which is ideal for collaboration”.

Dr. Bryan Lo received his MD/PhD from the University of Toronto, followed by a medical genetics residency at the Hospital for Sick Children from 1999 to 2004. He was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Cell Biology at Yale University from 2005 to 2007 when he became a research fellow at Genentech, which is considered to be a pioneer in genetics-based medicine. “I’ve always had my eye on coming back to Canada with my wife - who is also Canadian and a medical doctor - and my children. It’s a chance to repatriate my whole family!”

The molecular lab is the result of a strong collaboration and partnership among The Ottawa Hospital, its research institute, the University of Ottawa and EORLA.  

“The partners are working together to develop the lab at The Ottawa Hospital  in step with the latest scientific developments in the world, bringing the region’s cancer patients the benefits of new approaches that are not yet widely used in Canada and other countries,” said Craig Ivany, CEO of EORLA.

“The new molecular oncology lab will bring the latest in cancer diagnosis and treatment to patients,” said Dr. Diponkar Banerjee, Chief of the Division of Anatomical Pathology at EORLA and The Ottawa Hospital, and Clinical Investigator at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. “But we won’t be content with the status quo. We will be working with our partner physicians, researchers and other scientists in the field to develop new approaches that will shape the future for cancer therapies for our community and beyond.”

Dr. Bryan Lo will be available for one-on-one media interviews to talk about his work at the Molecular lab beginning the week of July 21. Please contact Tracey Tong to set up an appointment at the time and location of your choosing.

The Ottawa Hospital is a multi-campus, academic health sciences centre, serving 1.3 million residents of Ottawa and Eastern Ontario,in English and French. It provides care for more patients than any other hospital in Canada, and boasts specialty centres in cancer, heart, kidney and vision care, as well as rehabilitation services. For more information, visit www.ottawahospital.on.ca.

The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI) is the research arm of The Ottawa Hospital and is an affiliated institute of the University of Ottawa, closely associated with the university’s Faculties of Medicine and Health Sciences. OHRI includes more than 1,700 scientists, clinical investigators, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and staff conducting research to improve the understanding, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of human disease.

The Ottawa Hospital Foundation’s mission is to inspire and enable people to support the highest quality health care at The Ottawa Hospital and lifesaving research at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. For more information, visit www.ohfoundation.ca.

The Eastern Ontario Regional Laboratory Association (EORLA) is a member-based, incorporated, not-for-profit organization delivering high quality, cost effective sustainable and safe medical laboratory services. EORLA membership comprises the 16 acute care hospitals within the Champlain LHIN.
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For more information, please contact:

Tracey Tong
Media Relations and Marketing Officer
The Ottawa Hospital Foundation
Tel: 613-798-5555, ext. 19816
trtong@toh.on.ca