Hope despite aggressive skin cancer diagnosis

Hope because of scientists who never gave up; who were determined to turn the tables on cancer and to create a better chance of survival, for patients like Dan Collins.

Hope despite aggressive skin cancer diagnosis

Diagnosed with a stage 4 melanoma at the age of 62, Dan Collins feared for his life when he learned about the aggressive form of cancer. However, immunotherapy treatment gave him a reason to hold out hope. Dan had hope because of scientists who never gave up; who were determined to turn the tables on cancer and to create a better chance of survival, for patients like him. Hope that a cure is coming.

Discovery of a mass

Four years ago, Dan had been travelling for work, when he started noticing some pain when he’d lean his head back to rest on the plane. He recalls turning to his family doctor to get answers. An ultrasound revealed there was something inside the back of his head that looked like a cyst.

After an initial biopsy, Dan was referred to a surgeon at The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre. Another biopsy revealed the cyst was actually a mass. It was melanoma. “I was scared. Cancer had stripped my family of so much. I lost both of my two older brothers and my father to cancer. I feared for my life,” recalls Dan.

Unfortunately, the mass starting growing – and it was growing fast. By the end of July, just two months later, the mass went from being not visible on the back of his head, to the size of a golf ball.

His surgical oncologist, Dr. Stephanie Obaseki-Johnson, initially wanted to shrink the tumour before surgery to remove it. However, the mass was growing too quickly.

Oncologist Dr. Michael Ong of The Ottawa Hospital in a patient room.
Dan Collins with Oncologist Dr. Michael Ong.

Time to act

On August 11, 2015, Dan had surgery that lasted most of the day. When it was over, he had 25 staples and 38 stitches in the back of his head. As he recovered, Dan was reminded of a saying that helped him through recovery, “Never be ashamed of your scars. It just means you were stronger than whatever tried to hurt you.”

He would need that strength with the news that awaited him. Only two weeks later, the mass was back. His doctors also discovered a mass in his right lung and shadows in the lining of his belly. He had stage 4 cancer – it had metastasized. This was an aggressive cancer that left Dan thinking about the family he had already lost and what would happen to him.

The next generation of treatment

Soon, he was introduced to The Ottawa Hospital’s Dr. Michael Ong and was told about immunotherapy – the next generation of treatment, with the hope of one day eliminating traditional and sometimes harsh treatment like chemotherapy. Dr. Ong prescribed four high doses of immunotherapy. At the same time, radiation treatment began for Dan – 22 in all. His immunotherapy treatments were three weeks apart at the Cancer Centre and between each, he would have an x-ray to monitor the tumours.

“Each x-ray showed the tumours were getting smaller. That’s when the fear started shifting to hope.” – Dan Collins, patient

By December 2015, Dan finished immunotherapy treatment and the next step was to wait. “This transformational treatment was designed to train my own immune system to attack the cancer. We would have to be patient to see if my system would do just that,” says Dan.

While the shadows in Dan’s stomach lining had shrunk, the mass in his lung had not. That’s when Dr. Ong prescribed another immunotherapy drug that would require 24 treatments.

Dan learned from his oncologist that melanoma has gone from being an extremely lethal cancer, with few treatment options, to having many different effective therapies available.

“When I started as an oncologist a decade ago, melanoma was essentially untreatable. Only 25 percent would survive a year. Yet now, we can expect over three quarters of patients to be alive at one year. Many patients are cured of their metastatic cancer and come off treatment. We are now able to prevent 50 percent of high-risk melanoma from returning because of advances in immunotherapy,” says Dr. Ong.

Dan completed his last immunotherapy treatments in September 2017.

Oncologist Dr. Michael Ong posing with armed crossed at The Ottawa Hospital.
Oncologist Dr. Michael Ong of The Ottawa Hospital.

Today, there is no sign of cancer

When Dan thinks back to the day of his diagnosis, he remembers wondering if he was going to die. “I believe I’m here today because of research and because of those who have donated to research before me.”

He thinks back to when his older brother Rick died of cancer in 2007. “At the time he was treated, his doctor asked if he would participate in a research study. The doctor told him directly, this would not help him, but it would help somebody in the future.” Dan pauses to reflect and then continues, “I like to think, that maybe, he had a hand in helping me out today. Maybe he helped me survive. One thing I do know is that research was a game changer for me.”

The Ottawa Hospital has been a leader in bringing immunotherapy to patients. Research and life-changing treatments available at The Ottawa Hospital altered Dan’s outcome and he hopes that advancements will continue to have an impact on many more patients, not only here at home but right around the world.

To support life-saving research at The Ottawa Hospital that helps patients like Dan, please donate today.

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A race against the clock – Rare familial ALS gene triggers uncertain future

Karen Lawrence underwent genetic testing that revealed she carries a gene that causes ALS – a disease which took 14 members of her family. She fears, not only for the day she may develop the disease, but that she has passed on this gene to her three sons.

A race against the clock

Karen Lawrence is no stranger to helping those in need. After all, she’s a Clinical Manager of Oncology at The Ottawa Hospital. Her position, largely characterized as providing specialized treatment and care to some of the hospital’s most ailing, has taught her the value of advocating for those in need and raising money for critical research.

Now, sitting with the knowledge that her own body will soon start to deteriorate, she reflects on her life – and the future of her three boys.

An uncertain future

On January 27, 2014, Karen received the results of a genetic test, confirming one of her biggest fears. She is a carrier of a gene that causes amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – a rare disease that gradually paralyses people because their motor neurons, which send signals from the brain to the muscles, break down and die.

As she sits staring at an oversized clock mounted on her living room wall, it seems to take on more significance – each second that passes moves Karen toward her inevitable fate. Like so many family members before her, Karen will too develop the disease. It’s just a matter of time.

“My family has been stricken with the familial form of ALS,” she explains with a pained expression. “I have lost 14 members of my family to this devastating disease, including my father.”

Watching ALS render her father helpless, while keeping his mind intact, was a cruel reminder that today there is no fighting this disease. “There is little hope yet. Today, there is only pain and suffering. Facing an uncertain future, a cure can’t come soon enough,” says Karen.

 

Karen Lawrence sitting at the kitchen table in her home.
Results of a genetic test showed Karen Lawrence carries a gene that causes ALS.

Family ties

No one in Karen’s family realized it at the time. Several members of her extended family were diagnosed with ALS and passed before they connected the dots. It was only once her grandfather, uncle and father were diagnosed that the family started to talk about the fact that it was likely genetic. The women in her family, her aunt and cousins, were diagnosed in their 40’s. The men were diagnosed when they were a little older, but under the age of 60. Once diagnosed, most only survived 12-18 months.

With a 50/50 chance of having the gene, it was never far from Karen’s mind. “It’s like walking around with a target on your back. You’re just kind of waiting,” she said. And she was tired of it – the waiting. That’s when she got tested.

“It’s like walking around with a target on your back.” – Karen Lawrence

“When they told me I had the gene, I was very composed and held it together until I thought of my kids and then I started to cry. That’s when it really hit me. I potentially gave a terminal illness to my children. So that’s very difficult to live with.”

The race is on

When Karen found out that she had the gene, something as simple as dropping a pen, or a small stumble, would have her mind racing to the future.

Karen is aware that it’s just a matter of time before her brain will no longer be able to talk to her muscles. Eventually, she’ll have trouble with her balance, then she won’t be able to walk, then talk and then eat. But her mind will be intact, trapped within her body, while she waits for ALS to take her ability to breathe. Karen has a pretty clear idea of what this will look and feel like, having watched her father go through it just a few years ago.

So, how does she grapple with the thought of such a grim future? She runs – literally. And she raises a substantial amount of money in support of neuromuscular research and care while she’s at it.

Her first ever marathon was in Copenhagen and her second in New York City. More recently, she has participated in The Ottawa Hospital’s Run for a Reason, where alongside her team, she raised funds towards a brand-new Neuromuscular Centre right here in Ottawa.

“The race is on to fund research to find a cure, or to prevent onset before my three beautiful boys are faced with the same agonizing decision of whether to get tested.” – Karen Lawrence

Drs. Jodi Warman Chardon and Robin Parks were instrumental in establishing the NeuroMuscular Centre, which opened in 2018.
Drs. Jodi Warman Chardon and Robin Parks were instrumental in establishing the NeuroMuscular Centre, which opened in 2018.

 

Karen Lawrence, Clinical Manager of Oncology, standing in a hallway at The Ottawa Hospital
Karen Lawrence is the Clinical Manager of Oncology at The Ottawa Hospital.

 

A new Neuromuscular Centre

Thousands of people in eastern Ontario are affected by neuromuscular diseases. Until recently, patients had to travel to Montreal or Toronto to participate in clinical trials to help further research in these diseases. However, Dr. Jodi Warman Chardon noted that The Ottawa Hospital had more than 50 researchers and clinicians working on behalf of people like Karen. Each is working on various aspects of neuromuscular disease – from clinical care to lab research. There was no reason why the most promising clinical trials couldn’t be offered here in Ottawa.

Dr. Warman teamed up with Senior Scientist Dr. Robin Parks, who is conducting lab-based research on neuromuscular diseases. Their dream to have a centre that would bring these experts together in one place caught traction, and in May 2018, The Ottawa Hospital Neuromuscular Centre opened its doors to patients. “What’s exciting is it’s more than just a clinic. It’s a clinical research centre,” said Dr. Robin Parks. “So the idea is to do research and get results that will then feed back to the patient to provide insight into new therapies for them.”

Today, Ottawa is at the global epicenter of neuromuscular research. Equipped with the strongest neuroscience research team in the world, we are well positioned to discover new treatment options and cures, which will change patient outcomes worldwide.

“When a cure is found for this disease [ALS], the chances are it will be found in Ottawa,” said Duncan Stewart, Executive Vice President, Research, The Ottawa Hospital.

Zest for life

Karen does not yet have ALS, so she is not undergoing any treatment. But she remains hopeful that when she develops the disease, she will participate in the Neuromuscular Centre’s clinical trials and benefit from treatment developed at The Ottawa Hospital.

Until then, she tries to not dwell on what lies ahead and instead focuses on her hope for a healthy future for her boys.

“The Ottawa Hospital is a leading academic health, research and learning hospital proudly affiliated with the University of Ottawa.” 

The Ottawa Hospital Foundation is raising money for research that is revolutionizing the care we provide patients.

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Three innovative researchers honoured at The Ottawa Hospital Gala

It was a sold-out night at The Ottawa Hospital Gala, presented by First Avenue Investment Counsel, which recognized three innovative researchers.

OCTOBER 26, 2019 OTTAWA, ON – It was a sold-out night at The Ottawa Hospital Gala, presented by First Avenue Investment Counsel, which recognized three innovative researchers. The elegant ballroom of the Westin Hotel was transformed with exquisite décor and a delectable four-course meal, enjoyed by more than 700 guests. It also marked the final gala with Dr. Jack Kitts as President and CEO of The Ottawa Hospital, who will retire in 2020. Guests paid tribute to Dr. Kitts with a standing ovation for his dedication to providing compassionate and world-class care to the Ottawa community through his leadership since 2002.

The Ottawa Hospital Gala celebrated the transformational work of three researchers dedicated to improving care. Congratulations to this year’s three award winners:

Faizan Khan, recipient of the Worton Researcher in Training Award, recognized for his outstanding work on vein blood clots, including a recent British Medical Journal study establishing long-term risks and consequences of clot recurrence.

Dr. Marjorie Brand, recipient of the Chrétien Researcher of the Year Award, recognized for her groundbreaking discovery of how a blood stem cell decides whether to become a red blood cell or a platelet-forming cell.

Dr. Paul Albert, recipient of the Grimes Research Career Achievement Award, recognized for his leadership in Neuroscience, as well as his innovative work on what causes depression and how to treat it.

The Ottawa Hospital is recognized for its world-leading research that attracts internationally recognized scientists and clinicians from around the world. Tim Kluke, President and CEO of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, emphasized that it’s corporate and individual philanthropic gifts, which make that a reality. “We are privileged to have the support of a generous community which is helping this city advance research to find new hope for patients now and in the future.”

First Avenue Investment Counsel returned as the presenting sponsor of The Ottawa Hospital Gala this year. Kash Pashootan, CEO and Chief Investment Officer at First Avenue Investment Counsel, said it’s a partnership that aligns perfectly. “Innovative research is a necessary investment in the future of health care in our community and we’re proud to fulfill our duty to The Ottawa Hospital. At First Avenue Investment Counsel, we advise families on all aspects of their financial picture including managing their assets to ensure their secure future for them and future generations. Together, we’re laying the building blocks for the future.”

About The Ottawa Hospital: 

The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s largest learning and research hospitals, with more than 1,200 beds, 12,000 staff members and an annual budget of about approximately $1.3 billion.   

The focus on learning and research helps to develop new and innovative ways to treat patients and improve care. As a multi-campus hospital affiliated with the University of Ottawa, specialized care is delivered to the eastern Ontario region and the techniques and research discoveries are adopted around the world. The hospital engages the community at all levels to support our vision for better patient care.   

From the compassion of our people to the relentless pursuit of new discoveries, The Ottawa Hospital never stops seeking solutions to the most complex patient-centred care. For more information about The Ottawa Hospital, visit ohfoundation.ca.  

-30- 


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Local activist donor pledges $500,000 to take on cancer

Gavin Murphy is unwavering when it comes to his desire to maintain a world-class health care system in our city. As a result, he’s willing to step forward and be an activist donor.

Local activist donor pledges $500,000 to take on cancer

Gavin Murphy is unwavering when it comes to his desire to maintain a world-class health care system in our city. He’s unwilling to settle for anything less and he doesn’t think anyone in our community should either. Gavin believes each resident needs to play an active role in giving back, and that’s why this self-described “activist” donor is sharing his story – a story he hopes will lead to a cure for cancer.

This New Edinburgh resident has committed $500,000 to support the Radiation Medicine Program at The Ottawa Hospital – it’s what he wants his lasting legacy to be.

While the Ottawa lawyer isn’t looking for public recognition, he’s not shy about sharing the news of his gift as he hopes it will inspire others to do the same. “Scarce government resources requires those in a position to give significant gifts to step forward and support The Ottawa Hospital.” Gavin adds, “By giving serious thought to my philanthropy, I am hoping to help improve discovery and care for our families, friends, and neighbours.”

Gavin’s interest in cutting-edge research is what enticed him to make this tremendous gift to Radiation Medicine Program with the hope that findings will one day be published. He’s excited about the opportunities which lie ahead and the advancements that will be made.

 

“I want to give this money while I’m still alive. It’s great that people leave money in their estates, I think that’s wonderful but I want to see the fruits of my labour, in my lifetime.” – Gavin Murphy

 

 

Gavin Murphy takes pride in describing himself an activist donor.
Gavin Murphy takes pride in describing himself an activist donor.

It’s the fruits of his labour, which will leave his fingerprints on advancements in cancer care to help others in the future. For Gavin, that’s truly exciting. “I like the idea of funding new, innovative technology. It will leave a lasting legacy and this gift is providing the building blocks for future research in this field.”

Donor support is vital to providing doctors and researchers with state-of-the-art tools. It’s also what allows The Ottawa Hospital to be a trailblazer when it comes to transformational advancements. Dr. Miller MacPherson, the Head of Medical Physics at The Ottawa Hospital says, “It’s the generosity of donors like Gavin which allows The Ottawa Hospital to be innovative with new technologies. This support will provide insight for new discoveries and will have an impact on care through research and technology advancements in the field of cancer research.”
Dr. Jason Pantarotto, Head of Radiation Oncology at The Ottawa Hospital, echoes that sentiment, noting that donations to the Radiation Medicine Program are particularly precious. “Despite radiotherapy being a key treatment for nearly 5,000 cancer patients each year in Ottawa, the amount of research dollars available to improve the science is pretty sparse. We are extremely grateful to donors, such as Gavin, who see the benefits of investing in the team and equipment that exists here at The Ottawa Hospital.”

For Gavin, his ultimate goal is to help find a cure for cancer.

“This gift will provide a foundation to greater understanding of cancer and I hope it will help obliterate cancer sometime down the road.”- Gavin Murphy

The reality is The Ottawa Hospital will touch each person in our community in some way. For Gavin, that’s a good reason for not only himself but also for others to step forward. “If people want to be well looked after in a world-class system, we have to ensure a world-class system is maintained.”

The way Gavin sees it, we’ll all need The Ottawa Hospital at some point, and there’s a way for each person in our community to support it. “You need people who are in the position to give, and those who can give smaller amounts, in greater numbers to support the hospital equally.”

To be a donor like Gavin, supporting patient-centred care and life-saving research at The Ottawa Hospital, please donate.

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$2.21 million raised through community events in September for The Ottawa Hospital

September resulted in $2.21 million donated to The Ottawa Hospital as a direct result of community support – solidifying our city’s dedication to ensuring world-class care and research in eastern Ontario.

SEPTEMBER 25, 2019, OTTAWA, ON – September resulted in $2.21 million donated to The Ottawa Hospital as a direct result of community support – solidifying our city’s dedication to ensuring world-class care and research in eastern Ontario. Events including THE RIDE, powered by Mattamy Homes, the President’s Breakfast, golf tournaments, and community-inspired events, all contributed to this excellent example of dedication local residents have to The Ottawa Hospital.

The funds will directly support patient care and research at The Ottawa Hospital. Tim Kluke, President and CEO of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, said this is a perfect example of a community rallying to ensure doctors, researchers and nurses have the right tools to care for their patients. “Philanthropy takes many forms, and each of these special events embodies the important role The Ottawa Hospital plays in our city. We are grateful for all of the support and we never take it for granted,” said Kluke.

In many cases, community leaders stepped forward to support The Ottawa Hospital and called on their friends and colleagues to do the same. This was the case for Cyril Leeder and Janet McKeage who co-chaired the annual President’s Breakfast held earlier this month.

“Beyond the right tools and equipment, research is fundamental to the advancements in care we are seeing. It’s research which is allowing The Ottawa Hospital to be one of the best health-care centres in the country and it is the generosity of our community which makes that possible,” said Leeder.

McKeage echoed that sentiment, “Together, we have the capability to help push the boundaries when it comes to health care in our city.”

It is community support, which provides critical funds to help purchase equipment not funded by our tax dollars and helps fund the work of a researcher who has dedicated his or her life to finding a cure.

About The Ottawa Hospital:

The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s largest learning and research hospitals, with more than 1,200 beds, 12,000 staff members and an annual budget of about approximately $1.3 billion.

The focus on learning and research helps to develop new and innovative ways to treat patients and improve care. As a multi-campus hospital affiliated with the University of Ottawa, specialized care is delivered to the eastern Ontario region and the techniques and research discoveries are adopted around the world. The hospital engages the community at all levels to support our vision for better patient care.

From the compassion of our people to the relentless pursuit of new discoveries, The Ottawa Hospital never stops seeking solutions to the most complex patient-centered care. For more information about The Ottawa Hospital, visit ohfoundation.ca.

-30-


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30 years after treatment, leukemia survivor forever grateful

Robert Noseworthy was diagnosed with a childhood leukemia at the age of 30. This was rare for someone his age and his prognosis was grim. 30 years later, he gives back to cancer research with his grown children by his side.

30 years after treatment, leukemia survivor forever grateful

The importance of cancer research is not lost on Robert Noseworthy. He’s reminded of it every time he looks in the mirror.

Robert is a cancer survivor and not a day goes by that he doesn’t appreciate each moment he’s had to share with his two children, who are now adults.

On October 21, 1988, Robert was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia—a childhood leukemia. He was living in Montreal at the time with his young family, including Julianne who was 18 months old and his infant son, David.

A grim prognosis

“I was given a 13% chance of survival with 6 months to live. My doctor said it was very unusual for a 30-year-old to have a childhood leukemia,” says Robert.

And so, the cancer journey began for this father of two. It would include numerous rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, which put him into remission, but the journey didn’t end there. “In March 1989, I received a bone marrow transplant from my sister, who was a six-on-six match.”

Thanks to that match, Robert beat the odds. He gives full credit to cancer research as the reason he is alive today. It’s what has driven Robert and his family to become dedicated supporters of cancer research at The Ottawa Hospital. “That is my why. I do my small part and to raise funds for cancer research,” he says.

Robert Noseworthy with his daughter Julianne after they cycled 109 kms during THE RIDE on September 8, 2019.
Robert Noseworthy with his daughter Julianne after they cycled 109 kms during THE RIDE on September 8, 2019.

Time to give back

Giving back has been important to Robert. Each year, his family comes together to cycle and raise funds through THE RIDE, a cycling fundraiser. It’s also been important to him to instill that in his children as they grew up. “I received all this help but now it’s time to give back.”

For Julianne, giving back as a family to The Ottawa Hospital and advancing research has become just as important to her.

“If it wasn’t for cancer research and everything my dad had been through, we wouldn’t be the family that we are today,” says Julianne.

Glancing over at her father, with a smile, Julianne says, “My why is you.”

The way Robert sees it; he is alive because of the investment of others who came before him and he wants to be that hope for someone else battle cancer. “60 years ago someone invested in cancer research. 30 later, I was the beneficiary of that generosity and that’s why I’m here today.”

Your support will provide crucial funding to improve the care of patients in the future, just like Robert.

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Immunotherapy eradicates cop’s melanoma

Despite years of treatment to prevent recurrence of skin cancer, Ian McDonell’s melanoma –a disease that killed his brother– spread to his brain and body. In 2017, he started an innovative immunotherapy treatment. A year later, all scans showed his cancer was gone.

A melanoma diagnosis

The Ottawa Hospital, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, Ian McDonell
Ian McDonell received immunotherapy in 2017, which erased any trace of his melanoma.

Several years ago, Ian McDonell, a Staff Sergeant with the Ottawa Police and father of three had just lost his father to cancer and his brother was dying of melanoma. Ian’s wife insisted he see his physician to check out a mole on his back. It turned out to be an ulcerated nodular malignant melanoma – an aggressive form of skin cancer.

Ian had surgery to remove it along with a lymph node from his left groin. Several weeks later, he had a lymph node removed from his armpit. Following these surgeries, he had no signs of cancer, but due to his family’s history, Ian was at high risk for relapse.

Sobering news

Ian was feeling well, but during a standard monitoring visit in June 2017, his CT and MRI scans showed sobering news. He had half a dozen tumours in his groin and abdomen, and three more tumours metastasized to his brain. Ian’s cancer was stage 4.

Given the severity of the findings, Dr. Michel Ong at The Ottawa Hospital suggested an aggressive approach – a recently approved immunotherapy treatment.

Unmasking cancer

Scientists have tried for decades to stimulate the immune system to attack cancer cells. But the game-changer was the discovery that cancer cells make key molecules, called immune checkpoint proteins, that suppress immune cells and prevent them from attacking the cancer. These immune checkpoint proteins cloak the cancer from the immune system. New drugs called immune checkpoint inhibitors remove this cloak and allow immune cells called T-cells to naturally attack and destroy the cancer.

“The idea of chemotherapy is to kill off cancer directly,” said Dr. Ong. “There are potential side effects, because chemotherapy tries to poison the cancer.

“Immunotherapy does not directly affect the cancer itself. Instead, immunotherapy unmasks the cancer to your immune system by flipping some switches on T-cells, and the body’s own immune system does the rest.” – Dr. Michael Ong

Ian McDonell with his wife Michelle (left), and their daughters Kendra, Macy, and Ainsley, hiking in the Adirondack Mountains in 2019.
Ian McDonell with his wife Michelle (left), and their daughters, hiking in the Adirondack Mountains in 2019.

CyberKnife treatment

Ian started on a combination of two immunotherapies given intravenously in the chemotherapy unit at The Ottawa Hospital’s Cancer Centre. He also underwent CyberKnife radiotherapy treatment where high doses of radiation were directed at his brain tumours. He bravely continued with the second round of immunotherapy, but was so sick, he had to be taken off the treatment and started on steroid medications to slow down the immune system. Ian felt better, but his immunotherapy was on hold.

Shrinking tumours

When Ian began to develop weakness in his face, he worried his cancer was getting worse. It wasn’t. Scans showed one tumour had shrunk from 25 to 10 mm, and another had shrunk from eight to four mm.

Dr. Ong recommended trying a single immunotherapy rather than two, and while the treatment made Ian very sick, it did the trick.

Two months later, the results of a PET scan, MRI, and a CT scan showed that he was tumour-free. All trace of his cancer was gone.

Oncologist Dr. Michael Ong said recent immunotherapies are hugely successful for treating melanoma.
Oncologist Dr. Michael Ong said recent immunotherapies are hugely successful for treating melanoma.

Advances in immunotherapy

When Dr. Ong first met Ian in 2013, options for immunotherapy or targeted chemotherapy weren’t available. Thanks to incredible advances in immunotherapy, there is now hope.

“In the last few years, we’ve gone from having very poor options to having many effective options for melanoma. That’s because cancer therapy continues to develop at a very rapid pace,” said Dr. Ong. “We, at The Ottawa Hospital, are constantly participating in practice-changing clinical trials. The standard of care is constantly changing, as it should. We are continually trying to push the limits of cancer treatment.”

The Ottawa Hospital is a leader in cancer immunotherapy research, both in terms of developing new therapies and in offering experimental treatments to patients. Currently, there are approximately 70 active cancer immunotherapy clinical trials being conducted at the hospital involving nearly 700 patients. The hospital also hosts a national network for immunotherapy research and has developed a number of unique immunotherapies made directly of cells and viruses.

Hope for the future

Because of successful immunotherapy treatments, patients like Ian are now planning a future of living cancer-free.

“When the provincial exams for police services came up, I said, ‘I’m gonna write it, because I’ve got a bit of hope now.’” said Ian.

More importantly, in addition to his career plans, immunotherapy has allowed Ian to plan for the future with his family and a chance to watch his daughters grow up.

Hear more about oncologist Dr. Michael Ong’s work with immunotherapy.

To support life-saving research at The Ottawa Hospital that helps patients like Ian, please donate.

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Diagnosed with a stage 4 melanoma at the age of 62, Dan Collins feared for his life when he learned about the aggressive form of cancer. However, immunotherapy treatment gave him a reason to hold out hope.
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New brain surgery technique ‘perfectly’ restores patient Denis Paquette’s quality of life after a rare benign tumour threatens hearing.
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Unexpected breast cancer diagnosis leads patient down an uncertain path

“I walked through my darkest fears and came out the other side.”

It was a routine mammogram that turned Annette Gibbons’ world upside down. An unexpected breast cancer diagnosis sent her on a journey of treatment and uncertainty that required she place her complete trust in her medical team at The Ottawa Hospital.

An unexpected breast cancer diagnosis leads patient down an uncertain path

In July 2016, Annette Gibbons had a routine mammogram. She didn’t expect that day would become a pivotal moment in her life and lead to a breast cancer diagnosis. This unexpected news sent her on a journey of treatment, surgery, and uncertainty that required she place her complete trust in her medical team at The Ottawa Hospital for both her physical and emotional well-being.

Following the mammogram, Annette was told that she had dense tissue, which made it difficult to read the results. She wasn’t worried at all when she received a call to schedule another mammogram and ultrasound. But that all changed when her radiologist, Dr. Susan Peddle, gently told her that she thought it was cancer.

Annette, visibly emotional, recalls that fateful day. “Just like that, my life changed and I began my journey.”

The challenges of chemotherapy set in

Annette began chemotherapy treatment under the watchful eye of medical oncologist and scientist Dr. Mark Clemons. “He specializes in the type of cancer I had and is very active in clinical trials and research on leading-edge treatments and practices,” said Annette.

During these early days, she focussed solely on getting through the wear and tear of chemotherapy. She recalls that “it’s not anything you can truly prepare for, or understand, until you’re the patient…There was the depressing hair loss, the constant nausea, the searing bone pain and the mind-numbing fatigue. Despite all that, I still tried to keep my spirits up with exercise, a support group, and lots of old movies.”

 

 

 

Annette ringing the bell of hope following her final cancer treatment.
Annette ringing the bell of hope following her final cancer treatment.

Trusting her medical team

She also put her complete trust in her medical team and was determined to stay positive. “I knew the stats for survivability were fairly good and I looked forward to resuming my ‘normal life’.”

Little did she know that the next steps – mastectomy and radiation – would be tougher than chemotherapy. The surgery itself and healing had gone well. She credits her amazing surgeon, Dr. Erin Cordeiro, for her compassion and skill.

“She held my hand as I lay in the operating room preparing for the operation to begin.” – Annette Gibbons

“In the end,” Annette says with a little smile on her face, “she gave me, dare I say, the nicest, straightest surgery scar I have ever seen on anyone.”

Sobering news

Annette wouldn’t have the full picture of her cancer prognosis until pathology results came back on her tumour. Several weeks later she received alarming results from Dr. Cordeiro. It was devastating news. “She told me that my tumour was much bigger than first thought. They had found cancer in many of the lymph nodes they removed. I was not expecting that, it was a huge blow.”

As she tried to absorb this news, she sat down with Dr. Clemons a few days later and was dealt another blow. “He gave it to me straight: because of the tumour size and number of lymph nodes affected, my risk of recurrence was high.”

Compassionate care during a dark time

That’s when Annette’s world came crumbling down. She recalls spiralling down into a dark place. “It was very hard to crawl out of this place. But my medical team saw the signs and knew how to help me. My dedicated radiation oncologist, Dr. Jean-Michel Caudrelier, spotted my despair and referred me to the psychosocial oncology program. With the amazing help of Dr. Mamta Gautam, I walked through my deepest fears and came out the other side.”

Annette completed her radiation treatment and then slowly reclaimed her life. But as all cancer patients know, the fear of recurrence can be a constant companion. “I don’t know if that will ever change. But I decided to make it my friend who reminds me to think, not about dying, but about the importance of living while I am alive,” said Annette.

She’s grateful to know the best medical professionals were right here in her hometown when she was diagnosed. As a self-proclaimed “frequent flyer at the hospital”, Annette is proud to say she’s reclaimed her life — including her return to work. “I am myself again, and life is strangely somehow better than it was before.”

Your support will provide crucial funding to improve the care of patients, like Annette during their time of need.

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THE RIDE – celebrated 10 years raising $1.07 million

900 cyclists and volunteers came together Sunday and raised $1.07 million to support leading-edge research at The Ottawa Hospital. In ten years, THE RIDE, powered by Mattamy Homes, surpassed the $14 million mark.

SEPTEMBER 8, 2019, OTTAWA, ON – 900 cyclists and volunteers came together Sunday and raised $1.07 million to support leading-edge research at The Ottawa Hospital. In ten years, THE RIDE, powered by Mattamy Homes, surpassed the $14 million mark.

Tim Kluke, President and CEO of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, said the research advancements we’ve seen in the last ten years have been remarkable. “When you look at immunotherapy treatments and CAR-T cell therapy for cancer treatments to stem cell treatments for MS patients, support for research at The Ottawa Hospital has been truly transformational. The dedication we’ve seen from so many riders and volunteers over the past 10 years has been an incredible way to bring our community together.”

“The dedication we’ve seen from so many riders and volunteers over the past 10 years has been an incredible way to bring our community together.” Tim Kluke, President and CEO of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation

When it comes to inspiring our community to give back to The Ottawa Hospital, Mattamy Homes has been a true leader. Kevin O’Shea is Mattamy Homes Division President, “We not only take great pride being the title sponsor of THE RIDE, but we also participate as a team. It’s a positive way to promote health and wellness in our workplace, as well as, support our leading health care centre in eastern Ontario.”

Making THE RIDE come to life over ten years ago had a great deal to do with Robert Merkley, founder of Merkley Supply Ltd. The team captain of The Brick Peddlers, Merkley had a vision of bringing a phenomenal cycling fundraiser to Ottawa and he, along with Claude DesRosiers and Roger Greenberg, helped make it a reality. “I remember thinking to myself, if I was spearheading this new fundraiser for The Ottawa Hospital, I had better bring together a good, strong team. That’s how The Brick Peddlers came to life. I’m proud to say it’s the largest, most successful and most enthusiastic RIDE team.”

In addition to the 50KM closed route and the 109KM open road route, the 10th edition of THE RIDE also saw the inaugural Alinker one kilometre loop. Dozens of participants joined THE RIDE using the Alinker, a relatively new walk assist bike. These bikes give people with mobility challenges a chance to be a part of this vital fundraiser for research at The Ottawa Hospital – research which could potentially help them one day.

The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s largest learning and research hospitals, with more than 1,200 beds, 12,000 staff members and an annual budget of about approximately $1.3 billion.

Our focus on learning and research helps us develop new and innovative ways to treat patients and improve care. As a multi-campus hospital affiliated with the University of Ottawa, we deliver specialized care to the eastern Ontario region and our techniques and research discoveries are adopted around the world. We engage the community at all levels to support our vision for better patient care.

From the compassion of our people to the relentless pursuit of new discoveries, The Ottawa Hospital never stops seeking solutions to the most complex health-care challenges. For more information about The Ottawa Hospital, visit ohfoundation.ca.

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Media contact: Shelley McLean, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation; [email protected]; 613-324-4466


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Acute kidney injury and chronic kidney disease— newfound hope for treatment

Researchers at The Ottawa Hospital are working together to help prevent and treat acute kidney injury and chronic kidney disease.

Stem cell potential

Acute kidney injury affects one in five intensive care patients. A staggering fifty percent of those patients will not survive.

Doing the rounds of the intensive care unit several years ago, nephrologist Dr. Kevin Burns was struck by the number of patients with acute kidney injury. While they had come to intensive care for other serious illnesses, experiencing low blood pressure, shock, infections, blood loss after an operation, or needing to take certain medications, had injured their kidneys.

“Despite ongoing research in this area for over 60 years, there is no treatment,” said Dr. Burns. “Things have been tried to help the kidneys recover and absolutely nothing has worked to date.”

That is until now. Dr. Burns and his fellow researchers at The Ottawa Hospital Kidney Research Centre are uncovering ways to help kidneys recover from injury and to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Dr. Kevin Burns
Nephrologist and senior scientist Dr. Kevin Burns is investigating how stem cells could regenerate kidneys after acute kidney injury.

Chronic kidney disease – preventative research and early treatment

While exciting progress is being made in treating acute kidney injury, researchers at The Ottawa Hospital are also looking into ways to improve detection and treatment of chronic kidney disease.

“If we can catch the disease earlier, treatments will be more effective at preventing or delaying kidney failure. Any way that we can buy time and prevent or delay losing kidney function will be invaluable to patients,” said researcher Dr. Dylan Burger, a world expert laboratory scientist at The Ottawa Hospital’s Kidney Research Centre.

He is developing a diagnostic test that can predict if a person is at risk for developing kidney disease rather than relying on the current tests which show when it is already present, often at an advanced stage.

World-first technique for early detection

In the lab, Dr. Burger’s team looked at what happens at the cellular level when people start to develop kidney disease and identified microparticles as the problem. These are tiny pieces that come off a cell when it’s stressed or injured and are released into the blood or urine causing damage to the kidney.

In response to this finding, the team has developed a technique to count microparticles in urine. This technique, which is still in the research phase, allows any patient’s urine to be tested to accurately determine their risk for developing kidney disease.

The results of this approach have been published and it is now being used in approximately 20 different labs around the world. A standardized technique is being developed so that any lab in the world can use the same diagnostic test for patients.

Dr. Dylan Burger with student Ozgun Varol
World expert laboratory scientist Dr. Dylan Burger watches student researcher Ozgun Varol.

World-class expertise

These studies are only part of the kidney research taking place at the Ottawa Hospital. As one of Canada’s largest health research centres, researchers and clinicians have tremendous opportunity to learn from each other and work collaboratively to bring treatments from the lab to the bedside.

The expertise of these scientists, the quality of their kidney research, and the number of publications is attracting researchers from around the world. This level of excellence and a resolve to remain at the forefront of research and discovery will directly translate into improved treatment and outcomes for patients.

To learn more about the leading research of The Ottawa Hospital and the life-changing innovations that are improving patient lives, please click here.

Donate now to support research at the Ottawa Hospital.

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