Three years ago, Sandy Patenaude was given the devastating news that she had stage 4 colorectal cancer. It had spread to her liver and lungs, and was inoperable. Sandy’s oncologist asked if she would like to go on a clinical trial, testing a new cancer stem cell inhibitor drug along with her chemotherapy.

“Cancer stem cell inhibitors, why not?” said Sandy who agreed to be part of the trial.

Dr. Derek Jonker, Medical Oncologist at The Ottawa Hospital, is leading the international trial for people with colorectal cancer, with the experimental drug napabucasin. He explained that cancer stem cells are the rare, immature cells in a tumour, which are often resistant to chemotherapy. They can give rise to the more mature cancer cells that make up the bulk of a tumour. Cancer stem cells are not the same as the normal stem cells that live in many healthy adult tissues and help with healing and repair.

“With chemotherapy, we can deliver treatment that can shrink the vast part of the cancer,” said Dr. Jonker, who is also an associate professor at the University of Ottawa. “Often the bulk of the tumour disappears, but what’s left is a small tumour with lots of these chemo-resistant cancer stem cells, which are able to spread and seed other places in the body. Often, we keep giving the same chemotherapy and find the tumour has regrown, but it’s not the same tumour it was when we started.”

Dr. Derek Jonker
Dr. Derek Jonker led a clinical trial for colorectal cancer with a cancer stem cell inhibiting drug that has helped Sandy Patenaude.

Dr. Jonker is switching up the treatment to target the  cancer stem  cells that aren’t affected by standard chemo. In a previous randomized  clinical  trial he led , patients either  received a placebo or  napabucasin  to test its effectiveness at  inhibiting, or preventing,  the growth of the  cancer stem cells. The trial was carried out at  40  sites in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. The  562  patients enrolled had advanced colorectal cancer  and chemotherapy no longer worked for them.

Looking at the results of the trial, Dr. Jonker said  they didn’t see much benefit in the group overall. “But when we looked at patients who had a  tumour  that  had characteristics of a high cancer stem cell (phospho-STAT3) over expression there was very significant improvement in their survival.”

Dr. Jonker presented his findings in October 2016 at the European Society for Medical Oncology, showing that where the cancer stem cell inhibitor didn’t work in all patients, there was an improvement in the survival of the 22 percent of patients who had  tumours  with high phospho-STAT3.  He said it’s “proof of principle that stem cells are an important target for cancer patients.” Napabucasin is now being combined in the  current trial  with chemotherapy to attack the cancer on two fronts  at the same time.

“We know  with results of the clinical trial that  the majority of  patients did not respond to it, but we have two patients here in Ottawa who  have responded and definitely developed benefit from the clinical agent,” said  medical oncologist Dr. Christine Cripps.

I thought I’d be part of the trial, because I thought well, it’s new.”

Sandy is one of those patients who benefited.  Her tumours shrank,  and the surgeons were able to remove spots in her liver and the primary  tumour in her rectum.  Dr. Cripps said she believes that part of the success in keeping Sandy’s cancer at bay is the napabucasin she is taking as part of  the  clinical trial.

“A stem cell inhibitor works differently than traditional chemotherapy, in that it prevents new disease from  appearing,” said  Saara  Ali, research coordinator for clinical trials in gastrointestinal cancers. “The hope is that the pill [napabucasin] will prevent new disease from showing. And in Sandy’s case there hasn’t been new disease  since her treatment. Everything was there before, so it may be doing its job.”

Next steps: Dr. Jonker hopes to start  another clinical trial with the cancer stem cell inhibitor that will be used specifically for patients who have lots of phospho-STAT3 in their  tumour. These patients could be identified for the clinical trial with molecular testing, using The Ottawa Hospital’s Molecular Oncology Diagnostics lab.  This would target the patients presumed to be the most likely to benefit most from the drug.

“We would repeat our study, randomize those patients with  napabucasin  and a placebo, and if we can prove that  napabucasin is effective for them, then it would be an option for patients who have run out of all other treatment options,” said Dr. Jonker.

Dr. Cripps said that Sandy is a candidate for this next trial,  and her tumours  will be analyzed by the molecular lab to see  whether she has high phospho-STAT3 cancer stem cell expression. Regardless, Sandy will continue using the trial drug as long as it is working for her. And it is working. The mother of three adult children said  she’s busy doing a million things, playing euchre, the ukulele, skiing, hiking, biking, and enjoying life.

A strange thing happened before John Chafe started working in Kenora in 1993. His eyes crossed. He didn’t know it at the time, but it was the first sign of a debilitating disease that would change the course of his life forever.

His family doctor told him he had the flu and prescribed antibiotics. But after a week, when his eyes remained crossed, he bought an eye patch and drove five hours from Thunder Bay to fill the temporary posting at a bank in Kenora. A week later, his eyes straightened and returned to normal. But then other symptoms started appearing, he was losing his balance and couldn’t walk in a straight line.

“I then started have difficulties walking straight. I completely failed a simple balance beam experiment at the Ontario Science Centre,” said John. “I mentioned these symptoms to a friend, who mentioned them to a friend, who fortunately happened to be Dr. Heather MacLean, a neurologist at The Ottawa Hospital.”

To Dr. MacLean, John’s symptoms sounded like multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks its own central nervous system, brain, and spinal cord. John needed an MRI and spinal tap to properly diagnose his symptoms. The results were analyzed by Dr. Mark Freedman, Director, Multiple Sclerosis Research Unit, Neurology, who confirmed his diagnosis. John had an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis.

John Chafe skiing
John Chafe skiing at Blackcomb just after diagnosis in 1994.

A different life after MS diagnosis

Incredibly interested in rock climbing and skiing, John didn’t give up his active lifestyle after his diagnosis, despite the fact that he was experiencing MS exacerbations – an attack that causes new MS symptoms, or worsens old symptoms – every eight months. He returned to Thunder Bay and opened a rock-climbing gym, thinking, “MS is not going to affect me.”

But it did. It completely sidetracked his life.

After suffering another MS exacerbation, John realized it was becoming more difficult for him to get out to see clients for financial planning sessions.

“I was stumbling along and thought, ‘How can I ask them to trust me with their money?’ My MS was getting worse and worse,” said John. “I needed a desk job, so I went into computer programming.”

His treatments weren’t helping. He needed a miracle. So he moved to Ottawa to be close to The Ottawa Hospital where we could receive the very best treatment.

Leading-edge clinical trial in Ottawa

Dr. Harold Atkins and Dr. Mark Freedman
Dr. Harold Atkins and Dr. Mark Freedman conducted an innovative stem cell treatment for MS that has halted the disease in over 50 patients

One day, John heard Dr. Freedman on the radio talking about an innovative stem cell transplant study that he described as akin to pressing reboot on the immune system. Dr. Freedman was working with hematologist and scientist Dr. Harold Atkins, a professor of medicine at University of Ottawa, to see if a groundbreaking treatment would halt an aggressive form of MS.

When John met with Dr. Freedman, he told him he was interested in participating in this new study. Dr. Freedman agreed he might be a good candidate because he was young, generally healthy, and his symptoms were quickly getting worse.

“If you saw his trajectory, how fast he was becoming disabled going into the transplant.  He should’ve been completely wheelchair bound, or worse, within two to three years,” said Dr Freedman.

John was willing to try an experimental treatment that had the potential to change that trajectory. “MS robbed me of my ability to climb, ski, and walk. I said, ‘I’m going to take a chance.’”

“John was very enthusiastic. That was a very important facet of his recovery,” said Dr. Freedman. “John has never been a quitter. He’s a stubborn guy. His goal was someday to end up on the ski hill again.”

Preparing for treatment

For almost a year, John underwent the exhaustive testing by Dr. Atkins and Marjorie Bowman, the bone marrow transplant nurse, to see if he was physically and mentally suitable for the clinical trial. They wanted to ensure he was prepared to go through the intensive trial treatment and accept the risks, which included death.

“This is fundamentally different than every other treatment,” said Dr. Atkins. “What we’re doing is getting rid of the old immune system and creating a new one that behaves more appropriately.”

“MS robbed me of my ability to climb, ski, and walk. I said ‘I’m going to take a chance.’”

— John Chafe

Replacing his immune system was a rigorous procedure.  John would undergo intensive chemotherapy to help eliminate his immune system.  In November 2001, he was given a dose of chemotherapy to stimulate and move his stem cells into his blood stream.  These stem cells were then collected and cleansed of any traces of MS.

A month later, John was given huge doses of chemo in an attempt to destroy his immune system and started getting weaker and weaker.  On December 13, 2001, after the chemo had wiped out his immune system, John had the cleansed stem cells re-infused by an intravenous  drip.

“I didn’t feel better immediately,” said John, who was only the second patient in the world to undergo a stem-cell transplant of this kind for multiple sclerosis.  “But I started getting stronger in the days following, so much so that Dr.  Atkins released me on Christmas Eve.” He spent three months living with his parents while he recuperated. By spring, he was ready to move back into his own home again.

John Chafe rock climbing
John Chafe rock climbing outside Thunder Bay in 1994 after his MS diagnosis.

Groundbreaking research in Ottawa

Dr. Freedman said that he and Dr. Atkins had anticipated that by rebooting MS patients’ immune systems, they fully expected the disease was going to restart.

“At that time, genetic researchers said, ‘If people are genetically prone to develop MS, there’s nothing you can do to stop it. They’re going to keep redeveloping MS,’” said Dr. Freedman. “If that was true, it would be a matter of time before people started having active disease again.”

Dr. Freedman explained that nobody knows what causes MS. He and Dr. Harold Atkins hoped that through the trial they could reboot a patient’s immune system and monitor it with all the latest immune system  monitoring  and imaging technology, and then watch as the disease restarted and discover the  secret of what triggers MS. However, none of the 24 patients in the trial developed new symptoms of MS again.

“In that respect, the trial was a failure. It halted their disease and in some cases their disabilities went away too,” said Dr. Freedman. “We’ve followed these patients for 18 years, and nobody’s developed anything.”

“Those patients at the beginning, like John, are probably the bravest because there were more unknowns about the treatment,” said Dr. Atkins. “Each patient we’ve treated over the years has taught us something, but we learned more from the early patients at that time.”

A second chance at life

Prior to his stem cell transplant, John had a final exacerbation, which crippled him. After the transplant, his MS did not return. John remained healthy, but the damage caused by the disease wasn’t reversed and he still walks using a cane and walker.

“You almost wonder what would’ve happened to John if he’d had the transplant five years earlier,” said Dr. Freedman. “Today, when we see a patient that has the same profile as John’s, we offer them the stem cell treatment. We’re not waiting years. We’ve become more savvy, able to pick out individuals who warrant this aggressive approach.”

About 77,000 Canadians live with MS. However, only five percent of patients with MS warrant a stem cell transplant. They are generally young and have the most aggressive and debilitating forms of the disease.

After his transplant, nothing was going to hold John back. Three years later, he met Patricia, and they married in 2005. Five years later, his beautiful daughter Mary was born.

John Chafe with his daughter Mary and wife Patricia
John Chafe with his daughter Mary and wife Patricia in 2013.

“I recall that as Mary started moving more, she motivated me to get more active again. She became my personal trainer,” said John. “I joined the Canadian Association of Disabled Skiing. I was terrible at first because I didn’t have the strength. But I’m stubborn and refused to give up, and today I can ski independently for hours – albeit with outriggers for balance.”

“I saw John a few years ago. The problem with this business is patients get better and so I don’t see them much afterwards,” said Dr. Atkins. “I do remember him showing me pictures of his young baby, and pictures of him on the ski slope. It is exciting to hear that people can have these treatments and go skiing again.”

John Chafe skiing with his family
John Chafe, Mary and Patricia skiing at Edelweiss in 2016.

“I’m not a bank president, but my life is better than incredible. I ski, I dance with my wife, and have an nine-year-old daughter. Because Dr. Freedman and Dr. Atkins were persistent about finding the answers to stop a disease like MS, they saved my life.”

— John Chafe

The following video focuses on Jennifer Molson who was also one of the early patients on the MS clinical trial, and includes interviews with Drs. Atkins and Freedman.

Imagine not being able to control a trembling in your hands and limbs, the inability to speak loudly, losing your sense of smell, dealing with unexplained pains. Unfortunately, these are just a few of the symptoms affecting Parkinson’s disease patients every day.

More than 100,000 Canadians live with Parkinson’s, including 8,000 here in Ottawa. Parkinson’s is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that primarily affects voluntary, controlled movement. The exact cause of the disease is unknown. Discovered almost 200 years ago, there is still no cure or proven treatment available to slow its relentless progression. People can develop Parkinson’s disease at any time in their life.

“Our society will be faced with many more patients with Parkinson’s over the decades to come. In many ways Parkinson’s is complicated and also complex. I strongly believe that although it’s complex and complicated, we can solve that riddle. We have the expertise in Canada to make a major contribution to a cure for this disease.” – Dr. Michael Schlossmacher, Senior Scientist, The Ottawa Hospital Canada Research Chair in Parkinson Disease and Translational Neuroscience

PIPR logo in red on white background

Partners Investing in Parkinson Research (PIPR)

In 2009, a group of investment advisors from the Ottawa financial community formed Partners Investing in Parkinson Research (PIPR). The group set an original goal of raising $500,000 in support of research to better understand and diagnose Parkinson’s. Since then, PIPR has expanded to include many individuals and families affected by Parkinson’s who are committed to supporting research, and has raised over $1.4 million.

Co-chaired by Andrew Frank of RBC Dominion Securities and Kim Teron of Teron Inc., PIPR members reach out to the community at large to raise vital funds to support leading edge Parkinson Research at The Ottawa Hospital.

PIPR has provided important base funding to the scientists, allowing them to leverage further grants. The advancements have been impressive. PIPR has not only helped to fund research for the treatment and cure of Parkinson’s disease, it has galvanized the community to support the cause that previously received little attention. Above all, the PIPR team has given hope to those who live with this unremitting disease.

“Parkinson’s Disease had already been part of our lives for over 20 years, so how could we not get involved? Raising funds for research was the obvious action, but fundraising at first seemed daunting. We soon learned that our family, friends, neighbours, and colleagues all wanted to help – they just needed to be asked. But our group has become more than fundraising – we have become an extended family, supporting each other as we faced many of the same challenges dealing with this disease as well as sharing all of the same fears and hopes.” – Bobbie Driscoll, PIPR co-founder

PIPR is always open to new members and encourages anyone interested to join! For more information, contact Erin Pickering at epickering@toh.ca

Learn more about PIPR and hear about some of the exciting research advancements on  Episode 34 of Pulse, featuring Dr. Julianna Tomlinson and Kim Teron.

In 2021, team PIPR is aiming to raise $100,000 to support Parkinson’s Research at The Ottawa Hospital. Click on the button to learn more and support their efforts.

Parkinson Research at The Ottawa Hospital

Researchers at The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa came together in 2004 to form the Parkinson Research Consortium under the leadership of Dr. David Grimes and Dr. Michael Schlossmacher. The consortium brings together clinicians and scientists from various disciplines to improve our understanding of Parkinson’s disease, conduct novel and innovative research, and develop new treatment options, with the ultimate goal of developing a cure.

Parkinson Research Update – Read more (PDF)

Recent Milestones

  • Developments in understanding how genes contribute to onset and progression of the disease.
  • Development of innovative therapeutic strategies including targeted gene therapy.
  • Development of an experimental spinal fluid test to improved diagnosis.
  • Discovery of a new genetic mutation that makes some people more susceptible to this disease.
  • Development of a new mouse model that mimics a familial form of early on-set Parkinson’s disease.
  • Publication of Canada’s first Parkinson’s care guidelines.

Support Parkinson Research

Support the ongoing research efforts by making an online donation, or by calling 613-761-4295. For more information about the research or how to join the team, contact Erin Pickering, Development Officer, Philanthropy, at 613-798-5555, ext. 13363, or epickering@toh.ca.

The Ottawa Hospital, in partnership with BC Cancer, is launching a clinical trial using the first made-in-Canada CAR-T cell therapy.

Designing clinical trials is something The Ottawa Hospital does very well. At the moment, 825 clinical trials are underway—200 of which are cancer trials.

For patients in the region this can mean better access to some of the most cutting-edge treatments available. For the hospital, it means better patient care, and an environment that attracts some of brightest research minds in the world to come here to collaborate, to develop better treatments, and to get closer to answering some of health care’s biggest questions.

World-class research expertise

“A lot of the clinical trial expertise is here,” said Dr. Manoj Lalu, associate scientist, and anesthesiologist at The Ottawa Hospital. “It’s well recognized that Ottawa is a world leader in clinical trials and innovative trial designs. A lot of the guidelines produced internationally around trial design and reporting originate from The Ottawa Hospital.”

The Ottawa Hospital has put all this expertise to work in designing and launching a made-in-Canada approach for CAR-T cell clinical trials.

Drs. Manoj Lalu and Dean Fergusson
Drs. Manoj Lalu and Dean Fergusson developed a protocol for the upcoming CAR-T cell clinical trial.

Ensuring Clinical Trial Success

Drs. Manoj Lalu and Dean Fergusson  worked in partnership with Dr. Natasha Kekre and others to make sure that the newly launched CAR-T cell clinical trial at The Ottawa Hospital is successful.

They have created a rigorous program, assessing current information about the therapy, looking at data and chart reviews from different health science centres, investigating the costs, and reviewing production. The team also interviewed patients to better understand what the barriers might be for them to enter a clinical trial.

“We’ve found that researchers dramatically overestimate the potential number of patients there are and the factors affecting them,” said Dr. Fergusson, Director of The Ottawa Hospital’s Clinical Epidemiology Program, and President of the international Society for Clinical Trials. “They all assume patients want to be part of a new therapy. But we’ve shown that is not the case.”

Involving patients in the process

Dr. Fergusson said there are many things that affect recruitment of patients to a clinical trial such as the distance they must travel to participate, or their family or caregiver situation. So, when Drs. Fergusson and Lalu were designing the trial, they assembled a team of people who were involved in both the creation and delivery of the therapy, such as the scientists and clinicians, while also including the patients, who would ultimately receive the therapy, as members of the team.

“Patient input has been essential to designing the clinical trial from the very beginning,” said Dr. Fergusson. “A patient panel helped create the information and consent forms that help patients understand the trial. So, when the actual patient who would be eligible for the trial reads this, there have been others, not just researchers, who have looked at this.”

“Patient input has been essential to designing the clinical trial from the very beginning.”
– Dr. Dean Fergusson

Ottawa broadcaster ‘Stuntman’ Stu Schwartz, who was treated for leukemia at The Ottawa Hospital, is one of the patient partners involved. Stefany Dupont is the only patient involved who has received CAR-T cell therapy. Patient partners such as Stu and Stefany, not only helped determine the outcomes researchers will be looking at in the CAR-T cell therapy trial, but also gave valuable feedback on the design of the trial. They offered a patient’s perspective on how the information was worded and on some of the processes that will help patients understand the study.

“They tell us if they understand, or if this doesn’t make sense, or ask, ‘Can you clarify this?’,” said Dr. Lalu. “It’s other patients, with the experience of having had a blood cancer, that really informs the whole process for the patients who will be enrolled.”

Building from the ground up

As with most trials designed at The Ottawa Hospital, patient care is embedded in it, with its design mimicking practice in the clinic and standard referral patterns. What makes The Ottawa Hospital exceptional is the way clinical trials are built from the ground up; including the right people at the right time, and most of all giving patients the opportunity to weigh in on everything from communication and recruitment to delivery options.

Drs. Fergusson and Lalu are also applying these concepts of building clinical trials to other health-care challenges, including post-surgical heart problems, stroke, and neonatal lung disease.


Organizations such as BioCanRx, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and the Government of Ontario have supported The Ottawa Hospital’s CAR-T research and the Biotherapeutics Manufacturing Centre, but additional funding is essential to make this program a reality.

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

A game-changing cancer treatment

Stefany Dupont’s leukemia symptoms have disappeared. Her cancer was put into complete remission by a revolutionary new treatment called CAR-T cell therapy. This emerging form of immunotherapy has the potential to transform how cancer patients are treated in Canada and around the world.

Daunting odds

Stefany was first diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) when she was just 13 years old. Children with leukemia are given a strict chemotherapy protocol that effectively cures more than 90 percent of patients. Unfortunately, this was not the case with Stefany.

She was in remission for five years but, in 2010, her leukemia came back. By then she was 18, an adult, and began receiving treatment at The Ottawa Hospital. In 2015, she received chemotherapy followed by a hematopoietic bone marrow stem cell transplant. She was on the mend until a year and a half later when she had another relapse. Adults with leukemia who relapse after a transplant have less than a 10 percent chance of survival.

“Stefany was unlucky enough to relapse within two years of her transplant,” said Dr. Jill Fulcher, Stefany’s doctor, who specializes in malignant hematology and is a clinician-investigator at The Ottawa Hospital. “But her leukemia came back with a blast and she was very sick. Palliative management was all we had to offer patients with ALL who relapsed so soon post-transplant.”

Dr. Jill Fulcher stands behind Stefany listening with stethoscope
Hematologist Dr. Jill Fulcher confirms that Stefany Dupont is in remission over one year after her CAR-T cell therapy. Previously, Stefany was given a 10 to 20 percent chance of survival, pre-CAR-T cell treatment.

New hope

Dr. Fulcher and her colleague Dr. Natasha Kekre, a hematologist and associate scientist at The Ottawa Hospital, knew that clinical trials in the United States, using CAR-T cell immunotherapy, showed promising results in children and adolescents with leukemia and blood cancers, putting many into long-lasting remission.

For patients like Stefany who are extremely sick and out of options, CAR-T cell therapy offers new hope. That’s why Dr. Kekre is leading the charge to bring CAR-T cell immunotherapy to The Ottawa Hospital.

Giving Canadians access to leading-edge treatments

As one of Canada’s leading research and treatment centres, equipped with world-leading expertise, The Ottawa Hospital is ideally positioned to help bring this innovative treatment to Canada, and to Canadian patients. The Ottawa Hospital is one of the first hospitals in Canada to participate in internationally-led CAR-T trials, and the Hospital is now playing a lead role in a made-in-Canada CAR-T research program.

Hematologist Natasha Kekre
Dr. Natasha Kekre is working with other hospitals across Canada to develop a “made-in-Canada” approach for CAR-T cancer therapy.

“Our goal is to build Canadian expertise and capacity for innovation in the promising CAR-T field through both laboratory research and clinical trials,” said Dr. Kekre, who is working with a team across the country. “This could lead to better CAR-T therapies that work for more kinds of cancer, as well as innovative approaches for providing CAR-T therapy in the Canadian system.”

A key component of the program is a clinical trial using the first made-in-Canada CAR-T cell therapy. This trial is expected to open at The Ottawa Hospital and BC Cancer in 2019.

From translational research to trial design to manufacturing, The Ottawa Hospital, alongside BC Cancer, is ideally positioned to shepherd this complex trial of an experimental therapy to our patients.

“It’s well recognized that Ottawa is a world leader in clinical trials and innovative trial designs,” said Dr. Manoj Lalu, associate scientist and anesthesiologist at The Ottawa Hospital who is part of the CAR-T team. “Many of the guidelines produced internationally around trial design and reporting originate from The Ottawa Hospital.”

About CAR-T Therapy

CAR-T cell therapy harnesses the power of a patient’s own immune cells, known as T-cells, to treat their cancer. T-cells play a critical role in the immune system by killing abnormal cells, such as cells infected by germs or cancer cells. In some cancers, like acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), cancerous cells become invisible to the T-cells that are meant to kill them. In CAR-T therapy the T-cells are collected and reprogrammed in the lab to recognize and destroy the cancerous cells.

“This type of immunotherapy research is groundbreaking,” said Dr. Kekre, “but it is important to remember that that CAR-T therapy is still very new and there can be serious side effects. We need more research to learn about this therapy and make it work for even more people.”

A well-deserved reprieve

CAR-T treatment was not yet available in Canada when Stefany needed it. So, her only option at the time was to try to join a CAR-T clinical trial at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Since the hospital’s clinical trial was still accepting patients with ALL up to 25 years of age, Stefany was eligible to participate.

Three months following Stefany’s CAR-T cell infusion in Philadelphia, she had a bone marrow biopsy that showed she was in remission —her treatment was working.

Three months after that, Stefany went on a well-deserved trip.

“After the sixth month waiting time, I went to Australia,” said Stefany. She visited Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, went scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef, and hang-gliding over the shores of Byron Bay. It was a wonderful break after the intensive treatment.

“It is a really good sign that Stefany has remained in remission for over 2 years after having CAR-T cell therapy,” said Dr. Fulcher. “Without this therapy, she definitely would not be with us today.”

A graphic explaining how CAR-T works

Unique biotherapeutics facility

CAR-T therapy needs to be individually manufactured for each patient, using a patient’s own cells combined with large amounts of highly pure virus to deliver the CAR gene. The Ottawa Hospital’s Biotherapeutics Manufacturing Centre is ideally positioned to manufacture this kind of therapy because it has the most advanced system to make the clinical grade virus needed to create CAR-T cells for clinical trials. This is the only facility in Canada that has produced this kind of virus for clinical trials.

“With our unique manufacturing facility, our expertise in clinical trials and our world-class cancer and hematology programs, The Ottawa Hospital is ideally positioned to lead the way in developing the next generation of CAR-T therapy,” said Dr. Rebecca Auer, Director of Cancer Research at The Ottawa Hospital.

“The Ottawa Hospital is ideally positioned to lead the way in developing the next generation of CAR-T therapy.” – Dr. Rebecca Auer

“Patients with ALL, lymphoma, and other blood cancers could benefit from this experimental treatment,” said Dr. Kekre. The hope is that one day CAR-T cell therapy may also be a treatment for a variety of cancers, such as breast and colorectal cancer. It is through clinical trials conducted at The Ottawa Hospital that innovative cancer treatments will be discovered and will continue to offer hope to patients like Stephany.

Organizations such as BioCanRx, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and the Government of Ontario have supported The Ottawa Hospital’s CAR-T research and the Biotherapeutics Manufacturing Centre, but additional funding is essential to make this program a reality.

Creating
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Tomorrow

Your support today unleashes
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Every day people come to The Ottawa Hospital searching for answers; and every day, our innovative research brings hope to patients and their families. Every life changed, and every life saved through compassionate care and groundbreaking work at our hospital is made possible because of you.

We want you to be at our side; to help us push new discoveries and treatments forward, equip our team with the latest technology and equipment and ensure that our patients receive the very best care.

Creating Tomorrow

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Following a series of health challenges that hit close to home, Russell and Linda Grass were motivated to make a significant contribution to our hospital to establish the Grass Family Men’s Health Clinic.
After a multiple myeloma diagnosis, a husband and wife make plans to help future patients 
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Phyllis’ life was on the line. A twist in her small intestine was causing it to die. But a surgical technique to leave her abdomen open saved her life.
Brain tumour diagnosis leads mom down unimaginable path
In 2016, Natasha Lewis was diagnosed with a brain tumour and her quality of life began to deteriorate. The Ottawa Hospital is one of the few hospitals in Canada equipped to help her.