2013 Investigator Awards

Improving patient care through research.

A fundamental aspect of VCH Research is its focus on translational health research - improving patient care by uniting multidisciplinary teams that move research discoveries from the laboratory bench to the patients' bedside. The Mentored and Clinician Scientist Awards are one avenue to achieve this goal.

This annual funding program is supported by the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation. Awards are granted to individuals who are up-and-coming in clinical practice, who also demonstrate promise in related areas of translational health research at VGH, UBC Hospital or GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre. Support through these awards provides clinicians with protected time, allowing them to focus on advancing their research careers. This year's grant recipients are as follows:

2013 Mentored Clinician Scientist Award
Stephen Yip
Dr. Brian Toyota, Assistant Professor P/T, UBC Division of Neurosurgery Co-Chair, Stereotactic Radiosurgical Program
Understanding the molecular pathogenesis of oligodendrogliomas - a unique brain tumour

Brain cancers, especially tumours that arise from the native cells of the central nervous system, carry poor prognosis due to their ability to invade normal adjacent brain structures, aggressive growth patterns and resistance to treatment. These factors reduce the ability to destroy the tumour with surgery and radiation without significantly affecting non-cancer tissue.

Oligodendroglioma is a unique type of brain cancer that carries a more favourable prognosis and is more responsive to chemotherapy. This is strongly associated with a genetic change that leads to losses of the short arm of chromosome 1 and the long arm of chromosome 19.

Using powerful sequencing technology, we have uncovered exciting molecular clues behind this observation. We have identified mutations in a gene called CIC, located in the long arm of chromosome 19. This gene is mutated in approximately 70% of oligodendroglioma tumours, but not in other brain cancers. Also, the pattern of mutations strongly suggest that there is selective pressure in these mutations implicating the role of this gene in oligodendroglioma.

We have laid out a systematic and step-wise plan to investigate the role and function of CIC in brain cancer. Ultimately, this new understanding could lead to the development of new diagnostic and prognostic tools enabling more precise and personalized management of brain cancers. It is also the hope to identify novel molecular targets which will lead to improved understanding of oligodendroglioma and the development of new drug therapies.

2013 Clinician Scientist Award
William Henderson
Hypothermia in Lung Injury

Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) affects almost 18,000 Canadians a year. Despite intensive research, there have been few effective treatments found and almost 40% of ARDS patients will die from this illness. It can originate from both infectious and non-infectious causes and results in extreme lung tissue inflammation and abnormal lung mechanics. This leads to lower levels of oxygen in the blood and injury or failure of other organs (such as the heart, kidneys and brain).

The controlled lowering of body temperature for therapeutic reasons (induced hypothermia or IH) is proposed to act partly by decreasing the mediators of inflammation that provoke ongoing injury after the initial insult in these situations. There is little medical knowledge about the use of IH in ARDS. A modest number of small animal trials have been performed but the current data does not describe effects on pulmonary mechanics or inflammation effectively.

Our study will look at IH in pigs with ARDS. We believe that IH will decrease oxygen demand and decrease inflammation in subjects with ARDS. This should decrease the lung damage seen with a microscope.

IH should improve pulmonary mechanical parameters during mechanical ventilation in treated subjects compared to those maintained at normal body temperature. Clarification of an effective method of IH induction as well as the demonstration of IH’s effectiveness in normalizing inflammation and pulmonary mechanics during ARDS will allow us to proceed to a human trial.