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Research Prominence

Cutting-edge cancer trial announced

Queen’s University announced today that the NCIC Clinical Trials Group (NCIC CTG) has developed and will lead an international clinical trial of a new class of cancer drug aimed at curing non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in patients who have had surgery and chemotherapy for disease confined to the lung. The academic-led trial will impact lung cancer patients following standard treatment.  Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in North America and is the leading cancer killer in both men and women.

NCIC CTG director Janet Dancey speaks about the international clinical trial of a new class of cancer drug aimed at curing non-small cell lung cancer in patients who have had surgery and chemotherapy for disease confined to the lung.

NSCLC accounts for 80-85 per cent of all lung cancer cases.

The new drug, MEDI4736 (AstraZeneca), is one of a new class of pharmaceuticals that helps the body’s immune system recognize and attack cancer. Drugs in this class have already been approved for use in patients with malignant melanoma.

“This trial will test a new drug from an emerging class of agents that doesn’t directly kill cancer cells but instead improves our own immune system’s ability  to fight and kill the cancer cells,”  says trial leader Glen Goss, an oncologist and clinician investigator at The Ottawa Hospital. “This is a new way of fighting cancer and therefore we are moving these drugs into the earliest stage of lung cancer treatment to meet a major unmet need.”

The trial is being conducted internationally, with collaboration from the Intergroupe Francophone de Cancerologie Thoracique (France), the National Cancer Institute, Naples (Italy),   the Australasian Lung Cancer Trials Group &  National Health and Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Centre (Australia), the Spanish Lung Cancer Group, the Dutch Society for Pulmonology and Tuberculosis (NVALT), the Central and East European Oncology Group, the Korean Cancer Study Group and the National Cancer Centre Singapore.

“This is one of the most significant research funding announcements in the history of Queen’s,” says Principal Daniel Woolf. “It is very exciting, not only to know that this potentially life-saving research is happening right here in our midst, but also because it is allowing us to collaborate and build important relationships with researchers all over the world.”

“This trial is being completed internationally and includes academic physicians around the world,” says NCIC CTG director Janet Dancey. “This is the first trial in the world to test this new drug in the setting of early lung cancer treatment. We are always very grateful for ongoing support from the Canadian Cancer Society and Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute - without them, we would not be able to lead such critical cancer trials."

The trial will be open to 1,100 patients in Canada and around the world. Patients wishing to join the trial should speak to their oncologists about their treatment options. Approximately 25 institutions from across Canada will participate. Information about participation will also be available on clinicaltrials.gov and cancerview.ca

Practice makes perfect in cancer surgery

In a new, in-depth research project, Queen’s professors Rob Siemens (Urology) and Christopher Booth (Cancer Care and Epidemiology) investigated what affect higher volume hospitals and surgeons had on the outcomes of patients undergoing a radical cystectomy for bladder cancer in Ontario.

Queen's professor Robert Sieman has uncovered higher volume leads to better outcomes in bladder surgery.

Using data provided by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) the investigators studied 2,802 patients who underwent the procedure between 1994 and 2008 in Ontario and found that higher volume hospital and surgeons were associated with less post-operative complications and better overall survival.

 “These results are intriguing and will undoubtedly lead to some controversy in their interpretation,” says Dr. Siemens. “We wondered if the processes and interactions that lead to better outcomes for patients treated by higher volume providers can be studied and identified, perhaps leading to improved outcomes for all if adopted by lower volume hospitals and surgeons.”

The recent study explored a number of different aspects of bladder cancer care to better understand how quality surgical care is delivered for patients with advanced bladder cancer. The explanations for this volume-outcome relationship still remain mostly unidentified which could be a research project in the future.

“This research has only been able to illuminate a small fraction of the factors that explain the improved outcomes of higher volume providers,” says Dr. Siemens. “Some would interpret this as a call to more aggressively support a policy of centralizing care at higher volume hospitals for complex medical/surgical diseases.”

The research was recently published in Urology.

Diving deep to uncover history of rocks

[Noel James]
Noel James teaching carbonate sedimentology in Bermuda.

 

[Queen's in the World
Queen's in the World

As a PhD student, Noel James (Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering) saw a research opportunity to examine relatively young rocks, especially reef rocks, on and around the island of Barbados.

There was only one problem: he lacked a key skill required to understand reef rocks.

“I had never been a diver before. Literally, I learned to dive so I could work on my PhD in a semi-intelligent way,” he says.

Dr. James was hooked on scuba diving right away, which has allowed him to conduct extensive research on coral reefs, shallow seafloors and open shelves, the birthplace of many ancient limestones. From his original marine work in the Caribbean, Dr. James expanded his scope to innovative research on carbonate sedimentary rocks in the High Arctic, the Rocky Mountains, deserts in the Middle East and Australia’s Red Centre.

His contributions to the field earned him the Sorby Medal, the highest award of the International Association of Sedimentologists. The organization has only awarded the medal eight times over the past 40 years.

“It was a shock when I found out I’d won. I looked back at the previous medalists and they were my heroes. I thought, ‘what am I doing with this group of people?’” he says. “The other awards I have received have been profound but this one really affected me quite deeply because it’s worldwide.”

Dr. James, member of the Order of Canada, shares a connection with previous Sorby medalist Bob Ginsburg. After finishing his PhD, Dr. James worked with Dr. Ginsburg to establish a laboratory at the University of Miami. Their research focused on comparing ancient carbonate rocks such as limestone to modern seafloor sediments formed by the shells of dead calcareous organisms often using research submersibles to probe the deep zones of reef growth.

Dr. James carried on that style of research when he returned to Canada, examining rocks in locations across Canada while continuing his work on the modern seafloor. His passion for field work spills over into his teaching, where he infuses his undergraduate and graduate courses with his experiences. In addition he currently takes exceptional students to the Bermuda Institute for Ocean Sciences each year to let them experience first-hand the complexities of reef growth.

“In a course like Geological Evolution of North America, I can tell the students what I found working in the Arctic on 3-billion-year-old rocks. I can use my own pictures and illustrations,” he says. “It’s nice to see them perk up when you are talking about what you have done. I hope in the back of their minds they are thinking, ‘maybe I can do that, too.’

Dr. James accepted the Sorby Medal at the 19th International Sedimentological Congress in Geneva.

Researchers working towards a cure

Four Queen’s University professors have received funding from the Cancer Research Society to continue their research into treatments for cancer. Lois Mulligan, Bruce Elliott, Peter Greer (Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine) and Madhuri Koti (Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) each received a $120,000 grant.

“Queen’s University has extensive expertise in fields of cancer research and treatment, both fundamental and clinical,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “The investment being made is a testament to the strength of our researchers and potential to make a significant difference to a very important health issue. I look forward to watching the progress of these four remarkable researchers unfold with the support of the Cancer Research Society.”

Working in the Queen's Cancer Research Institute, researchers study cancer cells under a microscope.

The specific projects are as follows:

Dr. Koti is working to identify mechanisms in the immune system within the cancerous tumour that might contribute to individual differences in response to chemotherapy. This research will allow a personalized treatment approach for patients living with ovarian cancer.

Dr. Mulligan is focusing on a molecule called RET that helps convey signals to cells allowing them to grow or move. In a growing number of cancers, RET has been shown to help the cancerous tumour grow and spread to other sites. Her research will explore the roles of RET, which will provide tools to understand the system and combat human cancer.

Dr. Greer is studying Arpin, a recently discovered protein that plays a role in the spread of cancer. His research looks at how the disruption of Arpin in breast cancer cells blocks their ability to spread from the breast to other organs such as the liver and lungs. He is working to prove the theory that Arpin inhibition could help prevent the spread of breast cancer.

Dr. Elliott and his team are working to understand the mechanisms of cancer metastasis to the lymph nodes, a key indicator of a poor outcome in cancer patients. He is developing a model to image this metastasis process in real time to provide better understanding of the process. This information will move us a step closer to testing therapies that can prevent early cancer spread to the lymphatic system.

Queen’s distinguishes itself as one of the leading research-intensive institutions in Canada. The mission is to advance research excellence, leadership and innovation, as well as enhance Queen’s impact at a national and international level. Through undertaking leading-edge research, Queen’s is addressing many of the world’s greatest challenges, and developing innovative ideas and technological advances brought about by discoveries in a variety of disciplines.

Bullying expert honoured for changing lives

A Canadian leader in bullying prevention, Queen’s University researcher Wendy Craig was honoured Monday with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s Partnership Award. One of five SSHRC Impact Awards, the honour recognizes a SSHRC‑funded formal partnership for its outstanding achievement in advancing research.

Communications Officer Anne Craig sat down with Dr. Craig to talk about her work and what the award means to her.

Anne Craig: Why did you choose this field of research?

Wendy Craig: I fell into what I do by accident. During my PhD I was involved in a study with Debra Pepler where we were looking at aggressive children’s interactions on the playground. When we filmed them to find out what was happening on the playground, we saw that the playground was really aggressive. In that initial study, through naturalist observation, we found that children were bullying each other once every seven and a half minutes and they were aggressive towards each other once every two minutes. That study really defined and launched my career.  It ignited a strong interest in conducting applied research to understand how to support children and youth to develop optimally and have safe, healthy and respectful relationships. 

By working as a researcher and getting that research into the hands of practitioners and people who work with children, I can be more effective in having a larger impact on the health and well-being of Canadian children and youth.

AC: What is the current focus of your work?

WC: In addition to my work as a professor and researcher, I am the scientific co-director of PREVNet along with Dr. Pepler at York University.  PREVNet is comprised of more than 125 researchers across the country and 63 national organizations that work with children and youth. Its goal is to provide practitioners with the scientific information that they need to be more effective in their practice. We also want practitioners to identify the burning questions we should tackle as researchers. My work has become about knowledge mobilization and bridging the gap between science, practice and policy through the process of bringing researchers and organizations together to co-create research, resources and tools.

AC: Why is your work important?

WC: I believe that this work is important because it has to do with the health and well-being of children and youth. We recently finished a study for the Public Health Agency of Canada where we found that high-quality relationships with parents, peers, teachers, adults at school and the community positively impact physical and mental health outcomes, as well as academic and social ones. The concern Dr. Pepler and I had when we did that study was fewer children in Canada are reporting having high-quality relationships with parents, teachers, schools, and in the neighborhood. Bullying is a relationship problem and is related to long-term negative effects.  We have learned that children don’t grow out of bullying; it’s a problem that grows more significant as they get older. Part of what we do is look at how we minimize that long-term impact through prevention and intervention.

AC: What does the Partnership Award mean for you and your career?

WE: The award really recognizes the work of the network. This work could not be as effective without all members of the network contributing their unique skills, expertise, resources, dedication and time. Over time, through the generous funding of SSHRC through the National Centres of Excellence program, we have built a network that has a common vision, and is based on the foundation of trusting relationships. This award celebrates the incredible accomplishments that happen when outstanding organizations, researchers and students come together to co-create projects that are driven by science and meet the needs of our partners. Relationships matter to create an effective network that has conducted more than 200 projects in the last seven years. Creating PREVNet was a dream and we are excited we are now having an impact and making a difference in the lives of Canadian youth.

AC: What is your focus for the future?

WE: There is much work to do in Canada to improve children and youth development.  We rank 25 out of 28 on relationships. Given that healthy development depends on healthy relationships, we need to engage and support adults in all the places that children and youth live, learn, work and play.  We will work with our partners to continue to co-create research projects, and develop evidence-based education and training, assessment and evaluation tools, prevention and intervention strategies, and enhanced policy.  Through PREVNet we are leading the world in an unprecedented manner in creating a social-cultural change in reducing bullying through promoting relationships. 

Helsinki visiting professorship will help further study

Susanne Soederberg (Global Development Studies and Political Studies) has been appointed to a prestigious visiting professorship at the University of Helsinki. The value of the award is $190,000.

[Susanne Soederberg]
Susanne Soederberg (Photo by Bernard Clark)

Through the Jane and Aatos Erkko Visiting Professor at the Collegium for Advanced Studies, set for the 2015-2016 academic year, Dr. Soederberg will be conducting research on a new project focused on shelter finance and housing rights for slum dwellers around the world.

Dr. Soederberg says the position will allow her to “research in an interdisciplinary and international environment with emerging and established scholars from both Europe and in the Global South.”

In her study, Governing Shelter Finance for Slum Dwellers: A Comparative Study of Mexico City, Manila, and Mumbai, Dr. Soederberg will initiate the first comparative study of shelter finance in three of the world’s largest slums: Cuidad Nezahualcóytl in Mexico City, the Tondo District in Manila, and Dharavi in Mumbai.

“One billion people – a number still rising – live in slums. Notwithstanding its status as a basic human right, most slum dwellers lack safe and secure shelter,” Dr. Soederberg says. “The United Nations has responded by endorsing Goal 7, Target 11 of its Millennium Development Goals (MDG 7) to ensure the adequate housing of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020.”

However, she points out, demand for affordable housing continues to rise unabated while funds from governments and public donors have been insufficient. At the same time the various forms of shelter financing – such as commercialized mortgages, shelter microfinance, and community investment funds – have barely been explored.

“With only several years remaining to meet the 2020 MDG-7, it is crucial that scholars, practitioners, and policymakers possess a more complete knowledge base about the present scale, scope, and future sustainability of shelter finance as well as the power dynamics involved in its governance,” she says. “To this end, the core questions driving the project are: who benefits from shelter finance, and why? And, how have different forms of governance influenced which slum dwellers are able to gain access to certain types of shelter financing and which are excluded?”

The significance of the appointment is recognized by her Queen’s colleagues as well.

“What a great opportunity for Dr. Soederberg,” says Marc Epprecht, Professor and Head of Department, Global Development Studies. “Though we will miss her here in DEVS, where she is not only a great scholar but a well-loved teacher, we are proud of her achievements and of the nature of her research – making a difference to the lives of people in some of the most stressed communities in the world.”

The Collegium for Advanced Studies is an independent institute within the University of Helsinki. The Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation, which finances the Visiting Professorship, was established in 2002 to support high-level international research, arts and culture.

Incubating and accelerating successes

Queen’s University has been awarded $1.4M in funding from the Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program (CAIP) to strengthen the innovation ecosystem in Eastern Ontario.  This award is part of a larger award that is also funding co-applicants Invest Ottawa and Wesley Clover International.  The Queen’s allocation will enable Innovation Park and PARTEQ Innovations to deliver a variety of virtual and physical incubation services and acceleration programs to high potential startups and emerging SMEs in Kingston and other areas of Eastern Ontario.

Present for the presentation were (l to r): Paul Vickers, Vice President, Finance and Administration, PARTEQ Innovations,Bruce Lazenby, President and CEO, Invest Ottawa,Royal Galipeau, Member of Parliament, Ottawa-Orleans, Honourable Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology), Sir Terry Matthews, Chairman, Wesley-Clover and Bogdan Ciobanu, Vice-President, National Research Council of Canada (NRC) 

“We are delighted to be working with regional partners, Invest Ottawa and Wesley Clover, and local partner Launch Lab, to deliver an integrated Eastern Ontario Business Accelerator,” says Dr. Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research). “By combining and leveraging the strengths of the partners, this collaboration will expand programs and services available to high potential startups and SMEs in the region.”

The Honourable Royal Galipeau, MP for Ottawa-Orléans, announced the five year funding award in Ottawa on October 31.  Mr. Galipeau was joined by The Honourable Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology), National Research Council of Canada (NRC) Vice President, Bogdan Ciobanu, Invest Ottawa President and CEO, Bruce Lazenby, Wesley Clover Founder and Chairman, Sir Terrence Matthews, and, representing Queen’s University, PARTEQ Innovations Vice-President Finance & Administration, Paul Vickers.

 “The strength of the collaboration is in the diversity of partners and services and the broad coverage the partners are able to provide across Eastern Ontario”, says Janice Mady, Director of Industry Partnerships & Innovation Park. 

“We look forward to working closely with this unique group of collaborators to support the goal of strengthening the Eastern Ontario innovation ecosystem,” says PARTEQ President and CEO, Jim Banting.

CAIP will provide five years of funding to 15 outstanding accelerators and incubators in Canada that meet strict eligibility and selection criteria.  The contributions, which require 1:1 matching funds from eligible sources, support incremental activities that expand the overall service offerings to early-stage firms and entrepreneurs, and promote a higher output of SMEs that are investment-ready and able to develop into sustainable, high-growth businesses.

To read the official CAIP announcement, visit the website.

Bullying expert earns top honour

A Canadian leader in bullying prevention, Queen’s University researcher Wendy Craig was honoured today with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s Partnership Award. The Partnership Award is one of five Impact Awards SSHRC presents annually to the top researchers in the country.

The Partnership Award recognizes a SSHRC‑funded formal partnerships for its outstanding achievement in advancing research, research training or knowledge mobilization, or developing a new partnership approach to research and/or related activities.

Wendy Craig has earned one of SSHRC's top awards.

Along with working as a researcher at Queen’s, Dr. Craig is the co-scientific director of the Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network (PREVNet).

“The award really recognizes the work of the network, which is co-led by Debra Pepler at York University,” says Dr. Craig. “I think the award is significant because it celebrates the great things that happen when outstanding organizations, researchers and students come together. Creating PREVNet was a dream and I am excited we are now having an impact and making a difference in the lives of Canadian youth.”

With the funding from the Impact Award, Dr. Craig says they will continue to engage in knowledge mobilization efforts with the PREVNet partners.  The team plans to focus on working with PREVNet's youth to develop tools to address cyberbullying.

"Through PREVNet, Dr. Craig has developed a unique partnership model along with effective knowledge-mobilization tools and bullying prevention resources that have a demonstrated influence both within and beyond the academic community,” says Dr. Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research).  “This national honour from SSHRC is indicative of the impact of PREVNet in addressing one of the biggest challenges facing today's children and youth in Canada and around the world.”

To read the full story, visit the SSHRC website.

An elite opportunity

Queen’s University professor Jean Côté is joining an elite group of international researchers and members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) this week to discuss training and development in youth sport.

The handpicked group of 16 researchers, along with members of the IOC, will evaluate the current science and practices related to developing young athletes. From that discussion, the group will draft recommendations and guidelines to ensure young athletes progress in a healthy manner.

Jean Côté is off to Switerland to work with the IOC.

Dr. Côté will present to the group his research on effective coaching.

“I will argue that we need to relax the structure of youth sports in general – youth organized sport is over-coached and over-structured.  The achievement of long-term participation, elite performance, and personal development through sport are objectives that are compatible and do not require specialized programs and complex structures” he says.

One of the biggest challenges at the conference, Dr. Côté anticipates, will be reaching a consensus decision with such a wide range of expertise in the same room. The participants are presenting on a variety of topics including athlete development frameworks, talent identification, scheduling and overload, injury prevention and eating disorders. By April 2015, the group must have a consensus paper on youth athlete development ready for publication in the IOC-supported injury prevention and health protection edition of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

“There are going to be a lot of conflicting ideas presented at the conference, but we have to focus on our goal of youth development and work past that,” says Dr. Côté. “It’s exciting to be associated with this level of research and it also shows the IOC cares about the development of youth. We are looking at the whole child and that is a very healthy approach.”

The conference takes place from Nov. 5-7 at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Nobel laureate explores connection between arts and science

Roald Hoffmann, Nobel Prize laureate and Frank H. T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters, Emeritus at Cornell University, delivered this year’s Alfred Bader Lecture on Oct. 30. Communications Officer Andrew Stokes spoke with Dr. Hoffmann about his lecture and lengthy career in the arts and sciences.

Andrew Stokes: Can you tell me a bit about the topic of your lecture?

Roald Hoffmann: The lecture was about the commonalities between the arts and sciences. English chemist and novelist CP Snow argued in the 1950s that there were two distinct cultures between artists and scientists and that the two were incapable of really communicating with each other. With that in mind I looked at examples from chemistry, poetry and painting to note the deep similarities they have.

Along with winning the 1981 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, Dr. Roald Hoffmann has written poetry, plays and philosophy.

AS: Why did you pick this topic for the lecture?

RH: This topic is important to me as both an artist and a chemist, because I’m interested in the interface between the two. The arts penetrate to important questions that aren’t necessarily scientific but that nonetheless trouble us all. I picked this topic especially because of its connection to Alfred and Isabel Bader. I’ve known the Baders for nearly 40 years and I’m a great admirer of Alfred – this lecture is really for the two of them who are strong believers in the importance of both arts and science.

AS: Have the two of you worked together in chemistry?

RH: When we first met one another years ago, we took an instant liking to each other. We’ve never worked together professionally, but our shared love of paintings, music and chemistry has led to a long friendship between us. We’re also both European immigrants; Alfred came shortly before World War Two, while I’m a childhood survivor of the Holocaust and came to America in 1949.

AS: You’ve had a prodigious career in chemistry, but can you tell me about your work in the creative arts?

RH: Around midlife I started writing creatively. I began writing poetry, and now have four books of poetry in English and one in Spanish and Russian. I’ve also written essays, short fiction, philosophy and have now started writing plays. My creative writing allows me to express myself in a way that I otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to do.

AS: How did a career in science affect your creative work?

RH: It’s had a very strong effect on my creative work. I write on some of the traditional topics, like nature, relationships and love, but I try to make use of the language of science. It isn’t easy, but I try. One of the plays I’ve written is about the discovery of oxygen and what it means to be a scientist. My work in the arts has affected my science too. When I write a chemistry paper, I try to bring an artistic sensibility to it. I’ve never tried opening a paper with a poem because I don’t think it would get past the gatekeepers, but stylistically I’ve tried to bring about a greater humanization of science writing. I think it’s worked well in that my papers are viewed by people as being a more complete image of the thing they discuss.

The Bader lecture, organized by Dr. Victor Snieckus and the Office of Advancement, is delivered in honour of Alfred Bader’s contributions to Queen’s University and the field of chemistry.

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