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Research hits the airwaves

“Blind Date with Knowledge” will air on CFRC.

Do you ever wonder what drives a researcher’s curiosity? What was the spark that led them to discovery? Beginning on January 31 at 5:30 pm, you can listen in and hear these types of questions answered directly by scholars themselves.

CFRC, the Queen’s radio station, 101.9fm,  is launching a bi-weekly radio show called “Blind Date with Knowledge.” The show seeks to demystify scholarly research and personalize the research process through discussions with various Queen’s faculty members.

“Blind Date with Knowledge” is one way Queen’s is increasing its efforts to promote the importance of research conducted by faculty and students. The show is a collaboration between CFRC, the Office of the Vice-Principal (University Relations), and the show host, Barry Kaplan. Kaplan is a member of the Kingston community, and his passion for spreading knowledge about research at Queen’s is palpable.

“There is a lot of interesting and consequential knowledge being created, in a huge range of subjects, by an array of Queen’s researchers,” says Kaplan. “This show is a small but important platform for knowledge-sharing about research, as spoken about by the researchers themselves, to get a little more visibility and traction with everyday people.”

The quirky name “Blind Date with Knowledge” is based on the premise that research isn’t predictable. Like a blind date, research is about taking risks and being prepared for failure and success.

Each episode will feature scholars from different disciplines sharing their stories about what it’s really like to do research. With so many different research projects being conducted by Queen’s faculty, “Blind Date with Knowledge” provides a small glimpse into the pioneering work of these scholars.

Laura Murray
Dr. Laura Murray (Photo Credit: Barry Kaplan)

Dr. Laura Murray (English Language and Literature) will be featured in the first episode of the show, discussing how she has used archival research and oral history as a tool to uncover some of Kingston’s lesser-known history.

“Talking to non-specialists about academic research isn’t always that easy – but it’s hugely important and rewarding,” says Murray. “I’m glad Queen’s is encouraging it. My 15 minutes with Barry went extremely quickly and I enjoyed the challenge!”

John McGarry
Dr. John McGarry (Photo Credit: Barry Kaplan)

Dr. John McGarry (Political Studies) will also appear in the first episode. As an expert in conflict resolution, Dr. McGarry will explain the forces that can lead to the beginning of civil conflict, focusing on Northern Ireland.

“It is great for Queen’s to have a radio show that does not just showcase research, but shows the positive impact that research can have on people’s lives,” he says. “People are often curious about how my research begins and the form it takes, and participating in the show is a way to share this with everyday people.”

CFRC also hosts the weekly radio show "Grad Chat", which is a platform for Queen's graduate students to share their research with both the Queen's and greater Kingston community. The show airs on Tuesdays at 4pm, and past episodes can be listened on the School of Graduate Studies website.

After airing, all episodes of "Blind Date with Knowledge" will be available online on the CFRC website. If you have questions about the radio show, please contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives.

The schedule for the first five episodes of "Blind Date with Knowledge" is available now. The schedule is subject to change.

 

Episode

Air Date

Researchers

1

Jan. 31, 2018

Laura Murray (English Language and Literature) and John McGarry (Political Studies)

2

February 14, 2018

Lynda Colgan (Education) and Adrian Baranchuk (Medicine)

3

February 28, 2018

Patricia Smithen (Art History and Art Conservation) and John Smol (Biology)

4

March 14, 2018

Leela Viswanathan (Geography and Planning) and Gregory Jerkiewicz (Chemistry)

5

March 28, 2018

Alana Butler (Education) and Antonio Nicaso (Languages, Literatures and Cultures)

Major clinical cancer trial collaboration announced

International clinical research partnership has potential to advance new immunotherapy cancer treatments.

CCTG and CRI logos

Pipette depositing liquid into medical vialsThe internationally-recognized,  Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG) at Queen’s University, together with the US-based Cancer Research Institute (CRI), announced a multi-year, multi-trial collaboration today, designed to accelerate the clinical development of new immunotherapy treatments for cancer.

There are currently 940 immunotherapy agents in clinical development, all of which have the potential to improve the standard of care for patients fighting myriad types of cancer.  This new partnership will combine CRI’s expertise in immunology research and therapy with CCTG’s expertise in the design and execution of clinical trials to improve the practice of treating cancer and to enhance the quality of life for cancer survivors.  The collaboration is a multi-trial agreement over a five-year period.

“International collaborations and partnerships are essential to the success of clinical trials and are critical in moving the cancer research agenda forward. We will leverage the strengths of both CCTG and CRI in this strategic collaboration, to bring important improvements in cancer therapies to the patients who need them,” says Janet Dancey, CCTG Director.

Broadly, immunotherapies work by stimulating a patient’s own immune system to attack the disease, either by generally strengthening its function or by leveraging it to target cancer cells.

“Combating cancer demands the expertise and cooperation of the world’s top minds,” says John Fisher, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “Queen’s University has long been the home of CCTG’s groundbreaking research group, which includes many of our esteemed faculty members. We are very proud to see their efforts continue to evolve into exciting international collaborations like this newly-minted partnership with the renowned Cancer Research Institute.”

CRI is a non-profit organization that has supported the discovery and development of immunotherapeutic cancer treatments for 65 years. Its unique clinical program, the Anna-Maria Kellen Clinical Accelerator, supports non-profit, academia, and industry partnerships designed to develop and organize the clinical study of combination cancer immunotherapies. 

“This collaboration is what great partnerships look like – uniting CRI’s cancer immunology expertise with the clinical research expertise and global footprint at CCTG, which I’ve observed is the fastest and most effective cooperative group worldwide,” says Aiman Shalabi, Chief Medical Officer, Clinical Accelerator, CRI. “Together, and with our combined global expert network, we will accelerate innovation for patients.”

CCTG is a non-profit cancer research cooperative and is recognized as being one of the most impactful and influential research groups, with a proven record of accomplishment in the rapid and efficient conduct of studies across an extensive network in Canada and around the world. Currently, CCTG is running phase I-III trials of cancer treatment and supportive therapies at over 80 institutions across Canada and internationally.

New hope in Lyme disease battle

Queen’s medical team uncovers new approach to treat cardiac issues caused by Lyme disease.

Lyme disease can leave people feeling fatigued, fevered, and stiff but many don’t know it can also cause a serious heart condition known as Lyme carditis.

The condition is most prevalent in males under 40 years of age and a team of researchers led by Queen’s University cardiologist Adrian Baranchuk has now advanced a revolutionary approach that could lead to a different method to treat these patients.

Lyme carditis specifically attacks the electrical system of the heart, leading to a rapid progression to atrioventricular block (AV) which is a complete shutting down of the heart activity. Typically the condition is treated with the installation of a permanent pacemaker but Dr. Baranchuk’s research indicates this isn’t always necessary. In all five of his test cases, the patient’s heart returned to normal after the use of antibiotics, and only some of them, have required a temporary pacemaker for few days.

“Lyme disease is transmitted by infected ticks, primarily black-legged ticks, and Kingston is in the middle of one of the endemic regions in Canada,” says Dr. Baranchuk. “The disease become reportable in 2009 and since then, case numbers have steadily climbed. With that, the cases of Lyme carditis are also increasing.”

According to numbers provided by the Government of Canada, there were 917 cases reported in Canada in 2015.

Dr. Baranchuk credits Kingston Health Sciences Centre nurses Crystal Blakely and Pamela Branscombe with identifying the initial case of Lyme carditis, presenting this cases to Dr. Baranchuk and his team, and the team coming up with a solution that saw all five males make a full recovery.

The first case that caught their attention was a 23-year-old male who was admitted to the cardiology department with a failing heart. This came after three emergency room visits and two visits to a medical clinic. After consultation, it was decided to treat the patient with antibiotics and to insert a temporary pacemaker. His heart returned to normal in 48 hours.

“The red flag for us was his age and the fact he had no prior cardio issues,” says Ms. Blakely. “It didn’t make sense to us why he was presenting with these symptoms. We only knew he had just tested positive for Lyme disease and that’s when we starting putting everything together.”

The same was true for the next four cases Dr. Baranchuk used to test his theory. The next three cases involved males in their 30s while the fifth case featured a 14-year-old boy who was admitted to Kingston General Hospital with a second degree AV block.

“There are many risks when we implant a permanent pacemaker in a young person plus the treatment is expensive and for life,” Dr. Baranchuk says. A typical pacemaker lasts seven to 10 years. In a young person, they may need the pacemaker replaced more than six times in their lifetime which involves surgery that it is not complication-free. This new approach could solve that problem.

Moving forward, Dr. Baranchuk and his team are working to track Lyme carditis cases from across Canada to continue moving his research forward.

“We need to educate health care professionals about Lyme carditis and its treatment,” he explains. “I would also like to apply for funding for a multi-centre study into Lyme disease and Lyme carditis. There is a better way to treat this and medical professionals aren’t always prepared. We can change the treatment approach for this disease.”

Strengthening global health collaboration

The Office of Global Health (OGH) in the Faculty of Health Sciences recently became an institutional member of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH), an international body tasked with fostering interdisciplinary collaborations and the sharing of knowledge to address global health challenges.

The Office of Global Health recently became an institutional member of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health. From left, Linda Chan, Health Education Research Associate; Jenn Carpenter, Director of the Office of Global Health; Mikaila De Sousa, Program and Events Coordinator.
The Office of Global Health recently became an institutional member of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health. From left, Linda Chan, Health Education Research Associate; Jenn Carpenter, Director of the Office of Global Health; Mikaila De Sousa, Program and Events Coordinator. (Supplied Photo)

Global health entails study, research, and practice that prioritize improving health and achieving equity in health for all.

Through this membership in the CUGH, all Queen’s global health and equity educators, advocates, and researchers will be able to connect with a network of more than 19,000 individuals and over 145 academic institutions involved in global health worldwide. Membership also provides access to interest groups, educational, and program development materials, as well as conferences aimed at building partnerships and engaging in advocacy across research, education, and service. In joining the consortium, all Queen’s staff, faculty, and students may now enjoy the benefits of membership and have access to CUGH resources.

In light of the university’s commitment to internationalization and new membership in CUGH, the OGH is looking to strengthen Queen’s global health network by gaining a full understanding of the global health community at Queen’s. The OGH is conducting a survey to gather information on global health work being done at the university. The survey will also serve to collect information from the Queen’s community about program information to be shared with the CUGH network.

“There is so much important global health and health equity work being done across the faculties at Queen’s. It seemed like the perfect time to both join the ever-growing CUGH network, and identify potential collaborations here at Queen’s,” says Jenn Carpenter, Director of the Office of Global Health. 

To complete the survey about work being done at Queen’s or to join the CUGH network, visit https://queensu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_8tXre9zWgcTkuEt.  Please note that the global health survey will collect information on academic global health programs to be shared on the CUGH Global Health Academic Programs Database. Only faculties and departments that would like to share their program on the CUGH academic programs database should complete that particular part of the survey. For further information about the survey, please contact the Office of Global Health.

You can also register online to subscribe to the OGH newsletter.

 

Go with the flow (or against it)

Queen's researchers use magnetic fields to control bacteria with the potential to deliver drug treatments

Queen’s University researchers are using magnetic fields to influence a specific type of bacteria to swim against strong currents, opening up the potential of using the microscopic organisms for drug delivery in environments with complex microflows – like the human bloodstream.

Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering Carlos Escobedo and PhD candidate Saeed Rismani Yazdi analyzing MTB behaviour in the laboratory.
Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering Carlos Escobedo and PhD candidate Saeed Rismani Yazdi in the laboratory.

Led by Carlos Escobedo (Chemical Engineering) and PhD candidate Saeed Rismani Yazdi (Chemical Engineering), the research focused on studying and manipulating the mobility of magnetotactic bacteria (MTB) – tiny organisms that contain nanocrystals sensitive to magnetic fields. Their findings were recently published in nano- and micro-science journal Small.

“MTB have tiny (nanoscopic) organelles called magnetosomes, which act like a compass needle that helps them navigate to nutrient-rich locations in aquatic environments – their natural habitats – by using the Earth’s magnetic field,” says Dr. Escobedo. “In nature, MTB play a key role in Earth’s cycles by influencing marine biogeochemistry via transporting minerals and organic matters as nutrients.”

After studying how MTB respond to magnetic fields and currents similar to those found in their natural habitats, the team introduced stronger currents and magnetic fields to see if the bacteria could still navigate successfully.

“When we increased the rate of flow and the strength of the magnetic field, we were astounded by the MTB’s ability to swim strongly and concertedly against the current,” says Mr. Rismani Yazdi. “They were even able to swim across a strong current with ease when we moved the magnet perpendicular to the flow.”

Microscope slide with a channel to circulate flow
This microscope slide features a small channel through which Queen's researchers simulated the flow of a human bloodstream.

The team’s success in directing MTB through a complex and fast-moving environment could be a significant step toward using the bacteria to transport pharmaceuticals through the human bloodstream to treat tumours directly.

“Next, we plan to bind therapeutic drugs to the bacterial bodies for transport,” says Dr. Escobedo.

To do so, the team is collaborating with the group led by Peter Davies (Biochemisty), Canada Research Chair in Protein Engineering, who are figuring out how to adhere existing cancer therapeutic drugs to the bacteria, as well as how to have them release the drugs once they reach a chosen destination.

The team has also teamed up with Dr. Madhuri Koti of the Queen’s Cancer Research Institute and plan to refine their ability to direct the MTB toward tumours with a high degree of accuracy. Together, the team will use magnetic fields to guide the bacteria from one end of a microchannel on a tiny microscope slide to samples of biopsied cancer tissue at the other end.

Dr. Escobedo hopes that their multi-disciplinary approach to this research will help unlock MTB’s potential to be a biological, effective, and formidable drug-delivery method.

“We’ve shown that the bacteria’s natural properties can be exploited to guide them in complex and strong flow conditions, much more challenging than those found in nature, which opens up opportunities not only in the drug-delivery field, but in other biomedical applications as well,” concluded Mr. Rismani Yazdi.

One step at a time

Queen’s University research examines the fear of falling in seniors and the damaging impact it can have on their health.

New research out of Queen’s University has shown a fear of falling can lead to function disability in seniors over the age of 65. High fear can lead to less mobility, isolation, a loss of independence, depression, and, eventually, the need to move into a care facility.

“Falling is a serious concern, but the fear of falling can also be serious and can rob seniors of the autonomy that keeps them active longer,” says lead research Mohammad Auais (School of Rehabilitation Therapy). “Once you fall, it tends to increase your fear of falling, and then that fear of falling can be associated with decreased mobility, decreased social participation, and isolation. It is also important to know that at least two out of 10 seniors overestimate their risk of falling so their fear of falling is not justified.”

Mohammad Auais
Mohammad Auais (School of Rehabilitation Therapy) is studying the fear of falling in seniors and how that can lead to functional disability. (University Communications)

Dr. Auais used international data collected over two years focusing on seniors aged 65 and older. The measured data was both self-reported and observed and included day-to-day activities such as walking upstairs or standing from a chair. With this new data, he says he will next present the information to doctors, nurse practitioners, and the general public so people can start recognizing and intervening if someone has an unhealthy fear of falling.

He adds that due to a lack of awareness, a fear of falling is not a common target in rehabilitation programs despite the fact that behavior is modifiable.

“Fear of falling is prevalent among senior Canadians and – with the aging population – it is expected to be even more prevalent in the near future,” says Dr. Auais. “According to Statistics Canada, one out of three seniors aged 65 and older were concerned that they might fall in the future and this percentage increases with age.”

Close to half of seniors aged 85 years and older report fear of falling. Moving forward, Dr. Auais says the next steps in his research include developing a screening process for those at risk and developing intervention strategies.

“Seniors need to address any true risk of falling (e.g. balance problem) and start to venture out before they become isolated and lose their independence," he says. "And the good news is that balance can improve with training. If weather permits and sidewalks are safe, head outside; otherwise find an indoor spot that works for you (e.g. shopping mall).”

The findings are part of the International Mobility in Aging Study. It’s an international collaboration featuring researchers from Albania, Brazil, Colombia, Quebec, and Kingston and led by Dr. Maria-Victoria Zunzunegui, from the University of Montreal.

The research was published in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

A degree of inspiration

If you’ve ever wanted to meet a hero, or share a world-changing leader’s insights with the Queen’s community, you may want to consider nominating someone for an honorary degree at Queen’s.

Honorary degrees are one of the most prestigious awards given by a university. Recipients are nominated by the university community based on their contribution to the university, the local community, Canadian society, and to the world.

Bill Flanagan, Dean of Law, recounts his recent experience nominating Douglas Cardinal, a prominent Indigenous architect, Order of Canada inductee, and leader in the Indigenous community.

Douglas Cardinal lectures in front of a packed room in Macdonald Hall during his visit to Queen's to receive his honorary degree in March, 2017.
Douglas Cardinal lectures in front of a packed room in Macdonald Hall during his visit to Queen's to receive his honorary degree in March, 2017. (Photo: Andrew Van Overbeke)

“Douglas has had a long and distinguished career, and he’s been a great friend of the school. He’s come to speak to our students about Indigenous legal matters, and gave two lectures while he was in Kingston for the convocation about Indigenous peoples and law in Canada. He has created award-winning and world-renowned buildings, such as the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa and a church in Red Deer, Alberta – a famous building which I attended as a kid, and I was always terribly impressed by its beauty,” he says.

“Nominating honorary degree recipients is of great value, both to recognize their contributions and also as an opportunity to provide inspiration to our graduates,” says Dean Flanagan. “It’s important that these nominees are considered carefully, and be of a certain caliber, like Douglas Cardinal, who has been a tremendous leader in his field.”

The Senate Honorary Degree Committee approves nominees from the applications, and may award a Doctor of Divinity, Laws, or Science to the successful recipients.

Richard Reznick, Dean of Health Sciences, has nominated many honorary degree recipients over the years, and recounts one of his most memorable.

Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, honorary degree recipient, delivers a moving speech at the School of Medicine Class of 2011 convocation. (Photo: Jackie Duffin)
Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, honorary degree recipient, delivers a moving speech at the School of Medicine Class of 2011 convocation. (Photo: Jackie Duffin)

“The very first recipient that I nominated was Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish. He is a Canadian-Palestinian doctor who lived in Palestine but trained in Israel as an obstetrician, and had a lot of connections in the Israeli community. During one of the severe conflicts, where there were a lot of bombings, he had a tragedy that killed three of his children, his niece, and injured another child. He became world-famous for writing a book, I Shall Not Hate, which promoted using conflict and tragedy to foster understanding between sides on serious – in this case, thousands of years long – conflicts,” says Dr. Reznick. “When he gave his convocation speech, not only did he get a standing ovation, but he had everyone in tears.”

Both Deans would recommend the experience to anyone in the Queen’s community.

“I’ve made it a habit to nominate someone every year,” says Dr. Reznick. “It’s really about honouring the nominee, and inspiring our students, but it also gives Queen’s a chance to affiliate with these world-famous people, and create a connection.”

“Of course,” says Dean Flanagan. “For my nomination of Douglas, I wanted to both recognize and thank him for his contribution to our school, speaking to our students, participating in our Indigenous art project, and providing a voice for Indigenous people in the law school.”

You don’t have to be a Dean to nominate someone for an honorary degree. Anyone from the Kingston or Queen’s community may nominate a person they believe has made remarkable contributions to the lives of others throughout the world, in academia, business, politics, scientific research, and the arts.

The committee invites nominations for honorary degrees to all who qualify, including women, Aboriginal persons, visible minorities/racialized persons, persons with disabilities, and LGBTQ persons.

The selection process begins after all nominations are submitted, when the committee meets to review the nominations and make recommendations. The Senate then approves the recommendations in April, and invitations to candidates for both the fall and winter convocations are sent over the summer. In fall, the list of honorees are made public.

Applications are open through the University Secretariat to nominate an individual or group for an honorary degree for fall and winter of 2019. The deadline is March 1, 2018 to submit nomination forms.

A cut above

Public lecture will highlight cutting-edge surgical tool that will change the way tumours are removed.

Researchers from Queen’s University, Kingston Health Sciences Centre, and Imperial College in London, England are breaking new ground with a cutting-edge technology that could transform the way tumour removal surgery is performed.

Zoltan Takats (r) discusses the benefits of the iKnife, an innovative surgical tool that can detect cancer by analyzing or ‘smelling’ smoke created during surgery. (Photo by Matthew Manor)

The Intelligent Knife or ‘iKnife,’ developed by researchers at Imperial College London, is an innovative tool that can detect cancer by analyzing or ‘smelling’ smoke created during surgery. With a global reputation for work in developing image-guided surgical interventions that could enhance use of the iKnife technology, Queen’s has been asked to join a consortium to advance the tool’s capabilities.

“Surgeons and researchers from Queen’s University have joined a consortium of three academic partners and a corporate sponsor to investigate the possible uses of the iKnife,” says Dr. John Rudan (Head, Department of Surgery). “The iKnife has the potential to revolutionize the surgical treatment of cancer. Queen’s expertise in image-guided surgery and cancer research provides unique expertise important to the further development of the iKnife.”

At this time, the iKnife is an investigative research and surgical tool. Kingston will become the first city in North America to have access to the technology, joining a small number of centres in Europe. Intensive research will be done over the next several years at Queen’s with the iKnife being used in the operating rooms.

The iKnife was invented by Zoltan Takats, a member of the Department of Cancer and Surgery at Imperial College London, who is visiting Queen’s from Nov. 6 to 10 as the Dr. Andrew Bruce and Margaret Bruce Visiting Scholar in Surgical Innovation. Established by Dr. Andrew and Margaret Bruce, the endowment will be used to support the hosting of prominent scholars at Queen’s. These visiting scholars will bring special expertise in the area of surgical scholarship, introduce new research and ideas, teach new methodologies to Queen’s medical scientists and clinicians, and provide new concepts to Queen’s students.

The public is invited to hear Dr. Takats present a talk entitled, What Do the Molecules Tell Us? - The quiet revolution of chemical information, on the importance of molecular imaging in surgery, at a public lecture on Thursday, Nov. 9 at 4:30 pm at the Britton Smith Lecture Theatre in the Queen’s Medical Education Building on Arch Street.

The Conversation: Science in Canada needs funding, not photo-ops

Fresh off an election win in 2015, the Trudeau government won the support of the Canadian research community with a declaration that science and evidence-based decision making was back.

"Andrew Craig"
Andrew Craig, an associate professor in biomedical and molecular sciences at Queen's University, would like to see the government implement all recommendations from the Naylor report. (University Communications) 

Early action included the appointment of Canada’s first minister of science, and a modest increase in funding to the federal agencies that administer federal research funds in their first budget. While disappointed with the magnitude of investment, the research community rationalized that much more substantive changes to science funding would require more time, and hoped for an evidence-based process.

To this end, Science Minister Kirsty Duncan commissioned a review of federally funded research led by David Naylor and a panel of university administrators and distinguished researchers, including Nobel laureate Arthur McDonald.

The report was delivered in late 2016. But the official release was delayed until early April 2017, after the government presented its second federal budget with no new funds for Canada’s three federal research agencies, commonly referred to as the tricouncil: Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

Picking winners instead of basic research

In fact, there was no mention of these funding agencies or the importance of fundamental research in the 2017 federal budget, despite a major focus on innovation, which inevitably builds on fundamental discoveries.

Instead, Ottawa continued the trend of previous governments to support directed funding for specialized themes, including $6 million for stem-cell research, $81 million for space exploration, $10 million for quantum computing and $35 million to support international collaborations. This approach amounts to picking winners, and ignores the value of broad support for the science ecosystem.

To this day, there has been limited endorsement of the Naylor report recommendations by the Canadian government. Some suggest the science minister and the Naylor report failed to make a compelling case that a major reinvestment of $485 million dollars annually — less than 0.1 per cent of GDP — is needed to restore funding for fundamental research to 2005 levels.

Duncan was slow to endorse the report and appeared to question whether funding recommendations should be left to elected officials — surprising since she herself commissioned the report, and it provides the basis for evidence-based decisions on how to bolster Canadian science funding and delivery.

Research funding dire

Research funding in Canada has remained relatively flat. (Handout)
Research funding in Canada has remained relatively flat. (Handout)

Instead, a grassroots effort among Canadian researchers led to the organization of town hall meetings across Canada where researchers weighed in on their concerns. These forums revealed how dire the funding situation is for researchers, especially for those in early and mid-career positions who are attempting to build or sustain their research program.

The meetings also demonstrated that the research community strongly supports implementation of all recommendations in the Naylor report. “Support the Report” became a mantra taken up by many Canadian scientists on social media and in meetings with government officials. We collectively met with most federal MPs and ministers and often found ourselves educating them on the Naylor report — even those within the Liberal government.

Since then, there has been no evidence that the science minister or the prime minister will provide the budget support needed to enact the report’s recommendations.

Now at the midpoint of its mandate, the Trudeau government is attempting to traverse an ever-widening gap between the government’s messaging on science and its actions. Due to inaction, they have effectively reduced available funding for federal research in open competitions where the research topics are not constrained or dependent on industry partnerships.

Serious implications

Why should the public be concerned? The loss of investigator-initiated grants means that we are currently limiting the support for new fundamental discoveries that cannot be predicted by well-intentioned government or granting council executives.

Further, these discoveries are often not translated into new treatments or devices immediately. The late Tony Pawson, who made seminal discoveries during his biomedical research career in Canada, had an important message for all governments when accepting the prestigious Kyoto Prize in Japan in 2008: “Governments increasingly want to see immediate returns on the research that they support, but it is worth viewing basic science as a long-term investment that will yield completely unexpected dividends for humanity in the future.”

This was certainly a failing of the Harper government, and still largely applies to the science policy of the Trudeau government, despite the warm platitudes of how they value science.

Action needed now

It is time for the Canadian government to move past boutique programs and photo-ops. Without new investment in unfettered research funding to the tricouncil agencies, we will see generations of highly skilled scientists leave Canada or choose another career.

This will further the steady decline in Canada’s reputation for world-class research. It also has the unintended consequence of stemming the flow of new discoveries that feed into the innovation sector.

Recently, several positive steps on the science portfolio have included appointment of Canada’s chief science adviser to the government and a Canada Research Coordinating Committee. These are promising developments, but without a major increase in federal funding, the research ecosystem will remain on life support.

The ConversationIt is now 2017, a time for evidence-based decisions in science policy. It is time for the Canadian government to demonstrate they are moving ahead with all recommendations from the Naylor report to return balance and support Canadian science in all its wonderful diversity.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Queen's researcher recognized for major contributions to global cancer research

Elizabeth Eisenhauer has been awarded for exceptional leadership in cancer research.

"Elizabeth Eisenhauer"
Elizabeth Eisenhauer has been recognized by the Canadian Cancer Research Alliance with its award for Exceptional Leadership in Cancer Research. (Photo by Bernard Clark)

The Canadian Cancer Research Alliance (CCRA) has recognized Professor Emerita Elizabeth Eisenhauer with its award for Exceptional Leadership in Cancer Research for her preeminent work in the field of cancer clinical trials, cancer treatment and drug delivery, and cancer research strategy and development.  

Dr. Eisenhauer, renowned for her research in ovarian cancer, malignant melanoma, and malignant brain tumours, is one of only six recipients who will be formally presented with CCRA awards at the organization’s biennial scientific conference next week.

“I feel very honoured to have received this recognition from the Canadian Cancer Research Alliance,” says Dr. Eisenhauer. “CCRA has brought together research funding agencies from across the country to develop common strategies and shared investments designed to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer – work that I have long supported.”

Improving cancer treatment
In 1990, Dr. Eisenhauer discovered a method for administering a commonly-used cancer drug Taxol that not only sustained the drug’s efficacy longer, but also reduced its toxic side effects in patients. Her discovery led to a new global standard of care for Taxol use in the treatment of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, non-small cell lung cancer amongst others.

In 1982, Dr. Eisenhauer was instrumental in creating the Investigational New Drug (IND) Program for the Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG), based at Queen’s University. Under her directorship, the IND program offered an opportunity for clinical investigators and patients to obtain new cancer drugs and contribute to their evaluation and development. During her tenure, which ended in 2012, Dr. Eisenhauer presided over 200 phase I-III clinical trials involving more than 5,500 patients and more than 100 new cancer-fighting drugs. Many of these drugs led to new international standards of cancer treatments.

From 2006 to 2017, Dr. Eisenhauer also assumed several other national leadership positions, including roles as president of the National Cancer Institute of Canada; expert lead, Research at the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer; and co-chair of the CCRA. Most recently, she served as head of oncology at Queen’s before her retirement in June 2017.

“Dr. Eisenhauer’s ground-breaking research contributions have fundamentally changed how scientists develop, test, and administer new treatments for cancer,” says John Fisher, Interim Vice-Principal (Research) at Queen’s. “Her efforts to advance potential treatments safely and effectively through clinical trials have led to new standards of care and increased quality of life for cancer patients around the world. On behalf of Queen’s, I want to offer my congratulations for this well-deserved recognition, and commend Dr. Eisenhauer for her exceptional leadership in the fight against cancer.”

Looking ahead, Dr. Eisenhauer says there has been excitement around emerging immune treatments and molecular-targeted medicines for cancer, but she stresses that it would be a mistake to focus solely on a few treatment areas.

“Reducing the burden of cancer will require research and implementation of important findings in all areas, including prevention, early detection, treatment, survivorship, and palliative care,” says Dr. Eisenhauer. “There is a tendency to assume that there are simple answers to cancer, which leads to a lot of funding being directed into a single area of research. However, there have never been simple solutions, so a multi-pronged approach will be the only sufficient way to reduce the impact of this disease.”

The CCRA conference runs from Nov. 5-7 in Vancouver.

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