$1.7 million to advance research on colon cancer, brain development, kidney disease and severe fluid loss

July 20, 2018

Four research groups at The Ottawa Hospital, affiliated with the University of Ottawa, have been awarded $1.7 million in the most recent project grant competition from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Their projects will advance science and improve health in areas such as severe fluid loss, colon cancer screening, brain development and kidney disease.

Project summaries

World-first trial to compare two salt solutions for rehydrating hospitalized patients

Hospitals in Ontario use more than 19 million bags of salt solution every year to intravenously rehydrate patients, but there are two competing solutions and nobody knows which one is better. Drs. Lauralyn McIntyre, Monica Taljaard and Dean Fergusson will lead the first multi-centre clinical trial in the world to rigorously compare these two solutions. The trial will involve 16 hospitals and will use an innovative design in which hospitals completely use one fluid for three months and then switch to the other. Outcomes will be assessed using a big data approach, through the Institute for Clinical and Evaluative Sciences (ICES). The results could improve health for millions of people and help hospitals save money. Read the grant summary on CIHR’s website or read about the pilot trial currently underway at The Ottawa Hospital. Co-Investigators: Alison Fox-Robichaud, Kusum Menon, Shane English, Claudio Martin, John Marshall, Steven Hawken, Colin McCartney, John Muscedere, Deborah Cook, Ian Graham, Alan Forster, Charles Weijer, Raphael Saginur, Andrew Seely, Ian Stiell, Kednapa Thavorn. Core resources: Ottawa Methods Centre, ICES uOttawa


Do people with inflammatory bowel disease really need 30 random biopsies to detect colon cancer? Colonoscopies can save lives by detecting colon cancer early, but they aren’t fun, especially for people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Traditionally, colon cancer has been difficult to see during a colonoscopy in people with IBD, so doctors typically take 30-40 random biopsies during the procedure just to be sure. But the ability to see tumours in people with IBD has improved greatly in recent years, so nobody is sure if the random biopsies are still needed. Drs. Sanjay Murthy and Dean Fergusson will lead a clinical trial to compare the traditional random biopsy approach with a targeted biopsy approach, in which biopsies are only taken if a tissue looks suspicions. With 400 patients at 12 sites, this trial is considered a pilot for a larger future study. This research could reduce the risks associated with colonoscopies in people with IBD and reduce costs of the procedure. Read a summary of this grant on CIHR’s website. Co-Investigators: Charles Bernstein, Vipul Jairath, Geoffrey Nguyen, Geoffrey, Robert Riddell. Core resources: Ottawa Methods Centre

How does DNA packaging affect brain development and intellectual disability?

The human genome is like a big instruction book with more than 9 billion letters divided into 23 strands. Researchers are increasingly realizing that the way these strands are rolled up and packaged can have a big impact on health and disease. Dr. David Picketts is studying a protein called PHF6, which is involved in packaging DNA. Mutations in PHF6 cause a rare form of intellectual disability called Börjeson-Forssman-Lehmann syndrome (BFLS). His team will use sophisticated techniques to study PHF6 and determine how it regulates brain development and function. This research could lead to new treatments for intellectual disability as well as other brain-related conditions. Read a summary on CIHR’s website (insert link). Core resources: StemCore


Can an “exercise prescription” improve health in people with kidney disease?

Exercise is almost always a good approach to improve health, but sometimes people need specific advice and support to get started and maintain it. Drs. Deborah Zimmerman and Rita Suri have developed a simple exercise program to do just this for people with end-stage kidney disease. The program involves giving patients an “exercise prescription” that involves walking with Nordic poles, setting goals, measuring progress using a pedometer, and getting support from clinic staff and through an online peer group. Drs. Zimmerman and Suri will conduct a pilot trial to evaluate this program in 90 to 150 patients. If successful, it could not only improve health and quality of life, but also reduce the health-care costs associated with end-stage kidney disease. Read a summary of this grant on CIHR’s website. Co-Investigators: Louise Moist, Charmaine Lok, Robert Reid, Timothy Ramsay, Jennifer Harris, Catherine Clase. Core resources: Ottawa Methods Centre.

In addition to these projects which will be administered at The Ottawa Hospital, Dr. Peter Tanuseputro is co-leading a project a project at McMaster that will investigate how physicians provide care at the end of life, and link this to outcomes. Read a summary of this grant on CIHR’s website. Co-Investigators: Michelle Howard, Sarina Isenberg, Susan Bronskill, James Downar, Amy Hsu, Douglas Manuel, Joshua Shadd.


The Ottawa Hospital was among the top three hospitals in the country for bringing in highly competitive CIHR funding in 2017-18.

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Media Contact

Jennifer Ganton
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Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
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