Canadian Stem Cell Foundation

04
Feb 2015
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‘Cancer is not beyond us’

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Today is World Cancer Day. Under the tagline “Not beyond us,” the campaign’s goal is to raise awareness about the leading cause of death in Canada.…

Today is World Cancer Day. Under the tagline “Not beyond us,” the campaign’s goal is to raise awareness about the leading cause of death in Canada. Cancer is responsible for 30% of all deaths.

This year’s global campaign encourages prevention, early detection, treatment and care. Its message is a simple one: solutions to fight cancer are within our reach.

Stem cells represent a valid treatment option for certain types of blood cancers and solid tumours, and there is hope that more stem cell therapies for cancer will be available in the near future.blood

Canadian scientists are at the forefront of cancer research.  One of the major contributions to the field comes from Dr. John Dick, senior scientist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine in Toronto. He was the first to isolate cancer stem cells — in leukemia in 1994 and in colon cancer in 2007. Recently, he and his team found a way to disarm a gene called BMI-1 that regulates colorectal cancer stem cells.

But there is potential to do more. The Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan, could lead to novel treatments for cancer. In fact, the goal of the Strategy is for Canada to lead the way in delivering five to 10 safe and effective treatments for chronic diseases within 10 years.

By making stem cell research a national priority Canada has the potential to show that cancer is “not beyond us.”

 

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01
Feb 2015
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Dr. Mick Bhatia

Dr. Mick Bhatia puts Howe case into perspective on Day 6

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Dr. Mick Bhatia, Director of McMaster University’s Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute, was the featured guest on CBC Radio’s Day 6 program on Saturday morning as it delved into the controversial subject of stem cell tourism.…

Dr. Mick Bhatia, Director of McMaster University’s Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute, was the featured guest on CBC Radio’s Day 6 program on Saturday morning as it delved into the controversial subject of stem cell tourism.

Host Brent Bambury interviewed Dr. Bhatia, a member of our Foundation’s Science Leadership Council, to get his expert perspective on stroke survivor Gordie Howe’s so-called “miraculous” recovery after he travelled to Tijuana for an experimental treatment.

Along with the high costs people often pay for unproven therapies that often do not produce results, Dr. Bhatia warned of the physical dangers of untested treatments. He pointed out that unlike a drug that can be discontinued in the event of an adverse effect, “if a cell goes rogue in the body” there is no way of controlling it. “Cells can go anywhere and can grow uncontrollably,” producing tumours.

Foundation CEO & President James Price says Howe’s case underscores the need to implement the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan. “Canada has a world-class stem cell sector and we are poised to bring new treatments to the clinic. It’s about bringing more clinical trials to Canada so that Canadians have early access to therapies that are proven to be safe and effective.”

 

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28
Jan 2015
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Joseph Rotman

A tribute to Joseph Rotman — good friend, great Canadian

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It was with much sadness that we learned of the death of Joseph Rotman, an outstanding businessman, philosopher and philanthropist who was an inspiration and advisor in the formative years of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation.…

It was with much sadness that we learned of the death of Joseph Rotman, an outstanding businessman, philosopher and philanthropist who was an inspiration and advisor in the formative years of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation.

“He was a gentleman, a thoughtful, respectful leader who always committed as much in expert advice as he did in l financial support,” said James Price, President & CEO of the Foundation. “He always saw the long term, looked at the big picture. The guidance and counsel he provided, especially in our early formative days, made a lasting imprint on the Foundation.”

At the time of his death on Tuesday at age 80, Mr. Rotman was Chancellor at Western University, where the Rotman Institute of Philosophy is named after him, as is the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.  He was also chair of the Canada Council for the Arts and served on the boards of many major Canadian corporations.

Mr. Rotman said his philosophy studies at Western, undertaken after his application to the U of T’s commerce program was turned down, changed his life forever.  “I can honestly say I would not have had the success I have had without that philosophy training,” he is quoted as saying in Western University’s tribute.

At age 60, after a successful career as an oil trader, merchant banker and investor, Mr. Rotman turned his attention to public service, although, as the Globe and Mail reported, he “made large donations throughout his lifetime to support education, innovation and research, and the arts community.”

“My father taught me that the most powerful way to inspire others to give is for them to see people giving in their community,” he told Western. “He taught his children, and lived his life, on the belief that writing the cheque was the easy part. It is the giving of one’s time and ability that is more difficult.”

A tremendous supporter of — and advocate for — Canadian health research,  Mr. Rotman served on the governing council of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Stem Cell Network’s board of directors and helped get Aggregate Therapeutics up and running.  He chaired the board the Ontario Brain Institute and helped fund the Rotman Research Institute at the University of Toronto’s Baycrest Health Sciences centre.  He was a director of Toronto’s Medical and Related Sciences (MaRS) Discovery District.

“He was always willing to offer his help, his support and his advice,” said Mr. Price. “We have lost a great man and a true friend of the Foundation.”

 

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20
Jan 2015
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Strategy will streamline the process for clinical trials in Canada

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The controversy over the experimental stem cell treatment in India grabbed national headlines last week.

Alberta businessman Lee Chuckry told CBC News in Manitoba that he spent $34,000 for a stem cell therapy in India only to find his MS got worse and that “I think it’s just a big fraudulent scam.” However, another MS patient who took part in the experimental trial claims the treatment helped her.…

The controversy over the experimental stem cell treatment in India grabbed national headlines last week.

Alberta businessman Lee Chuckry told CBC News in Manitoba that he spent $34,000 for a stem cell therapy in India only to find his MS got worse and that “I think it’s just a big fraudulent scam.” However, another MS patient who took part in the experimental trial claims the treatment helped her.

The controversy points to the need for Canada to make stem cell research and development a national priority. Always a clear leader in stem cell research, Canada needs a coordinated strategy to bring health benefits for Canadians. The goal of the Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan is for Canada to lead the way in delivering five to 10 safe and effective treatments for chronic diseases within 10 years.

CBC News visited Foundation’s offices in Ottawa to ask President and CEO James Price about the goals of the Strategy. He told the CBC that the Strategy will streamline the process for clinical trials in Canada “so that Canadians that are suffering have access to treatments that are safe and proven to be effective.”

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13
Jan 2015
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Howe treatment points to need for Strategy

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The”miraculous” recovery of the Canadian hockey legend Gordie Howe, who suffered a severe stroke in October, made news across the country — and raised many questions.…

The”miraculous” recovery of the Canadian hockey legend Gordie Howe, who suffered a severe stroke in October, made news across the country — and raised many questions.

gordie howe

In mid-December, the star of Detroit Red Wings, received an experimental stem cell treatment in Mexico.

Howe’s son Mark told the Detroit Free Press that his father’s health has significantly improved since then. “His mobility was limited to shuffling his feet forward while sitting in a wheelchair. Within the past few days dad was pushing a cart at a grocery store, and he’s gone to the mall.” he said.

But what is the other side of Howe’s fast resurgence? Was the procedure safe? Does it send out the wrong message?

The scientific validity of the procedure Howe underwent is unclear. According to the newspaper U-T  San Diego Howe received the treatment from Novastem, a Mexican stem cell company, at a clinic in Tijuana. San Diego’s Stemedica, which provided the stem cells, says it follows U.S. law and requires those licensing its stem cells in foreign countries to obey the laws of those countries.

Regardless, over the last years the much publicized potential of stem cells has raised hope among patients suffering from chronic diseases. This, in turn, has led some less than scrupulous companies across the globe to  capitalize on that hope by marketing costly stem cell therapies — often for a wide variety of diseases — without the support of proven clinical evidence.

Canadian scientists and medical ethics experts have warned that this phenomenon of stem cell tourism is on the rise and so are its risks.

As reported in Ottawa Citizen this morning, Howe is one of many Canadians who put themselves in danger by seeking experimental stem cell therapies in countries with softer regulations than in Canada.

“Patients go to places that offer stem cell therapies because they are looking for hope. And stem cells can offer that hope. Unfortunately, very often there is no proven benefit.” Dr. Duncan Stewart, chief executive and financial director of the regenerative medicine program at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute told the Ottawa Citizen.

In past posts, Prof. Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Alberta and a member of the Foundation’s Science Leadership Council, has said that unproven treatments create health risks for patients and undermine the credibility of stem cell research.

On this note, James Price, President and CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, told the Citizen  that “stem cell tourism should be a wake-up call that Canada needs to prioritize funding for stem cell therapies.” He says it illustrates the need for the Stem Cell Strategy & Action Plan, which has a goal of leading the way to developing five to 10 new treatments to the clinic within 10 years.

As reported in the Citizen story, “A major emphasis of the stem cell Action Plan, which includes public and private funding, is giving Canadians confidence that new therapies are a priority and ultimately, Canadians will have first access to these therapies.”

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17
Nov 2014
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Tricky science made simple, part V

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Recently, we posted about the release of another StemCellShorts video: “What is a retinal stem cell?” narrated by Dr. Derek van der Kooy.…

Recently, we posted about the release of another StemCellShorts video: “What is a retinal stem cell?” narrated by Dr. Derek van der Kooy. Stem Cell Shorts is a series of short informative videos produced by Ben Paylor, a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia, and Dr. Mike Long, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Toronto.

Dr. van der Kooy, professor in the Department of Medical Genetics and Microbiology at the University of Toronto, who discovered retinal stem cells in 2000 narrates the video.

Dr. van der Kooy and his team have been able to transplant retinal stem cells into the eyes of visually impaired mice and have shown that the tissue regenerated to develop better sight in the animals. Dr. van der Kooy’s hope is to treat degenerative eye diseases such as macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa in the next ten years.

The new video is co-sponsored by the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation and the Stem Cell Network.

All the videos — including “What is a stem cell?” narrated by Dr. Jim Till, “What are embryonic stem cells?” voiced by Dr. Janet Rossant, “What are induced pluripotent stem cells?” narrated by Dr. Mick Bhatia, “What is stem cell tourism?” voiced by Prof. Timothy Caulfield, “What is a cancer stem cell?” narrated by Dr. John Dick and “What is a retinal stem cell?” – are now available on the Foundation’s You Tube channel. Click here to view them.

Two final instalments of the series, “What is a blood stem cell?” narrated by Dr. Connie Eaves and “What is a neural stem cell?” narrated by Dr. Sam Weiss are currently in production.

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24
Oct 2014
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Tricky science made simple, part IV

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Back in June, we announced the release of another StemCellShorts video: “What is a cancer stem cell?” narrated by Dr.

Back in June, we announced the release of another StemCellShorts video: “What is a cancer stem cell?” narrated by Dr. John Dick. Stem Cell Shorts is a series of about-a-minute-long informative videos produced by Ben Paylor, a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia, and Dr. Mike Long, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Toronto.

Dr. Dick, senior scientist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine, was the first to isolate cancer stem cells — in leukemia in 1994 and in colon cancer in 2007. Recently, he and his team found a way to disarm a gene called BMI-1 that regulates colorectal cancer stem cells.

The new video is co-sponsored by the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation and the Stem Cell Network.

All the videos — including “What is a stem cell?” narrated by Dr. Jim Till, “What are embryonic stem cells?” voiced by Dr. Janet Rossant, “What are induced pluripotent stem cells?” narrated by Dr. Mick Bhatia, and “What is a cancer stem cell?” — are now available on the Foundation’s You Tube channel. Click here to view them.

Another instalment, “What is a retinal stem cell?” narrated by Dr. Derek van der Kooy, will be released soon.

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08
Oct 2014
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International Stem Cell Awareness Day 2014

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Today marks the Seventh International Stem Cell Awareness Day, an international celebration inaugurated by California Institute of Regenerative Medicine. Scientists and organizations across the globe have an opportunity to raise public awareness of the current state of stem cell research and to share their hopes for the future advances in the field.…

Today marks the Seventh International Stem Cell Awareness Day, an international celebration inaugurated by California Institute of Regenerative Medicine. Scientists and organizations across the globe have an opportunity to raise public awareness of the current state of stem cell research and to share their hopes for the future advances in the field.

The discovery of stem cells in 1961 by Canada’s Dr. James Till and Dr. Ernest McCulloch represented a revolution in the field of health care. Stem cells have the potential to cure diseases, regenerate organs, prevent heart attacks, defeat diabetes and more. Significant progress in research has been made since then: stem cells have been used to treat leukemia, multiple myeloma and other blood cancers. However, much work lies ahead, as most clinical trials are still in their early stages.

Several international events will be taking place today and in the days to come. Click here to find out more.

Ben Paylor, a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia and the producer of StemCellShorts will be presenting a webinar entitled “The Science of Regenarative Medicine” at 12 pm ET. Click here for details.

And if you want to discover more about stem cells, check some of our resources:

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