Health research: Some of the year’s most remarkable achievements


Canada’s health care organizations are home to advances in patient care that enhance the lives of Canadians and people around the world. Our research hospitals and academic regional health authorities generate research and innovation successes at a remarkable rate. Between 2014 and 2015 over 1,800 stories highlighted the research and innovation taking place at Canada’s leading health care organizations


HealthCareCAN, the national voice of health care organizations, tracks these stories in an award-winning tool called Innovation Sensation, a searchable database that highlights the research and innovation successes of our members. For this special Research Edition of the Hospital News, HealthCareCAN is delighted share some highlights of the last twelve months. This selection from Innovation Sensation is the author’s, so visit to view thousands of other research and innovation achievements and choose your own favourites.

August 2015
Study finds paramedic care delivered on-scene for 10-35 minutes leads to better outcomesDate: August 25, 2015In the largest paediatric cardiac arrest study to date, a team of researchers at Lawson Institute found that survival was the highest with 10 to 35 minutes on the scene in the care and under the treatment of paramedics. The study also found that improved survival was associated with intravenous access and fluid administration, whereas advanced airway attempts and resuscitation drugs were not.New treatment offers hope for an incurable disease

Date: August 23, 2015

After 10 years of research, a scientist and respirologist from St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton has found a way to help those with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis find relief. About half of IPF patients die within three years, but the drug, approved by Health Canada in June and now being evaluated for coverage by OHIP, has been shown to slow the illness by 50%.

Leading journal features Sudbury cancer research

Date: August 17, 2015

A study led by a researcher at Health Sciences North in Sudbury looking into a potential breakthrough treatment for cancer is being published in leading cancer journal, “Cancer Research”. The research team have created a small synthetic chemical molecule called that kills cancer cells and avoids non-cancerous cells. The treatment can boost the effectiveness of other drugs, but also has the potential to be used as a stand-alone drug for cancer treatment.

New genetics testing at CHEO could save lives

Date: August 13, 2015

New genetic testing by researchers at CHEO is making it possible for those with inherited heart conditions to attain more complete testing results that could help manage their disease and minimize the chance of death. With this testing, researchers hope to find a genetic explanation in people who have heart conditions.

July 2015
HIV treatment has social and socioeconomic benefits, as well as improved health: studyDate July 21, 2015New research at Providence Health Care shows that HIV treatment for illicit drug users improves their social and socioeconomic wellbeing as well as their health. This research illustrates how HIV care and treatment can open doors to improvements in other areas relevant to people’s social determinants of health.Promising Hamilton cancer treatment being tested in patients

Date: July 10, 2015

A cancer treatment discovered by a team of researchers at Hamilton Health Sciences that doubles as a vaccine to prevent the disease from reoccurring is being tested in patients. The vaccine is powerful enough to destroy an existing tumour and prevent it from relapsing. While chemotherapy will still play a role in cancer treatment, researchers have reached a plateau, and this novel treatment is yielding promising results.

June 2015
Molecules hold promise for detecting, treating cancer and neurodegenerative diseasesDate: June 29, 2015A clinician scientist at the Kingston General Hospital Research Institute is studying select cancer and neurodegenerative diseases and the ways in which ribonucleic acid (RNA) control is disturbed. RNA possesses lot of information, so it is a good diagnostic and therapeutic target. This research holds tremendous promise as researchers attempt figure out ways to use it to cure disease.What’s the link between blood clots and cancer screening? Ottawa study may surprise you

Date: June 22, 2015

Researchers at The Ottawa Hospital have discovered a breakthrough into the link between blood clots and cancer screening that will save millions in unnecessary and potentially harmful tests. A new study concluded that there was no difference in the number of new cancers detected in those who received extensive screening and those who did not, leading to the conclusion that more screening isn’t always better.

May 2015
Signs of female heart disease often ignoredDate: May 7, 2015Researchers believe that when it comes to heart attack symptoms, there are disparities in care between men and women. Women who experience symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath aren’t often flagged as potential heart attack victims. To the contrary, researchers at Vancouver Coastal Health have found that young women are more likely to die after a heart attack than men. This discovery will revolutionize the way women are treated for heart disease.
April 2015
Researchers examine brains of people who can’t form memories to relive pastDate: April 28, 2015Scientists at Baycrest in Toronto are discovering that not all brains remember key life events, such as a first kiss or the birth of a child. The Baycrest team has named the condition lifelong severely deficient autobiographical memory, or SDAM, and has reported on their findings in the journal Neuropsychologia. Theirs is only the second report in the medical literature of this memory condition and the first to involve using brain imaging techniques to test people with the condition.Zebrafish offer hope for treatment of rare cancer

Date: April 23, 2015

A researcher at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax has developed an innovative treatment that promises to help those suffering from a rare and aggressive form of leukemia. The treatment involves the transplantation of human leukemia cells from bone marrow biopsies into zebrafish embryos. When observed through a fluorescent microscope, the human cells are easily visible through the transparent fish’s body. Within only a few days, scientists are able to see whether cancer cells grow or shrink in number as different drugs are added to the fish tank.

Medical researchers tackle silent epidemic of fatty liver disease

Date: April 9, 2015

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is now the most common form of liver disease in Canada and part of a larger liver-disease epidemic. It is estimated that 25 to 40 per cent of Canada’s adult population has fatty liver to a degree, while about 5 per cent of adults have fatty livers that have progressed to the point of inflammation, known as steatohepatitis.

March 2015
Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences and computer codingDate: March 20, 2015A clinical researcher at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre has developed a novel clinical documentation tool which will allow teams of healthcare providers to collectively maintain medical documents containing an up-to-date summary of the patient in front of them. The patient’s records can be digitally stored, accessed, and edited by authorized healthcare professionals caring for the patient.Study disputes ‘not criminally responsible’ myths

Date: March 19, 2015

A study led by researchers at the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group finds that it is easier for people with serious mental illness to access treatment after they are charged with a crime than it is for them to get professional help before. The findings suggest that more can be done to prevent “not criminally responsible” crimes from taking place, and underscores the need for provinces to bridge gaps between their civil mental health systems, where patients first seek help, and forensic systems, where they end up after committing an offence.

Blood pressure drug shrinks cancer in ‘miracle’ clinical trial

Date: March 9, 2015

A break-through clinical study led by a team of scientists at Provincial Health Services Authority has dramatically reduced a patient’s cancer to barely detectable in just a few weeks. The world-leading study, involving genomic sequencing of a patient’s aggressive form of cancer, identified a unique protein function at play. This critical detail pointed to a unique treatment option, a medication commonly used to treat high blood pressure—that effectively targets the protein.

Just a sprinkle: Kids worldwide helped by Canadian MD’s invention

Date: March 9, 2015

A pediatrician researcher at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children has developed inexpensive means of preventing anemia in children by providing iron and other micronutrients through “Sprinkles”, a sachet of micronutrients in powdered form that can easily be added to a baby’s or toddler’s meals.

February 2015
Unveiling B.C.’s first digital mammography vehicleDate: February 24, 2015Vancouver Island Health Authority, with the BC Cancer Agency, has unveiled a mobile coach that is the first of three Screening Mammography Program vehicles in the province to transition to digital mammography mobile testing centre. Converting the mobile coaches to digital mammography offers greater efficiency in reporting, that will ultimately result in better health outcomes for women at risk of breast cancer.Robots used to comfort sick kids at Alberta Children’s Hospital

Date: February 19, 2015

Clinicians at Alberta Children’s Hospital are using childlike robots to comfort young patients during stressful medical procedures. A study conducted by Alberta Health Services showed that children who interacted with the robots reported 50 per cent less pain compared to those who received vaccinations with little or no distraction. The robot is programmed to imitate the actions of a child and can help calm nervous young patients by chatting and offering high-fives. The robot is primarily used during uncomfortable procedures such as vaccinations and blood tests.

New hope in the fight against pain

Date: February 19, 2015

An international study led by scientists at McGill University Health Centre has discovered a novel drug that could be used to treat patients with neuropathic pain, a disorder characterized by severe and persistent pain that often develops following nerve damage. There are very limited treatments available for neuropathic pain, and a lot of patients use opioids, which can lead to addiction and severe side effects in the long term. For these reasons, identifying novel pain relievers is of keen interest in the medical field today.

New procedure a ‘major breakthrough’ in stroke treatment

Date: February 11, 2015

Scientists at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre have discovered a new stroke treatment that has been shown to be so effective that Canadian researchers say it will be used as part of standard stroke care. The treatment, which involves removing blood clots in the brain with a retrievable stent, has nearly doubled the percentage of patients who experienced positive outcomes from 30 per cent to 55 per cent.

January 2015
App bridges the gap for youth with mental health concernsDate: January 30, 2015Eastern Health has launched its first health-related mobile app, called Bridge the gAPP. The app aims to support and promote mental wellness amongst youth in Newfoundland and Labrador. Bridge the gAPP is a free mobile app that covers a variety of topics that are important to youth who are experiencing mental health issues.Probiotics may hold key to improving mental health

Date: January 29, 2015

In a world-first study, researchers at Women’s College Hospital are exploring whether probiotics, the stomach bacteria that aid digestion, regulate the immune system and reduce inflammation, may be an effective treatment for those with bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety.

Too much sitting could be deadly, study says

Date: January 20, 2015

Researchers at University Health Network in Toronto say that even with a regimen of daily exercise, excessive sitting could be deadly in the long run. UHN researchers have found the regardless of exercise, the amount of time a person sits during the day is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and death.

Home is where your heart is monitored

Date: January 19, 2015

Researchers from Bruyère Research Institute will study technology intended to help seniors with unobtrusive health monitoring that requires nothing from the patient and its potential to help seniors. The project will focus on the design and testing of sensors that can be built into common, everyday household objects, from tiles to doorknobs and beds to appliances.

December 2014
Winnipeg researchers believe they’ve found way to curb side-effects on heart from a chemo drugDate: December 15, 2014Researchers at Winnipeg Regional Health Authority believe they have discovered a way to prevent the toxic effects on the heart of a widely used chemotherapy drug used to treat cancer. The research has huge implications for cancer patients who are currently undergoing treatment because clinicians can now develop therapies that will prevent heart failure or the damaging effects of the drug on the heart.Canadians score a stem cell breakthrough

Date: December 12, 2014

A team of researchers at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital have mapped the complex process by which stem cells evolve and, along the way, discovered a new type of stem cell that may be better suited for therapeutic use. This discovery has led scientists to a new type of stem cell that appears to grow faster and is easier to work with than other stem cells, making it a strong candidate for use in future studies.
Technology breakthrough reveals cellular transcription process

Date: December 4, 2014

A new technology, developed by a team of researchers at the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, reveals cellular gene transcription in greater detail than ever before. The new research tool offers clinician scientists a more insightful view of the immune responses that are involved in a range of diseases, such as HIV infection. The application of the technology promises to have a huge impact as ultimately it will enable researchers to better understand the cause of diseases and to establish the effectiveness of the drugs used to treat them.

November 2014
Brain stimulation eases major depressionDate: November 19, 2014Doctors at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto are utilizing a brain stimulation therapy to treat severe depression that doesn’t respond to standard antidepressant medications and psychotherapy. Known as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, the treatment is a non-invasive procedure that uses electromagnetic energy to “exercise” an area of the brain thought to be underutilized in people with depression.
October 2014
Study shows exit screening vital to halting global Ebola spreadDate: October 20, 2014A team of researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto discovered that exit screening was one of the most effective ways of limiting Ebola’s spread. With no effective exit screening, estimates indicate that three Ebola-infected travelers a month would board international flights from the West African countries suffering epidemics of the deadly virus. The study showed that it was far more effective and less disruptive to screen travelers from the affected countries in West Africa as they leave, rather than when they land, as many Western countries do.
September 2014
Autism study suggests parents could treat early symptoms at homeDate: September 8, 2014Researchers at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital are encouraging parents to treat early signs of autism at home. The research suggests that if symptoms are diagnosed quickly enough, the at-home treatment may significantly minimize symptoms of the disorder later in life. Parents require just 12 one-hour training sessions to learn the techniques used to treat symptoms.