1991Stuart Foster and his team invent and license the world’s first high frequency ultrasound micro-imaging scanner for preclinical imaging. This scanner is now used around the world for research applications and clinical imaging of the eye to detect glaucoma and anterior segment tumours.
1993The International Digital Mammography Development Group, led by scientists at SWRI, is formed. This collaboration of leaders in breast imaging has made dramatic breakthroughs in developing new technologies to detect breast cancer.
1994Martin Yaffe of SWRI and Norman Boyd of Princess Margaret Hospital (University Health Network) show a correlation between breast density and increased risk of breast cancer.
1998Heart and circulation scientists first analyze the dramatic fall and rise in the rates of carotid endarterectomy, a surgical procedure to prevent strokes, in the United States and Canada related to the publication of first unfavourable and then favourable clinical studies.
1999Imaging scientists led by Peter Burns develop the world’s first method to image blood flow in the microscopic vessels in the muscle of the heart in real-time, a technique now used internationally. An accurate view of cardiac microscopic vessels is critical to improving diagnosis of and treatment for heart attacks.
2000Robert Kerbel and his team show that much lower doses of chemotherapy in combination with antiangiogenic drugs (drugs that stop the development of blood vessels in tumours) will significantly delay tumour progression in animal models. Clinical trials are underway to validate these results in Ontario and around the world. If successful, this treatment would have less severe side effects than conventional treatments, and it could help to prevent drug resistance.
2000In an international trial on breech delivery, scientists led by Mary Hannah find substantially lower rates of death or serious complications for breech babies delivered by planned caesarean section compared with those delivered by vaginal delivery.
2001Michael Julius at SWRI and his collaborators at the University Health Network and Osaka University in Japan discover a protein in human breast milk that stimulates the immune system of newborns. This discovery underlines the importance of breast feeding. It also offers the opportunity to supplement baby formula to provide immune system benefits similar to those of breast milk.
2002Steven Narod finds that there is a slightly higher risk of breast cancer for women who are BRCA gene carriers who take oral contraceptives before age 25 and for longer than five years. This finding has implications for the BRCA gene carriers aged over 25, as Narod’s previous research showed that taking the pill should lead to a 60% reduction in risk of ovarian cancer without any increase in risk of breast cancer.
2002Thomas Schmitt and Juan Carlos Zúñiga-Pflücker create a simple system to generate T-cells in a Petri dish. T-cells are a vital component of the immune system that orchestrate, regulate and coordinate the overall immune response. This discovery provides a method to create model systems to study the genetics and molecular biology of T cell development and points to future clinical therapies for people whose immune systems have been destroyed, for example, by HIV or toxic cancer therapies.
2002Immunology scientists Philippe Poussier and Michael Julius show that a cell population of unknown function but present in the gut of normal people plays a key role in preventing ulcerative colitis from developing.
2003Imaging scientists led by Martin Yaffe publish the first results to use digital mammography with a contrast agent (dye) to show tumours that cannot be viewed with current clinical mammography.
2003Jorge Filmus discovers a molecular marker to diagnose hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer. HCC is usually asymptomatic at early stages, and has great propensity for invasion, making it difficult to treat. Filmus developed a test for the early diagnosis of HCC, which could also be useful for the screening of individuals that are at high risk of developing this disease, such as people chronically infected with Hepatitis B and C.
2003Yaacov Ben-David and Robert Kerbel discover that TRP-2, a gene involved in melanin synthesis, is responsible for intrinsic drug and irradiation resistance in human melanoma.
2003Neil Cashman at SWRI and researchers at Caprion Pharmaceuticals discover a way to make the immune system specifically recognize infectious prions, proteins that cause brain-wasting diseases like mad cow disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, its human equivalent. This discovery paves the way for the development of diagnostic tools, immunotherapy and a vaccine.
2004Neuroscientists use wireless handheld technology to collect data from patients with bipolar disorder — more than 40,000 responses — and thereby build the largest database of its kind in Canada. This allows the analysis of mood dynamics with unprecedented detail.Radiation oncologists at Toronto Sunnybrook Regional Cancer Centre are the world’s first to use beads of palladium, a low-dose radioactive material, to treat women with breast cancer as outpatients. This therapy holds the promise to eliminate anguishing side effects and enhance the quality of life of women considerably.A research team led by Ellen Warner finds magnetic resonance imaging detects more breast cancer tumours, earlier, compared with mammography, ultrasound or clinical examination in women with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. This finding offers hope for genetically at-risk women, for whom removal of both breasts is the only other option.In the first large, multi-centre clinical trial of its kind, researchers provide compelling evidence to suggest that artery grafts from the forearm should be used in place of vein grafts from the leg in heart bypass surgery, because radial arteries have significantly higher graft patency over one year. Graft patency, a measure of whether the bypass remains open enough to permit efficient blood flow, is critical to achieving a good outcome after surgery.
2005Robert Kerbel and colleagues publish findings suggesting that measuring the peripheral blood cells that circulate in the blood and contribute to tumour growth may provide a way to measure and monitor the effectiveness of antiangiogenic therapies that work by stopping the formation of blood vessels. Right now, determining the optimal dose of antiangiogenic drugs is difficult and thus a limiting factor in their clinical development.By expressing too much of a certain receptor, Dan Dumont’s laboratory creates the first mouse model that reflects many of the main features of the human disease psoriasis and responds to cyclosporine A, a classic treatment for the immune system disease. This finding could lead to the development and testing of therapies for psoriasis that target the implicated receptor.Georg Bjarnason’s research team finds that patients treated with high-dose radiation for head and neck cancer in the morning have a lower risk of developing a kind of side effect that damages the mouth and throat than do patients who are treated in the late afternoon. It is the first study to show a link between circadian rhythms and the development of mucositis due to radiotherapy.Scientists led by Yaacov Ben-David produce the first results showing that early surgical removal of the spleen in combination with antiangiogenic therapy that stops the formation of blood vessels that feed tumour growth leads to prolonged survival in a mouse model of leukemia.In the first trial of its kind in the world, radiation oncologists at Toronto Sunnybrook Regional Cancer Centre begin treating prostate cancer patients using a 3-D image-guided radiation therapy device that oncologists expect will improve the delivery of radiation treatment. This revolutionary, non-surgical technique allows the oncologist to visualize the exact position of the target and deliver precise external beam radiation therapy.