2017 Lawson Impact Awards Recipients
Scientist Career Award
Dr. Peeyush Lala
Over the past 50 years, Dr. Peeyush Lala has led a career dedicated to the fields of placental biology and cancer biology. He has built a unique bridge between the two disciplines by progressing our understanding of the mechanisms that control cell migration and tissue invasion. Through this work, Dr. Lala has advanced our knowledge of embryo implantation, placental development and cancer metastasis. This includes studying the role of cancer stem cells in the propogation and metastasis of breast cancer. His most recent findings include the discovery that the production of a molecule called Decorin is dysregulated in pregnancies with pre-eclampsia. This raises the exciting possibility that measurements of the protein may be used as a biomarker to predict pre-eclampsia. Dr. Lala’s passion for science and its translation for clinical relevance and impact are evident throughout his career. Dr. Lala has coauthored more than 225 scientific publications, 26 of which have been cited more than 100 times. He has also contributed to the education and training of leading scientists around the world. Dr. Lala has served on the editorial boards for seven scientific journals, was an associate editor of the American Journal of Anatomy, past President of the Canadian Association of Anatomists, Neurobiologists and Cell Biologists (CAANCB) and past Vice-President of the American Society of Reproductive Immunology (ASRI). He has been awarded with the JCB Grant Senior Scientist Awards from CAANCB in 1990 and a Research Excellence Award from Western University in 1996. In 2001, Queen’s University held an international symposium, cosponsored by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), in tribute to Dr. Lala and his research. In 2013, Western conferred their highest honour on Dr. Lala – Doctor of Science (honoris causa).
Drs. Glenn Bauman and Aaron Ward
Drs. Glenn Bauman and Aaron Ward are senior authors of the publication, “[18F]-DCFPyL Positron Emission Tomography/Magnetic Resonance Imaging for Localization of Dominant Intraprostatic Foci: First Experience,” published in European Urology Focus in 2016. Drs. Bauman and Ward are recognized for collaborating with Lawson Imaging scientists to improve the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer. The team is the first in Canada to capture highly specific prostate cancer images using a new molecule known as a prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) probe. The PSMA probe is used in Positron Emissions Tomography (PET) scans to correctly diagnose cancer. PET probes are injected into a patient where they then spread throughout the body and identify sites of disease. PET scans are often combined with Computed Tomography (CT) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). This shows where the probe is concentrated, confirming precisely where the cancer is located. There are common PET probes to image most cancers, but they have been less accurate in identifying prostate cancer. The PSMA probe solves this problem by specifically targeting PSMA molecules, which are found on prostate cancer cells. The resulting images provide exceptional detail about a patient’s cancer, including the precise location, size and status of a tumour. This revolutionary approach has implications for improved targeting for regions receiving radiation, potentially resulting in less invasive procedures and improved patient outcomes.
Dr. Joseph Gilbert Research Contribution of the Year Award
Dr. Gediminas Cepinskas
Dr. Gediminas (Gedas) Cepinskas is director of the Centre for Critical Illness Research at Lawson. Dr. Cepinskas is recognized for his publication, “Carbon monoxide-releasing molecule 3 inhibits myeloperoxidase (MPO) and protects against MPO-induced vascular endothelial cell activation/dysfunction,” published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine in 2014. Dr. Cepinskas is one of few scientists worldwide studying carbon monoxide-releasing molecules (CORMs) to treat inflammatory conditions. This publication describes for the first time how carbon monoxide protects against leukocyte-induced tissue injury. It describes the mechanism of CORM-dependent suppression of leukocyte myeloperoxidase (MPO). MPO is a unique enzyme that can produce overwhelming oxidants that can contribute to the initiation of inflammatory diseases or conditions like sepsis, organ ischemia injury, rheumatoid arthritis and more. This study has identified the mechanism which can be targeted for therapeutic interventions by employing carbon monoxide-based therapies. This study is the first to discover CORM-3 as an inhibitor for MPO activity, showing its potential in managing acute and chronic inflammatory disorders to prevent MPO-induced tissue damage. This work has resulted in two patents filed through WORLDiscoveries® for the therapeutic application of CORM-3, including a patent for the treatment of compartment syndrome.
Industry Partner of the Year Award
IDB Holland bv
IDB Holland bv is a Health Canada authorized supplier of Lutetium-177 (Lu-177). Lu-177 is a nuclear medicine treatment used to improve the quality of life in patients with neuroendocrine cancer. To test the efficacy of this treatment, Lawson Health Research Institute collaborated with IDB Holland BV in a clinical trial called “An Open Label Phase II, Registry Study of Lutetium-177 [DOTA0, Tyr3] Octreotate (Lu-DOTA-TATE) Treatment in Subjects with Somatostatin Receptor Positive Tumours”. IDB Holland went above and beyond in delivering quality shipments in a timely manner, requiring complicated dangerous goods handling across multiple borders from Holland to Canada. IDB Holland also ensured significant cost savings during product price increases. The collaboration helped to provide an Ontario-based treatment program for patients, eliminating the requirement to travel to Europe or Edmonton for specialized, targeted therapy. None of this would be possible without the support of IDB Holland bv.
Community Partner of the Year Award
Helen and Andy Spriet
With over 45 of years of philanthropic leadership, Helen and Andy Spriet have significantly advanced hospital-based research and patient care in London, Ontario. Their support of health research through the St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation has enabled innovation and discovery in the areas of urology, mobility and aging, prostate cancer, retina disease, geriatric care, spinal cord injury and surgical mechatronics. They have also advanced research and patient care through support of the London Health Sciences Foundation and Robarts Research Institute at Western University. The Spriet’s have inspired a legacy of giving within their family where their children continue their tradition of philanthropy. They have also given generously of their time and expertise as community volunteers on the St. Joseph’s Health Care Board of Directors. They often share the story of their own support to help inspire others to do the same, further building on critically needed resources.
Staff Award of Excellence
Arthroplasty Clinical Research Team (Dr. Lyndsay Somerville, Codie Primeau and Bryn Zomar)
The Arthroplasty Clinical Research Team consists of clinical research director, Dr. Lyndsay Somerville, and research coordinators, Codie Primeau and Bryn Zomar. Arthroplasty is the surgical reconstruction or replacement of a joint. This three-person team is central to London’s reputation as having one of the top hip and knee arthroplasty programs in North America. Their contributions have resulted in over 100 peer-reviewed publications. Dr. Somerville leads the team, and oversees and maintains a clinical outcomes database of over 40,000 patients. She provides first-rate guidance in the mechanics of clinical study design and is called a wizard in statistical methods. Dr. Somerville ensures the research team works together in effective harmony, while showing compassion for patients. Dr. Somerville, Codie and Bryn are all mentors and leaders to students and trainees, assisting them wherever possible. Codie and Bryn are central to ensuring research goals are met and excellence in clinical care is maintained. They enroll patients while showing true empathy. Codie and Bryn are also effective communicators. They ensure patients have a clear plan in front of them and understand the purpose of research.
Leadership Award (Student & Trainee)
Charles Ishak is a PhD candidate working in Dr. Fred Dick’s laboratory at the London Regional Cancer Program (LRCP). Charles’ numerous publications include a recent high-impact paper published in Molecular Cell, and he is consistently chosen to present at local, national and international meetings. Charles is an advocate for trainees across Lawson. He has represented graduate students through involvement in the Department of Oncology’s Strategic Planning Steering Committee, cofounding the Victoria Research Laboratory Bioinformatics Group, and chairing the keynote speaker session at the 2014 Department of Oncology Research and Education Day. Charles is also deeply engaged in scientific communication. This includes leading scientific outreach efforts by authoring articles in local papers, assisting with educational modules for high school students and participating in television interviews. Through his strong scientific acumen and leadership, Charles is well respected by his peers and the larger cancer research community.