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Three St. Michael’s scientists receive Early Researcher Awards

Toronto, September 7, 2016

By Geoff Koehler

Three scientists from St. Michael’s Hospital are among this year’s recipients of Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science Early Researcher Awards, a program that provides funding for recently appointed Ontario faculty to pursue groundbreaking work.

Dr. Sunit Das
Dr. Sunit Das
Dr. Sunit Das, a neurosurgeon and scientist with the hospital’s Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science, will use the funds for his research targeting treatment resistance in malignant brain tumours.

Even with aggressive therapy, disease relapse is invariable in glioblastoma, the most common malignant brain tumour in adults. Glioblastoma cells are resistant to the effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Patients succumb to their disease within a year because currently available therapies fail to produce a meaningful remission.

Dr. Das and his lab will identify targets that may make current treatments more effective for glioblastoma and other currently incurable cancers.

Dr. Nav Persaud
Dr. Nav Persaud
Dr. Nav Persaud, family physician and researcher with the Centre for Urban Health Solutions of St. Michael’s wants to identify the best medications for all Ontarians through a randomized control trial.

More than a million Ontarians cannot afford their prescription medications. Dr. Persaud’s proposal suggests rigorously studying an intervention that would provide everyone with essential medications, improve the quality of care and save the health care system money.

Dr. Persaud will conduct a randomized control trial providing 784 primary care patients with a carefully selected set of medications, based on the World Health Organization's list of essential medications. The research team will measure the impact on health outcomes, such as diabetes control, and costs of scaling up this intervention by using input from the community.

Dr. Darren Yuen
Dr. Darren Yuen
Dr. Darren Yuen, a kidney specialist and researcher with the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science, will use the Early Research Award funding to evaluate new therapies for diabetes-induced kidney disease.

Ten per cent of Ontarians have been diagnosed with diabetes, which is the leading cause of kidney failure in the province. An early feature of diabetic kidney injury is hyperfiltration, when the kidney filters blood at an abnormally high rate. This hyperfiltration can accelerate kidney failure.

Unfortunately, no therapies exist to target hyperfiltration. Dr. Yuen will use cutting-edge techniques to test whether he can prevent hyperfiltration by targeting a specific pathway that cells within kidney blood vessels use to communicate with each other. The project’s goal is to develop new therapies that will reduce the immense health, economic and social burden of diabetic kidney disease in Ontario.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.