Dr. Franco Vizeacoumar accepts his Top Establishment Grant award at the 2015 SHRF Gala.

SHRF awards honour CoM researchers

The 2015 annual SHRF Awards recognized some amazing research going on at the College of Medicine.

2015 was another banner year for College of Medicine researchers, and their hard work – and incredible research – was once again recognized by the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation at their annual gala.

The gala, which was held in early December, had amongst its award recipients Dr. Franco Vizeacoumar, who was awarded a Top Establishment Grant in biomedical research for his ongoing research focused on identifying targetable weaknesses in cancer cells by exploiting the tumors’ genetics. Using cutting-edge technology, his lab systematically probes ~20,000 genes in the human genome to figure out which gene to turn-off or target to kill the cancer cell while not harming the normal cell.

His SHRF Establishment grant specifically focuses on applying this technology to design effective therapeutic strategies to treat colorectal cancers.

Other honoured researchers from the CoM include Dr. Richard Huntsman and his team who were awarded a Top Collaborative Innovation Development Grant in clinical research on the use of cannabis to treat children with Epileptic Encephalopathies.

“These types of epilepsies are often refractory to standard treatment resulting in most patients being on multiple antiepileptic medications,” explained Huntsman. “Over the last few years, there has been a large amount of interest on the use of Cannabis based products to treat these children.

“However, there is very little data to guide physicians when asked by parents about this treatment option for their children. Our research group plans to enroll 30 children across 5 sites in an open label dosage escalation study using a high CBD: low THC cannabis oil produced by Prairie Plant Systems.”

The goal of their study is to assess the safety and tolerability of Cannabis-based products in children and guide future research on optimum dosing clinical trials. His team includes Dr. Richard Tang-Wai (Edmonton), Dr. Salah Almubarak, Dr. Jane Allcorn, Dr. Blair Seifert, Dr. Farzad Moien, Dr. Jose Tellez, and with assistance from Pediatrics Research Coordinator, Erin Prosser-Loose.

Another Top Collaborative Innovation Development Grant – this one in Health Services and Population Health – was awarded Dr. Anne Leis and her team who are working on helping to create a better system to collect patient information at the Breast Health Centre (BHC) in Saskatoon City Hospital.

Their project, titled Breast Health Care in Saskatoon: Developing a cutting-edge research base infrastructure to assess reach, appropriateness and outcomes, is aiming to improve patient care by creating a system that is searchable, eliminates repetition, and provides more accurate information.

Her team, which includes Dr. Leanne Smith, Dr. Gary Groot, Dr. Christine Meier, Dr. Pamela Meiers, and Dr. Joan Santoro was also awarded a SHRF grant in 2014 to commence the first steps in this project.

Other 2015 SHRF Award winners from the CoM include:

Top Collaborative Innovation Development Grant, Biomedical -
Troy Harkness, Terra Arnason, Gary Groot, John Gordon

Top Collaborative Innovation Development Grant, Health Services and Population Health - Group 2 -
Caroline Tait, Cory Neudorf & Peter Butt, Leah Ferguson, Robert Henry, Robert Doucette, Cory Miller, Gabe Lafond

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