Clinical Research

Pragmatic cancer research right here in Manitoba

Our Institute's clinical scientists study promising drugs, new technologies, and other medical interventions in people with cancer or blood disorders. These therapies have the potential to reduce the odds of getting cancer, detect and diagnose diseases sooner, provide more effective treatments, and help patients live longer, more productive lives. Our clinical scientists are primarily oncologists, radiologists, and hematologists. Clinical research focuses include:

  • Investigator Initiated Clinical Trials (IICT)
  • Hematology
  • Radiation oncology
  • Improving patient experience

Investigator Initiated Clinical Trials differ from third-party sponsored clinical trials (typically drug companies or cooperatives) in that the research question and methodology are determined by an Institute researcher to address real-world challenges faced by Manitoban oncologists treating patients. IICTs provide opportunities to incorporate novel or innovative research methods to, for example, increase accessibility for patients and help afford them a higher standard of care.

A better way to conduct trials

One example of improving patient access is a new clinical trial platform developed by our research team that enables investigators to rapidly initiate additional trials using the same infrastructure and previously enrolled patients. This means multiple trials can now be conducted on the platform at the same time. The research team has also removed some of the traditional barriers common to starting and administering clinical trials. This has helped reduce costs and answer important scientific questions faster. Patient experience has also vastly improved through a much less burdensome consent process.

Two Hematology trials on the new platform

The TRACTION study, led by Dr. Ryan Zarychanski and Dr. Brett Houston, is a phase IV trial looking at Tranexamic Acid (TXA) used in patients undergoing major non-cardiac surgery as a means to prevent bleeding and the need for blood transfusion. The study is being conducted across 10 sites with over 5,200 patients enrolled.

MYELO-CAN, another TXA study, is focusing on patients with blood cancers, specifically leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome, with low platelet counts predisposing them to bleeding. The study is looking at whether TXA can help prevent bleeding episodes among people with these cancers undergoing chemotherapy.

Medical Physics

Developing more effective cancer treatments

Our medical physics scientists conduct discovery research on various imaging technologies (e.g., computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)) and radiation therapy equipment and techniques to develop more effective methods to detect, diagnose, and treat cancer and blood disorders. The department is part of the Radiation Oncology team where researchers work closely with clinical oncologists.

Our medical physicists have advanced scientific and technical expertise, and are experts in patient treatment methods. They take a very practical, high-utility approach to solving problems to improve patient care. The team has diverse backgrounds and education from various universities across the country. This means they bring different perspectives and unique ways of looking at problems to discover innovative solutions.

Becoming a centre of influence for medical physics research

While the Medical Physics Department has been successful in recruitment, the field is very competitive and medical physicists are in high demand. The department continues to actively seek out new candidates. Some of the advantages of joining the department include numerous research opportunities to pursue topics of mutual interest while developing individual talents. This is largely a result of CCMB providing researchers access to the general population and the size of our cancer centre located in Winnipeg, the major provincial city. This concentration of labs within a treatment centre located within the major regional city is optimal for medical physics research. Another advantage for researchers is ready access to clinical oncologists in a centre with a very strong culture of collaboration.

Finding new solutions through technology and health data

A major driver of medical physics research is having access to leading-edge equipment, which is another strength of the department. CCMB is an early adopter of many technologies, for example being one of the first centres in Canada to implement Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy (VMAT), a newer radiation therapy technique that conformally shapes the radiation dose to the patient’s individual tumour during treatment, while reducing exposure to surrounding organs and tissue. The group was also an early adopter or 3D printing technology, with numerous publications showcasing innovative applications for Manitoba patients.

Medical physics researchers also make use of Manitoba’s substantial public health and cancer patient data records for retrospective analysis. The team collaborates with other clinicians and scientists at CCMB who have developed a broad Informatics Platform using artificial intelligence (AI) to capitalize on highly detailed clinical data for research purposes. CCMB is uniquely well suited for this type of cancer research and the department has quickly built a national reputation for its work, attracting the attention of international technology and health data companies.

A critical mass of internal and external stakeholders

The medical physics research team has fostered an ecosystem of connected partners centred around cancer patients that includes clinical oncologists as well as many external partners such as universities, and imaging equipment manufacturers like Siemens and Varian. Our relationship with equipment manufacturers extends well beyond the usual vendor and customer relationship. Through an advanced understanding of the technology in both research and clinical settings, we collaborate on equipment design and development.

As a result, Winnipeg has been a host of global conferences on medical physics technologies.

Our physicists have contributed positively to the advancement of the diagnostic and therapeutic fields of medicine, and will continue to play an influential role in the application of physics principles to medicine.

The 3 Interrelated Research Disciplines at the Institute: