Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

A Canadian Leader in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Multidisciplinary Research

Then and Now: The Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia translational research program is the first CLL-focused multidisciplinary team at CancerCare Manitoba and in Canada.

The Manitoba Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) translational research program is a forerunner in CancerCare Manitoba’s commitment to research-driven evidence-based high-quality care for Manitobans. The CLL multidisciplinary research and clinical team serves as a guiding model for other cancer research clusters, particularly in other hematologic malignancies, incorporating basic scientists, clinicians, and epidemiologists to improve outcomes for Manitobans and Canadians suffering from cancer. The innovative CLL team focuses on patients with one of the most common but incurable forms of leukemia. Current research priorities include understanding the biology of CLL, overcoming drug resistance, and examining new treatments through clinical trials and health outcomes.

Dr. James Johnston, a hematologist at CCMB and clinician scientist at the Institute and Professor and Senior Scientist at the Institute, and Dr. Spencer Gibson were instrumental in providing leadership and creating the CLL Translational Research Program. Together they established the foundation to build and grow this successful program with funding support from our Foundation, the provincial government, industry partners and various national grant-funding agencies. Through its successes, this distinctive program continues to evolve and grow with the addition of the next generation of CLL researchers: Drs. Versha Banerji, clinician scientist, Sachin Katyal, senior scientist at the Institute, and Lin Yang, Clinic Lead and hematologist.

Manitoba is taking a national leadership role in CLL, consolidated through this translational research team. By attracting and collaborating with other members including, Drs. Aaron Marshall, Kathleen Decker and David Dawe, this long-standing CLL translational research program combines fundamental and clinical research themes which now integrate epidemiology, health services, clinical, and basic science to improve patient care. Manitoba is uniquely positioned with a population-based centralized clinic, provincial database, and population-based recruitment to the CLL biobank which all contribute to the research success. Together, their collective mission is to improve the care and outcome of patients with CLL.

There is also a long-standing collaboration internationally with CLL researchers across the United States and Canada. Through these collaborations, a founded-in-Manitoba Canadian CLL Research Meeting is held annually, bringing expert CLL researchers from other leading CLL centres to Manitoba. With this transformational growth already underway, Manitoba is the centrepiece of an emerging research consortium that includes researchers and clinicians within Alberta, and British Columbia and a growing Pan-Canadian effort.

Dr. James Johnston

Dr. James Johnston is a clinician scientist at CancerCare Manitoba, a national leader in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) research, and widely considered one of Canada’s thought leaders in CLL.

Dr. Johnston, with Dr. Spencer Gibson, formed the first Manitoba multidisciplinary CLL research program, carrying out both laboratory and clinical research in this disease. This program was facilitated by the formation at CancerCare Manitoba of the first designated CLL Clinic in Canada. To stimulate CLL research across Canada, they established the Canadian CLL Research meeting which is held annually in Winnipeg, and brings together researchers from across Canada and the USA.

Dr. Johnston continues to provide insight into treatment issues for Canadian CLL patients.


Dr. James Johnston is one of our senior clinician scientists who has been a mentor for oncologists and scientists over the years. He has facilitated the successful career path for many researchers. Dr. Johnston played a key role in my decision to specialize in oncology and continues to be a mentor

-CCMB CEO, Dr. Sri Navaratnam

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