Congratulations to Kate Wahl and Natasha Orr, recipients of the DA Boyes Memorial Research Award

They received the award for their project “The acceptability of a phallus length reducer, Ohnut, for deep dyspareunia: A pilot.”

About the project:

“Endometriosis affects 10% of women and is the presence of uterine tissue abnormally growing outside the uterus. Endometriosis can result in various types of pain including deep dyspareunia, pelvic pain with deep vaginal penetration that affects more than 50% of women with endometriosis. ​A recently developed buffer worn externally at the base of the penetrating partner may reduce sexual pain by allowing couples to incrementally limit the depth of penetration. This study will look at the acceptability and efficacy of the buffer among couples affected by endometriosis-associated sexual pain.”

Read the full announcement here.

New Innovative Initiative, the Answer Factory, Makes Lab Space and Translational Research Expertise Available to Clinical Investigators Affiliated with BCCHR and WHRI

As part of a joint initiative supported by the UBC Faculty of Medicine and BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute (BCCHR), the Clinical Research Development Laboratory (popularly known as the Answer Factory), has been established to foster the next generation of clinician-scientists and to support innovative patient-centered research.

This new resource, which is part of the services offered through the Clinical Research Support Unit (CRSU) at BCCHR, aims to enable clinical faculty members and early career investigators gain access to a fully functional laboratory as well as technical support to move forward clinical and translational research they would otherwise not be able to conduct due to lack of access to the requisite resources and expertise. Dr. Shirin Kalyan is the translational scientist leading the Answer Factory, and she is available to provide consultation and advice for experimental planning and methodology for developing and implementing clinical and translational research studies. In addition to her role with the Answer Factory, Dr. Kalyan is an adjunct professor with UBC’s Department of Medicine and the Director of Scientific Innovation at a clinical-stage immunotherapy biotech in BC. She has accumulated significant experience in conducting translational and clinical research directed at improving patient outcomes through deepening understanding of disease pathogenesis and developing new treatment strategies.  Dr. Kalyan and the Answer Factory are also available to help support funding applications that aim to understand, diagnose or characterise a clinical problem that requires access to a wet lab or more sophisticated experimental analyses to address. The Answer Factory will be operational by late April 2019. However, it is recommended that any project that is anticipated to need Answer Factory support contact Dr. Kalyan as early as possible in the planning to get in que and to ensure the resources and protocols are in place by the time the project starts.

The ultimate goal of the Answer Factory is to create an environment that allows clinicians to gather new knowledge, promote translational research, and have an immediate impact on patient and public health. To learn more about this unique and new resource at BCCHR and how it may be of potential utility to you, please see:

Changing Childbirth in British Columbia Report

Findings from the Changing Childbirth in British Columbia study have been published on the UBC Birthplace Lab website.

This was the first study in the province to look at person centred outcomes for pregnancy and birth.

The report describes results from the online survey and preliminary findings from focus groups, about preferences for care, experiences and outcomes of care for women in BC.

For the full report, executive summary, and content to share on social media, visit the Birthplace Lab website.

Dr. Michael Anglesio: 2018 Recipient of the CIHR Maternal, Reproductive and Youth Health Award

The Early Career Investigator Award will fund a project to investigate the endometriosis micro-environment and cancer driver mutations in Endometriosis.

 How did you get interested in endometriosis research?

My studies have in the past always been focused on cancer, and in the last 10 years or so, specifically on clear cell and endometrioid ovarian cancers. Women with endometriosis are known to be at higher risk for these cancers, and recently my work has shown that endometriosis may, in rare cases, evolve into these cancers. My interest in endometriosis has changed from wanting to know why some become cancerous, while the majority do not.

For your study, you collect saliva and tissue samples from women with endometriosis who undergo surgery. What do you use that for?

Part of the work we do looks at changes in the DNA of endometriosis cells. We want to know if the cells that makes up the endometriosis has acquired specific mutations, and if these mutations are what allow it to grow, cause pain, or turn into cancer. We use the DNA in a patient’s saliva as a reference for that patient. All human DNA is pretty similar, but there are still a lot of differences that make each one of us a little bit different. We want to be sure we look at what makes endometriosis different in each patient, not what makes each patient different from each other. We could also use blood for this, or surrounding normal tissue, but the saliva is convenient to collect and we can be sure there’s no trace of endometriosis DNA!

Congrats on your grant! Can you tell us a little about the project you’ll be working on?

This new project is looking at how endometriosis that has “cancer mutations” might cause different kinds of immune reactions than endometriosis without cancer mutations. We’ll be looking specifically at the kinds of immune cells that are attracted to endometriosis, in different places in the body, and comparing the number, type and response of these immune cells. Immune cells can control a lot of reactions related to inflammation and pain, they can kill off infections and cancers, and they can also tell your body not to fight an infection or cancer. By looking at which mutations affect the immune response we hope to figure out why different women get more vs less pain, and if endometriosis may even be protected or destroyed by the immune system.

A lot of your research happens in the lab – how will the work you’re doing now help people with endometriosis in the future?

There is a lot going on!! Looking at the changes in the DNA of endometriosis is relatively new. In fact, we are the first group to have launched major studies to examine mutations in endometriosis DNA that are not associated with cancer. I hope my experience in cancer research can bring a new perspective to this disease.

My lab’s connection with clinical specialists – like the doctors at the BC Women’s Centre for Pelvic Pain and Endometriosis – may bring real change in the near future. First, we need to find out how cancer-mutations in endometriosis contribute to pain, fertility, or risk of cancer. Having this knowledge could immediately change the way we treat the disease even without new drugs. Depending on the mutations, immune response, and symptoms, a women might be directed to specialist centre for surgery, medical or hormonal therapies, and some women might need long-term monitoring (for example if cancer risk is elevated). As DNA sequencing technologies advance we may also be able to rapidly diagnose endometriosis and provide the proper management to women earlier. Knowing what to look for will make a world of difference!

Congratulations to the recipients of the 21st Annual LifeSciences BC Awards

The awards are presented annually to recognize individuals and organizations representing the life sciences ecosystem in BC. WHRI members Dr. Jerilynn Prior and Dr. Caroline Cameron were among this year’s recipients.

Dr. Prior was awarded the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) Aubrey J. Tingle Prize for her career spent advancing research in the areas of women’s menstrual cycles, menopause, perimenopause, and osteoporosis. Read more about Dr. Prior and her work in the full announcement from MSFHR.

Dr. Cameron, a microbiologist and leading expert on syphilis, received the Genome BC Award for Scientific Excellence.

Read the full announcement from LifeSciences BC here.

Dr. Gillian Hanley receives a CIHR Fall 2018 Project Grant

Dr. Hanley received the grant for the project “The effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of opportunistic salpingectomy for ovarian cancer prevention”.

  1. In a few sentences, what is your research about?

Evidence strongly points to the fallopian tubes as the tissue of origin for the most common and lethal form of ovarian cancer (representing 70% of all cancers and 90% of all deaths from ovarian cancer). We are determining whether removal of fallopian tubes at the time of hysterectomy or in lieu of tubal ligation (referred to as opportunistic salpingectomy) is an effective ovarian cancer prevention strategy.  Given our effectiveness findings, we will also determine whether opportunistic salpingectomy is a cost effective cancer prevention strategy.

  1. What impact do you hope your research will have?

We expect these results will accelerate what has already been a global change in practice towards opportunistic salpingectomy. If opportunistic salpingectomy is effective in preventing ovarian cancer, we will shift the focus of ovarian cancer to prevention and dramatically reduce the incidence of this deadly disease throughout the world.

  1. Are you using any innovative approaches in your research?

We are taking advantage of both BC’s and Ontario’s rich data resources to assemble a population-based cohort including all women who underwent opportunistic salpingectomy and all women who underwent comparator surgeries (hysterectomy alone and tubal ligation). We will follow them until the end of 2019 to determine rates of ovarian cancer.

Dr. Hélène Côté receives a CIHR Fall 2018 Project Grant

Dr. Côté received the award for her project “The BCC3 cohort: Cellular aging in women living with HIV”.

  1. In a few sentences, what is your research about?

My research focuses on the health of women living with HIV and their children. We are studying how the virus and the medications used to treat the infection affect cellular aging processes and their health over time. We are also asking how exposure to HIV and medications during pregnancy may affect mother and child in the short and long term.

  1. What impact do you hope your research will have?

By understanding and teasing apart the effects of chronic viral infection(s), of various HIV medications, and other sources of stress on cellular aging, we hope to gain important knowledge on which medication may be safer for women, both before and during pregnancy, as well as later in life. We also want to identify the modifiable factors we should work on to promote healthy aging.

  1. Are you using any innovative approaches in your research?

We seek to have a holistic approach to research. We consider not only the clinical and demographic factors that may affect markers of cellular aging but this recent grant, through a collaboration between two ongoing cohorts in BC (CARMA and CHIWOS), will also consider how other common chronic or latent viral infections (herpes virus, cytomegalovirus, etc.) and how psycho-social factors (mental health, stigma, etc.) may also affect cellular aging and comorbid diseases.

Dr. Regina Renner receives a CIHR Fall 2018 Project Grant

Dr. Renner received the grant for “The Canadian Surgical and Medical Abortion Provider Survey (CAPS)” project.

  1. In a few sentences, what is your research about?

Our research is about exploring abortion provider characteristics and clinical practice in regards to first and second trimester medical and surgical abortion. This is a national survey, and we’re hoping to capture potential changes to the results of a similar survey conducted in 2012, since Mifepristone was introduced in Canada in 2015.

  1. What impact do you hope your research will have?

This work will provide crucial evidence to inform health policy, system and service leaders and regulators charged with providing equitable, free-of-harassment, and high-quality nation-wide access to abortion services. These high impact decisions may result in: expansion of access to abortion care, in particular to women residing in rural and remote areas, credentialing of multidisciplinary providers, organization of services, update of guidelines, and creation of educational opportunities.

  1. Are you using any innovative approaches in your research?

We aim to expand our sample framework compared to the previous 2012 survey in order to capture changes in abortion care workforce since the implementation of Mifepristone in 2015. That will probably be the biggest challenge – to have a very broad sampling framework to capture abortion providers that work in bigger clinics, solo providers, rural or urban providers – people  who might not necessarily identify as an ‘abortion provider’, but provide services as part of their other clinical work.

In order to conduct the best possible survey with the most optimal sample framework we have built a large multidisciplinary research team including family planning experts from across the country.  Our repeatedly CIHR funded Canadian family planning network (Contraception & Abortion Research Team, CART-GRAC) engages with the national health professional organizations for nurses (CNA), gynecologists (SOGC), and family physicians (CFPC), in addition to government leaders. Additionally, we paired more junior researchers, like me, with senior researchers, like Dr. Wendy Norman. This is a fantastic career development opportunity for me.

Dr. Regina Renner is a family planning specialist and Clinical Associate Professor in the UBC Department of Medicine, Division of Obstetrics and Gynecology. She has been a CART member since 2011 and is also the Co-director of the Family Planning Fellowship at UBC.