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Personalized cancer care will be offered in Ottawa’s first molecular oncology lab


Dr. Bryan Lo is the new head of a lab that promises to revolutionize cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Ottawa’s first lab devoted to treating and studying the genetics of cancer will open in September with Dr. Bryan Lo as its Lead Scientist and Medical Director. The Ottawa Hospital’s Molecular Oncology Diagnostics Laboratory will function as a lab for clinical diagnostics and research.

“The lab signals a new era in personalized cancer care for this community,” said Dr. Lo, who has moved back to Canada after working at the biotechnology firm Genentech in San Francisco.

“Molecular genetics is moving forward very quickly and generating a great quantity of information,” he said. “In the near term, we’ll be using what is most relevant and applying it for an immediate potential impact on all cancer patients in the Eastern Ontario region.”

The new facility will revolutionize cancer diagnosis and treatment by allowing health-care providers to analyze the genetic flaws inside tumour cells and tailor therapies to a patient’s individual type of cancer. This will improve cancer care by giving providers the ability to predict which drugs would work best for particular patients and which drugs would not benefit them at all.

In addition, wait times for test results will decrease from weeks to days, since tissue samples will no longer have to be sent to other labs in Canada or the United States for the most sophisticated types of genetic testing.

Research conducted in the lab will give our region’s patients access to the latest experimental cancer therapies before they are available elsewhere. It will be the third lab of its kind in Canada to use the most advanced genetic analysis technology – next generation sequencing – to analyze patterns from large groups of genes or proteins. The end goal is to improve the detection and control of cancer with more precise treatments customized for each patient.

The lab is currently housed in temporary space at the General Campus of TOH, and a $3-million fundraising effort is well underway to build a permanent facility. The Ottawa Hospital Foundation has raised $1.5 million to date – the halfway mark– and will continue to rally the community to raise the remaining amount.

“As a physician, Dr. Lo wants to be part of the modern development of personalized cancer therapy, which will include seeing patients in the clinic,” said Dr. Diponkar Banerjee, Chief of the Division of Anatomical Pathology, which will oversee the lab.

The molecular lab is the result of a strong collaboration and partnership among TOH, the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, the University of Ottawa and the Eastern Ontario Regional Laboratory Association.


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