March Blog: Child Health Transplant Team Grant (Addison Project)

We exist solely to fund transplant research so it’s always exciting when we can announce new projects receiving our support. Our latest grant is an even bigger deal because it marks the inauguration of our partnership with the Canadian National Transplant Research Program (CNTRP), and hopefully just the first collaboration of many.

The origins of the National Child Health Transplant Team Grant Competition go back to 2013 when Elaine Yong and Aaron McArthur (parents of the first baby to undergo a heart transplant at BC Children’s Hospital) launched the Addison Pediatric Transplant Research Project with Transplant Research Foundation of BC (TRF). Elaine and Aaron wanted to raise money to support research that addresses the specific transplant-related issues unique to pediatric patients. After reaching the initial goal of $25,000, in August 2015 the TRF joined forces with the CNTRP and the Alberta Transplant Institute (ATI) to explore the idea of forming a national research grant competition dedicated to improving the lives of pediatric transplant patients across Canada. By early 2016, in addition to the original partners, BC Children’s Hospital Foundation (BCCHF) and Astellas Canada each contributed another $25,000, bringing the total to $100,000. The idea behind this new partnership opportunity is that together we can achieve more!

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Over the last few months, the CNTRP has been running this competition, including a rigorous peer review. Last week, the team of expert peer reviewers made their final decision. We are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2016 National Child Health Transplant Team Grant Competition. The project entitled, “Preparing for Combined Stem Cell and Solid Organ Transplants: Learning from Hematopoietic Mixed Chimeras”, is led by Dr. Joerg Krueger from Sick Kids, with a cross Canada team of researchers, including Drs. Donna Wall (ON), Lori West (AB), Victor Lewis (AB), Pierre Teira (QC), Elie Haddad (QC), Sunil Desai (AB), Rulan Parekh (ON), Geoffrey Cuvelier (MB), Kirk Schultz (BC). This team will be looking at the possibility of combining a stem cell transplant with a solid organ transplant to try and convince the immune system into accepting the new organ as its own. This is called tolerance. That means no need for immune suppression drugs, effectively turning transplant into a cure. The study will examine a select population of kids who have had stem cell transplants and have been able to achieve this state of tolerance. Why are these kids able to get to this state of tolerance? What makes this happen for them and not other kids? How can that be duplicated? It is futuristic, cutting edge science that could be revolutionary.

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The need for pediatric specific pediatric transplant research cannot be over-stated. There are nearly 300 children in BC who have undergone a lifesaving organ transplant. In Canada, between 2006-2015, 1101 children had solid organ transplants (excluding Quebec). That number continues to grow exponentially every year as medical advances have made it possible for some of the sickest patients to survive. However, pediatric transplant patients are not simply small adults. They have unique needs and issues that require specific areas of study. For example, did you know that pediatric heart patients are on the wait list longer than adults, which can put them at an increased risk of death? Also, because they have unique physiological and anatomical differences, surgery in pediatric patients is much more challenging than in adults. This is why research is so critical!

We want to thank everyone who has given so generously to the Addison Fund. Without you, this research would not be possible!

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