$1.9 million invested by donors in Research Institute

By Heather Vita
Without research, there’s no future. We’d be stuck in our current ways for the rest of time.
“If we didn’t have the drive to continuously improve, we’d still live in a cave!” exclaimed Dr. Oleg Rubel, one of Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute’s (TBRRI) scientists.
Research can sometimes seem an ambiguous and mysterious venture. Often the complexity of projects can overwhelm those who try to understand them.
But for the many donors who support the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute through the Health Sciences Discovery Fund, they see clearly how research is impacting patient care right here in Northwestern Ontario, and, in fact, across the world.
“Research is the embodiment of hope,” says Dr. Laura Curiel, Scientist, TBRRI. “For people who have no current treatment options left, we are giving new hope by finding new ways to diagnose and treat disease.”
Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute puts the patient at the heart of research. Its scientists are highly focused on novel molecular imaging-based technologies for disease prevention, early detection and image-guided treatment. They begin each and every project with the patient in mind, asking themselves, ‘how can I make patient care better?’.
Since 2009, donors from across Northwestern Ontario have generously provided support to TBRRI and, to-date, $1.9 million has been invested in the Institute. Ongoing funding is critical to scientists, who require specialized equipment and laboratory facilities to further their research.
Here are some of the current projects underway at TBRRI:
1. Dr. Mitch Albert and his team are looking at the use of hyperpolarized noble gas MRI to take crystal clear images of the lung and brain. In fact, his work has the ability to make images 100,000 clearer than conventional MRI, which will be of great value to patients with lung disease, as physicians will be able to better tailor treatment.
2. Dr. Laura Curiel and her team are leading a clinical trial to evaluate the use of High Intensity Focused Ultrasound to remove uterine fibroids. The ultrasound gives the ability to remove a fibroid without once making an incision in the skin. Just imagine how this might be used in the future to remove tumours without needing surgery!
3. Dr. Jane Lawrence-Dewar and her team are using functional MRI to study how patients recover from strokes, in the hopes that they will, eventually, be able to develop better rehabilitation programs to help patients recover motor movements.
4. Dr. Ingeborg Zehbe and her team are working with First Nations women to develop safe, culturally acceptable cervical cancer screening tests. If they can help women find cancer earlier, there is a much better chance for survival.
5. Dr. Chris Phenix and his team are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new cyclotron so they can develop new biomarkers that will help detect aggressive cancer earlier, helping patients get treated sooner.
There are, of course, many more projects underway, thanks to the generous support of donors.
As many of the TBRRI scientists will agree, there is a great sense of pride in the research happening here in Thunder Bay as this is where new things happen…for the world!
For more information about the Health Sciences Discovery Fund, please visit www.healthsciencesfoundation.ca or call 345-4673.