Thunder Bay implements hybrid
THUNDER BAY, Ont. – Patients at the
Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC) are now among a
select few in Ontario who have access to leading-edge MRI technology,
thanks to a new clinical research program at the Thunder Bay Regional
Research Institute (TBRRI).
Scientists at the TBRRI, in partnership with Sunnybrook Health Sciences
Centre and Philips Healthcare, will use their respective Philips Achieva
3T MRI scanners to investigate different applications of High-Intensity
Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) therapy.
HIFU uses ultrasound waves to “cook” and destroy tumours without harming
surrounding tissues. MRIs can monitor temperature changes in tissues, so
scientists can readily assess the result of the HIFU therapy. This can
improve surgical planning and often eliminate the need for surgery
altogether, resulting in a lower risk of infection and faster recovery
The 3T MRI arrived in March 2009 and the new MRI suite will be fully
functional by the end of April.
“Research studies at the TBRRI are always driven by patient care need,”
said Keith Jobbitt, Chair of the Board of the Thunder Bay Regional
Research Institute. “Patients in Northwestern Ontario will, for the
first time, have access to Phase I medical imaging clinical trials right
here in Thunder Bay. This means our patients will be the first globally
to experience these new medical imaging technologies.”
“This is excellent news for patients in Northwestern Ontario,” said MPP
Michael Gravelle, Minister of Northern Development and Mines. “This
health sciences research initiative, with the support of the Ontario
Government, will allow for patients in our region to have access to a
vital healthcare service closer to home, while at the same time putting
the TBRRI at the forefront of cutting edge medical research and
The first HIFU project at the TBRRI will see the investigation of a less
invasive, non-surgical approach to eliminating uterine fibroids. TBRRI
scientists Dr. Laura Curiel and Dr. Samuel Pichardo will work with Dr.
Andrew Siren, an Obstetrician/Gynecologist with TBRHSC, and will begin
clinical trials as early as September 2009.
“HIFU is an elegant technique which has powerful clinical applications.
To have access to ‘scalpel free’ surgery is a tremendous opportunity for
our institution and its patients. I look forward to the privilege of our
clinicians working with scientists, within and outside our institution,
who are pioneering this technology.”
The HIFU research initiative is a collaborative research effort between
the TBRRI, the TBRHSC and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. With 3T
MRIs soon-to-be installed at both sites, TBRRI scientists will
collaborate with Dr. Kullervo Hynynen at Sunnybrook Research Institute
to explore the use of HIFU as a leading non-invasive therapy for a wide
range of medical conditions, from soft-tissue cancer tumours to
“Together, the TBRRI and Sunnybrook Research Institute, in partnership
with Philips Healthcare, are creating an entirely new paradigm for
cancer treatment,” said Dr. Michael Julius, Vice-President, Research,
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. “The establishment of this program is
a critical step in this process of innovation. It takes the pioneering
work of Dr. Hynynen to the next level with Drs. Curiel and Pichardo in
Thunder Bay, and in doing so will get the benefits of discoveries to
The Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute is committed to bringing
innovative technologies and techniques to patients in Northwestern
Ontario. Not only does this benefit patients, the regional economy will
benefit as technology innovations go to market in the global arena.
The clinical research project will cost close to $7 million over the
next two years and was funded through investments from Philips
Healthcare and the federal and provincial governments.