Nov 1, 2023

LMP innovations storm Angel’s Den

Research: Brain & Neuroscience, Research: Cancer, Research: Hematopathology, Impactful research, Disruptive Innovation, Dynamic Collaboration
Rola Saleeb, Kelsie Thu, Sunit Das, Michelle Sholzberg
By Jenni Bozec

Each year, Unity Health researchers and clinicians compete in the St. Michael’s Foundation ‘Angels Den’. By pitching their innovative solutions to healthcare to a panel of judges, they can win funding to progress their idea.

This year, several LMP faculty competed, with Dr. Rola Saleeb and Dr. Kelsie Thu winning the People's Choice Award and Dr. Sunit Das winning the Sarah McComb Award for Cancer Research. Dr. Michelle Sholzberg was also a finalist in the competition. 

Dr. Kelsie Thu commented “It was a privilege to present our project alongside our esteemed colleagues who pitched innovative ideas that will have huge impacts on medicine and society. The event was truly a rewarding experience, from all of the work beforehand to prepare our pitch to giving our presentation on stage in front of a big crowd. It was a really exciting atmosphere! Being selected by the audience for the people's choice award was a real honour and we were glad we were able to convey the excitement and promise of our research. The funding from Angel's Den will allow us to conduct experiments needed to provide evidence that a specific type of allergy medication is an effective treatment for aggressive kidney cancers. This award will be instrumental in helping us make progress on our project so that it can be expanded to larger studies and hopefully clinical trials”.

Dr. Rola Saleeb added, “It was truly an amazing experience and a great privilege to present our research among such high-caliber researchers. This visibility and the award money would really help advance our research. We won the award where the people themselves voted for our work. This means that we were able to properly explain our work and connect to the general public. That to me is the greatest achievement!”

The below summaries and videos are from the Angel's Den website.

Canada Life People’s Choice Award Winners

Dr. Rola Saleeb and Dr. Kelsie Thu won the People's Choice Award for their “Cancelling Chemo: An Alternative Treatment for Kidney Cancer’. Dr. Saleeb is a Clinician Investigator, Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science, Pathologist, St. Michael’s Hospital, and Assistant Professor in LMP. Dr. Thu is a Scientist, Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science, St. Michael’s Hospital, and Canada Research Chair in Lung Cancer Therapy Response as well as Assistant Professor in LMP.

They have identified a gene that defines the second most common type of kidney cancer which may make these tumours respond to a safe and Health Canada approved allergy medication. They plan to test this therapy, with the hope that it will slow kidney cancer growth and provide an alternative to chemotherapy.

Discover more about them and their project:

Sarah McComb Award for Cancer Research Winner

Dr. Sunit Das is a Clinician Scientist, Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science, and Neurosurgeon, St. Michael’s Hospital, and Associate Professor in LMP, cross-appointed from the Department of Surgery. He won the Sarah McComb award for his project ‘What are the mediators of brain metastasis in patients with breast cancer?’.

Intracranial metastatic disease (IMD) occurs when a cancer that starts in one part of the body spreads (metastasizes) to the brain. Women with metastatic HER2-positive (HER2+) breast cancer, in particular, are at a higher risk of developing IMD. Dr. Das will analyze tumour tissue from patients with HER2+ breast cancer and IMD in order to determine if the development of brain metastasis is associated with loss of HER2 expression or resistance to medicines that target HER2. The study will give insight into disease mechanisms that lead to IMD in these patients, and help researchers identify new targets for more effective treatments.

Find out more about the award, Dr. Das and his research:

Also competing

Dr. Michelle Sholzberg, along with her collaborator, Dr. Brodie Nolan, competed for the Keenan Award for Medical Discovery for ‘Trauma AI: Data to Decisions’. Dr. Sholzberg is a Clinician Scientist, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, and Hematologist, St. Michael’s Hospital and Assistant Professor in LMP.

Dr. Brodie Nolan and Dr. Michelle Sholzberg will create Artificial Intelligence algorithms that analyze a patient’s vital signs and blood tests in real-time to develop a personalized treatment plan for patients who have suffered trauma and are bleeding. A monitor in the trauma bay will quickly show the right products that need to be administered for vital blood transfusions, saving precious minutes and saving more lives.

Find out more about them and their project: