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TORONTO, May 7, 2015 - Dr. Elizabeth Tullis, a respirologist and clinical researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital, has been appointed to the first Cystic Fibrosis Canada Chair in Adult Cystic Fibrosis Research. This chair, the first in adult CF research in Canada, will support research and innovation in care to adults with CF.
The $1 million, five-year chair was jointly funded by Cystic Fibrosis Canada and donors and friends of St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation.
“We’ve come a long way since the 1960s,” said Dr. Tullis, director of the Adult Cystic Fibrosis Clinic at St. Michael’s, the largest adult CF clinic in North America. She has worked with CF patients for 25 years. “People living with CF are living longer: median survival has increased from five years to 50 years since 1960. Now, I’m hoping researchers – myself included – can take one more step closer to a cure. As Cystic Fibrosis Canada Chair in Adult CF Research, I’m confident we can accelerate research and treatment into this debilitating disease.”
Dr. Tullis was instrumental in bringing a drug that treats a rare form of CF to Canada. The drug, KALYDECO,® is now funded by Ontario for the G551D CF gene mutation. St. Michael’s was the only site outside of the United States involved in the Phase 2 clinical trial for the drug, and had the largest number of patients enrolled in the Phase 3 trial.
KALYDECO® for the G551D gene mutation, which affects around 120 Canadians with CF across the country, has been shown to improve patients’ lung function, digestive issues and overall quality of life. Now, researchers must turn their attention to the mutation common to the 90 per cent of Canadians living with CF.
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system. A defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that clings to the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections. The mucus in the digestive tract causes pancreas obstruction, stopping natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food. CF is the most common fatal genetic disease affecting Canadian children and young adults.
“I’m honoured to be serving in this position, as it will allow us to continue to make great strides in helping people with cystic fibrosis live longer, healthier lives,” said Dr. Tullis. “New therapies coupled with the CF team’s continual commitment to improving patient care means we’re helping those with CF experience full, active and healthy lives. I’m committed to ensuring my work, supported by this chair, will continue to advance this research, and see the research gains translated into change in practice.”
Dr. Tullis is also celebrating new funding from the provincial government in the amount of $500,000 annually which has allowed the hospital to hire additional staff for the CF program. “Expanding our multidisciplinary team not only helps our patients with CF, but our ability to create and share educational tools and guidelines will also have an impact on CF care across Canada,” she said.
Dr. Tullis is also an associate scientist at St. Michael’s Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, head of the hospital’s respirology division, and a professor at the University of Toronto.
About St. Michael’s Hospital
St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.
About Cystic Fibrosis Canada
Cystic Fibrosis Canada is one of the world’s top three charitable organizations committed to finding a cure for cystic fibrosis and is an internationally-recognized leader in funding CF research, innovation, and clinical care. We invest more funding in life-saving CF research and care than any other non-governmental agency in Canada. We funded Dr. Lap Chee Tsui and his international research team who found the gene responsible for cystic fibrosis in 1989, and continue to fund leading-edge research in the hope of finding a cure or control for cystic fibrosis. Since 1960, Cystic Fibrosis Canada has invested nearly $160 million in leading research, care and advocacy, resulting in one of the world’s highest median survival rates for Canadians living with cystic fibrosis. For more information, visit www.cysticfibrosis.ca.
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