We are pleased to present the 2021 Annual Report for the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre at the University Health Network (UHN). The second year of the COVID-19 pandemic continued to present challenges, with successive waves of infection and new COVID variants, resulting in the need to continually adapt how we deliver healthcare, conduct research and communicate.
Despite the challenges, our teams continued to find meaning in their work, and offer comfort and confidence to their colleagues and patients, with many redeploying to the front lines when required. New staff came on board, and unfortunately, we lost some cherished colleagues along the way.
The Princess Margaret not only kept going with an uninterrupted slate of cancer treatments, counselling and care, an interdisciplinary team mobilized in March to begin providing COVID-19 vaccinations to cancer patients. 2021 also saw significant progress in the areas of governance, expansion and integration, and advancing our strategic pillars.
- We took significant steps to improve the cross-UHN cancer patient experience including: partnering with General Internal Medicine to open a cohort cancer patient unit at Toronto General Hospital (TG); providing an environment to support the upgrading of skills and accelerating innovation in acute oncology care. Oncology patients will also have expanded access to imaging through a new PET scanner secured for Toronto Western Hospital. To ensure a voice from across UHN, we added representatives from the blood disorders and surgical oncology programs at TG and from Toronto Rehab to our executive leadership team.
- We strengthened our governance structure by launching the Clinical Practice Committee, with an operational mandate to influence and drive change for cross-cutting clinical priorities. The committee brings together multi-disciplinary and multi-professional leadership from across the cancer program to put the needs of patients first by accelerating improvements in cancer care while also ensuring staff experience a positive and meaningful work-life.
- We advanced our strategic pillars, appointing medical directors to lead our new programs in Early Detection, Beyond Chemotherapy and Cancer Digital Intelligence. Meanwhile, the Cancer Experience Program continued to inspire comfort and confidence through key partnerships with the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) and the University of Toronto Faculty of Music to enhance the role of the arts in cancer care.
- We took another step in extending our reach with the launch of the Princess Margaret Cancer Care Network. The network aims to expand care beyond the walls of the Princess Margaret and UHN and share our unique, specialized expertise and technology with like-minded cancer treatment centres across Canada.
Our researchers and educators continued to deliver excellence, publishing more than 1,000 papers in the world’s top journals, educating clinicians from around the globe and innovating to launch and advance highly successful companies.
- The opening of C labs, a wet lab space equipped for standard wet lab cell and molecular experiments. Available to clinicians who may not have designated lab space, C labs is already increasing collaboration between clinicians and scientists, leading to the insightful translational work for which the Princess Margaret is well-known.
- We reported on many research discoveries including a potential new treatment target for brain tumours, on how colorectal cancers can hibernate to protect themselves from toxic chemotherapy, and advanced understanding of pancreatic cancer by unravelling the makeup of the environment and utilities essential to tumour survival. In the area of data science and digital intelligence, we hired new talent to expand capability in computational research where, as an example, our scientists demonstrated that Artificial Intelligence (AI) could help make development of accurate radiation therapy plans more efficient.
- Princess Margaret and UHN Scientists secured more than $150 million in investment funds for start-up companies Adela and Treadwell Therapeutics to fund innovation in early cancer detection and the translation of scientific ideas and therapeutic targets into practice-changing medicines.
We would like to acknowledge the key role The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation plays through its philanthropic efforts that help make our programs, research and bold innovation agenda possible. We thank our donors, granting agencies, sponsors, and supporters for their continued patronage.
And finally, our immense gratitude to our staff, volunteers, and learners, many from across the globe, who have persevered through two extremely challenging years, with determination, compassion and courage. Your unflagging optimism and dedication make a significant difference to patients, their families, and our colleagues.
A. Keith Stewart, MB, ChB
VP Cancer, UHN, Director
Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
Aaron D. Schimmer, MD, PhD
Princess Margaret Cancer Centre