To raise funds for Unit 5A at Toronto Western Hospital, (L to R), Emily McDonald and Troy Wagner completed triathlon events earlier this summer as a thanks for the care Lauren Wagner received in 5A, a specialized spine unit. (Photo: Courtesy Lauren Wagner)

Going the distance to show gratitude for care at Toronto Western

The family of Lauren Wagner, a patient at Toronto Western Hospital (TWH), showed their gratitude for the care she received by raising more than $11,000 for 5A, the specialized spine unit.

Lauren Wagner, who was diagnosed in 2020 with Giant Cell Tumour of Bone in her spine – a rare tumour that destroys the surrounding bone – spent more than 60 hours in surgery at TWH, where various medical professionals removed the tumour and rebuilt her spine, ultimately saving her life.

"5A was a big part of my recovery and the care I received there kept me going," says Lauren, whose rare tumour only affects about one in a million people.

Earlier this summer, Lauren's brother, Troy Wagner, and his girlfriend, Emily McDonald, participated in Ironman triathlons to raise funds for 5A, the specialized spine unit where Lauren stayed.

"It was so inspirational seeing Lauren handle what she'd been through, and we wanted to be able to give back to her community and her cause," says Troy, who completed a 3.8-kilometre swim, a 180-kilometre bike ride and a 42.2K run at Ironman Mont-Tremblant in August.

Emily completed a half-Ironman: a 1.9-kilometre swim, 90-kilometre bike ride and 21.1-kilometre run at Ironman Muskoka in July.

"We wanted to do the triathlons as a way to raise money and spread awareness about Lauren and her condition," Emily says.

The couple has raised more than $11,000, far exceeding their initial goal of $3,000.

"An Ironman does not even compare to what she's been through," says Troy.

Learn more about Lauren, her condition and the Ironman fundraiser.

Dr. Steven Gallinger, a clinician scientist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, is leading a $7.5-million project to advance pancreatic cancer research. (Photo: The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation)

UHN leading $7.5 million project to advance pancreatic cancer research

Dr. Steven Gallinger, clinician scientist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, is leading a $7.5 million project to advance research into cancer of the pancreas, one of the deadliest forms of cancers due to rapid spread of the disease and resistance to treatment.

The project, funded by the Canadian Cancer Society, involves a multi-disciplinary team of more than 20 leading researchers from three provinces as well as patient advocate Libby Znaimer.

"It has the potential to improve survival rates for patients with pancreatic cancer," says Dr. Gallinger, who is also Head of Clinical Translation at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research.

"Stage III pancreatic cancer is poorly understood," Dr. Gallinger says. “Our research team aims to advance early detection through the development of a blood biopsy screening tool.

"We also aim to participate in international early detection initiatives, drug testing and new clinical trials."

In Canada, almost 7,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer every year, but on average, only 10 per cent of them will be alive five years after their diagnosis.

The inability to improve survival has been attributed to late-stage diagnosis and rapid spread of pancreatic cancer, combined with resistance to chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy.

But detecting this cancer earlier, when it's easier to treat, could change outcomes and help save patients' lives.

Rally for Rehab took place on Sunday, Sept. 10 in support of Toronto Rehab and its research arm, UHN's KITE Research Institute. (Photo: UHN Foundation)

Rally for Rehab presented by BMO

The annual Rally for Rehab – presented by BMO – featured a morning full of activities that included an opening ceremony with warm-ups and stretching, an accessible family-friendly walk and on-site activities for the whole family.

Organized by UHN Foundation, the event on Sept. 10 saw more than 300 participants including sponsors, donors, community members, and TeamUHN come together to support Toronto Rehab and its research arm, UHN's KITE Research Institute.

One of the highlights was with Chloe Angus and Human in Motion Robotics, a Canadian company who is developing the world's most advanced exoskeleton providing independent human mobility. They, along with Dr. Cathy Craven and her team at UHN's KITE Research Institute, are working together to bring the first exoskeleton of its kind to Toronto patients.

Everyone got a first look at the exoskeleton at the event. A Phase 2 clinical trial was to start in September at Toronto Rehab's Lyndhurst Centre that will enable patients to use this device as part of their rehabilitation journey.

A special thanks to UHN Foundation, BMO, Barbara Muir (UHN Foundation Board Member), Lara Kaufman, Kevin Rempel, Human in Motion Robotics and everyone who supported Rally for Rehab in raising more than $180,000 (and counting!) in support of Toronto Rehab and UHN's KITE Research Institute.

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