Toronto (April 29, 2008) - A small step taken 50 years ago on May 1, 1958, when Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) opened its new doors at 500 Sherbourne St. to the first cancer patient, has turned into a big footprint worldwide.

To mark the milestone, the City of Toronto will present a congratulatory scroll to honour "Princess Margaret Hospital – 50 years of compassionate care, education and cancer research", and staff will attend an anniversary reception that day in the hospital's Research Atrium at 610 University Ave.

Now part of University Health Network (UHN), the story of Princess Margaret Hospital is about many "firsts", says President & CEO Dr. Robert Bell, a cancer surgeon who began his own medical career there in 1986, and went on to become PMH Vice President & Chief Operating Officer in 2000.

"We are here today because visionary pioneers at Ontario Cancer Institute (OCI) and PMH created the ideal place where scientific research and clinical care could exist side by side to advance discoveries, specialized care, and better results for patients." says Dr. Bell.

"Their legacy is a comprehensive cancer research hospital that continues to have huge global impact in all aspects of cancer research and clinical care, and especially in the training of thousands of other cancer specialists from around the world. "

Since 1958, PMH has seen more than 350,000 new cancer patients come for treatment.

Major advances in cancer research and treatment over the years include:

  • Evidence that radiation can cure Hodgkin's disease (1950s)
  • Wide use of cobalt radiotherapy for cancer (1950s)
  • Pioneered use of conservative surgery (lumpectomy) to treat breast cancer (1950s)
  • Discovery of blood-forming stem cells enabling bone marrow transplants (1961)
  • Identification of P-glycoprotein as a major cause of cancer drug resistance (1976)
  • Discovery of the T-cell receptor, significant in the field of immunology (1985)
  • Chemotherapy treatment for hormone-resistant prostate cancer (1996)
  • Identifying gene clusters in lung cancer using microarray technology (2002)
  • Developing method for detecting gene mutations to enhance care for families with retinoblastoma (2003)
  • Discovery of colon-cancer causing stem cells (2007)

The "new" hospital at 610 University Ave. opened in 1996. Today, the PMH Cancer Program, including its OCI research arm, is without borders -- extending across the three UHN hospitals, including Toronto General and Toronto Western, across the partners in the Toronto Regional Cancer Program, Cancer Care Ontario, and through multiple national and international partnerships.

"This anniversary marks 50 years of commitment to discovery and innovation while always focusing on caring and support for patients. That is the strong, special bond that connects the PMH family, past and present, near and far," says Dr. Mary Gospodarowicz, Medical Director of the PMH Cancer Program, and a radiation oncologist who began her oncology career at PMH as a resident in the 1970s.

Later this year, Oct.16-18, PMH and OCI will also co-host a special anniversary Cancer Conference in Toronto, which will feature PMH alumni.

Princess Margaret Hospital and its research arm, Ontario Cancer Institute, have achieved an international reputation as global leaders in the fight against cancer. Princess Margaret Hospital is a member of University Health Network, which also includes Toronto General Hospital and Toronto Western Hospital. All three are research hospitals affiliated with the University of Toronto.

Media photos/filming:
5-6:30 p.m., Thursday, May 1, 7th floor Research Atrium, PMH, 610 University Ave.

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