New facility brings the hospital to the forefront of new effective approaches in diagnosis and treatment

JGH - Molecular Pathology CentreTaking a major step forward in the development of personalized medicine in Quebec, the Jewish General Hospital (JGH) has launched its new Molecular Pathology Centre. The 12,000-square-foot facility, occupying much of the sixth floor of the Segal Cancer Centre at the JGH, was entirely funded through private donations—notably, the Dubrovsky family, Banque Nationale and the Adelis Foundation—to enable the JGH to develop the targeted therapies that are most likely to be effective in treating each individual patient.

Molecular pathology is re-inventing cancer treatment by opening the door to personalized medicine. Instead of attacking the cancer with an all-purpose treatment such as chemotherapy, doctors begin by examining the tumour at the molecular level to identify unique characteristics—known as biomarkers—that reveal the tumour’s vulnerabilities.
Armed with this information, doctors can prescribe a specific drug that is effective against a tumour with a particular biomarker. At the same time, patients avoid toxic exposure to—and the debilitating side-effects of—drugs that have been determined not to be effective against this particular type of tumour.
“This Centre will place the JGH at the cutting edge of this exciting new era of personalized medicine, and it will help us offer our patients the best possible treatments by customizing healthcare to the specific molecular characteristics of the disease,” says Dr. Alan Spatz, Director of the Molecular Pathology Centre and JGH Chief of Pathology.
Dr. Spatz notes that molecular pathology – a cornerstone of any major development in modern medicine – is devising targeted treatments based on a tumour’s specific molecular characteristics, as opposed to its location of the disease within the body. For this reason, Dr. Spatz says, “it’s becoming extremely important to identify precisely the particular genetic signature that determines what will happen to a cancer, anywhere in the body.”
Dr. Leon van Kempen, Chief Operating Officer of the JGH Molecular Pathology Centre, adds that, “this Centre will considerably reinforce our capacity to discover and validate new actionable targets and to design new effective treatments. The identification of multiple gene abnormalities that, in the past, was done one gene at a time, will all be done in one step with higher speed and accuracy than ever before.”
In addition to benefiting from the expertise of internationally renowned clinicians and researchers, the Molecular Pathology Centre will capitalize on its high level of integration with the Segal Cancer Centre. This multi-disciplinary approach to cancer care will allow researchers, pathologists, and clinicians to work closely to evaluate specific types of cancer and help guide treatment decisions customized to a patient’s particular genetic type.
“This Centre will help usher in a new age of cancer treatment where the key to the cancer-fighting strategy is genetics,” says Dr. Gerald Batist, Director of the Segal Cancer Centre and JGH Chief of Oncology. “It will enable us to save and extend many lives by matching the best therapy to each patient, while providing us with the chance to significantly contribute to the current revolution in the treatment of cancer here in Quebec and globally.”
“For decades, the JGH has been at the forefront in embracing and implementing new forms of technology to improve the care that patients receive. As a result, many more patients are now enjoying a longer and better quality of life,” says Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg, JGH Executive Director. “This Centre holds the promise of better treatment that is ultimately more cost-effective – a significant benefit for the patients who rely on us, but also for the vitality of the public healthcare system as a whole.”
Looking to the future, Dr. Spatz sees the potential of this Centre going beyond just the treatment of cancer. “While its impact will initially be felt most strongly in cancer treatment and research, the JGH’s sophistication in personalized medicine continues to grow, and the Centre will apply its expertise to other fields, such as cardiovascular disease and the neurology of aging.”
In pursuing this promising line of therapy as early as 2004, the JGH became one of the first hospitals in Canada to use molecular analysis to help guide diagnosis and treatment. It has also been playing a prominent role as one of the academic organizers of the WIN Consortium—Worldwide Innovative Networking in Personalized Cancer Medicine—along with global experts from leading institutions in such cities as Houston, Stockholm, Jerusalem, Munich and Mumbai.

November 25, 2013