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Dr. Peggy Richter, director of Sunnybrook's clinic for OCD (Tim Fraser)

Dr. Peggy Richter, director of Sunnybrook's clinic for OCD

(Tim Fraser)

Research & Innovation Add to ...


Sunnybrook’s pioneering work in anxiety-disorder care and research is getting a $10-million boost.

The gift from Frederick Thompson, thought to be the largest-ever private donation focused on obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), will create the Frederick W. Thompson Anxiety Disorders Centre within Sunnybrook’s Brain Sciences Program.

“This gift makes a bold statement and represents a real turning point in the research and treatment of anxiety disorders,” says Dr. Peggy Richter, director of Sunnybrook’s Clinic for OCD and Related Disorders.

“This centre will address the spectrum of anxiety disorders, and will focus on the treatment of OCD and its related conditions – and no other centre in Canada offers such specialized care for these disorders. This gift truly establishes Sunnybrook as a leader in treatment and research in this important field.”

The centre will attract international experts who will collaborate with Sunnybrook’s world-class scientists and will be an epicentre for anxiety-disorder research across Canada.



Can exercise improve the moods of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients who are suffering from depression?

That’s one of the questions a team of Sunnybrook researchers hopes to answer with its research into the mental well-being of these patients, thanks in part to a $263,000 grant from the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.

Half of MS patients suffer from depression and half suffer from cognitive dysfunction. When a patient faces both at once, it can be difficult to manage their health, says Dr. Neil Rector, director of research in the department of psychiatry at Sunnybrook.

The grant will be used to fund a study, led by Dr. Rector and Dr. Anthony Feinstein, director of Sunnybrook’s neuropsychiatry program, examining whether non-drug treatments can improve depression and cognitive dysfunction in MS patients.      

Patients will be divided into three groups: patients who only receive cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), patients who only exercise and patients who receive a combination of both.

Because many of the patients will be taking antidepressants, the study results will also clarify the extent to which CBT and exercise can benefit MS patients.



Sunnybrook doctors have launched a study to determine whether “keeping it cool” in ambulances is best for cardiac arrest patients. Cooling a patient’s body temperature after a cardiac arrest has been shown to reduce the chances of severe brain damage and death, but the treatment is usually only provided in hospitals. Lowering the patient’s body temperature by 3 to 5 degrees Celsius slows the brain's need for oxygen, which can reduce the patient's chances of severe brain damage caused by lack of blood flow during cardiac arrest.

“We know we can prevent brain damage and save more lives by cooling a patient,” says Dr. Damon Scales, the trial’s principal investigator and a staff physician in Sunnybrook’s Department of Critical Care Medicine.

Since the trial launched in July, paramedics have treated a patient in the field using cooling, a first in Ontario.

Funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the trial is expected to last for two years and involve more than 1,000 patients.




Sunnybrook researchers have shown they may be able to boost the tumour- destroying power of radiotherapy by using ultrasound in a new way. “This is definitely a world-first happening at Sunnybrook,” says Dr. Greg Czarnota, radiation oncologist and lead on this research.

The process involves injecting tiny microbubbles into the blood stream. Researchers found the otherwise harmless microbubbles bounce and expand when heated with focused ultrasound, straining the blood vessels of the tumour. The cancer cells become leaky and weak. When a tumour is targeted this way before radiation in pre-clinical models, the radiation destroys up to 40 per cent of the tumour within 24 hours.

The research received a $1-million boost from the Breast Cancer Society of Canada this year. “This support will allow us to scale up these treatments and move them out of the laboratory and into breast cancer patients in the next three to five years,” Dr. Czarnota says.



A Sunnybrook scientist is trying to determine why women with melanoma have a better chance of recovery than men. Melanoma is an aggressive skin cancer with a poor outlook for survival once it spreads to other parts of the body. But women with melanoma, even at an advanced stage, have a far better prognosis than their male counterparts. Researchers have found no evidence female hormones contribute to this phenomenon; they believe the gender difference has a genetic basis.

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