Dr. Sarah Ferguson, Director of Research for the Division of Gynecologic Oncology

Research at UHN

As the largest Gynecologic Oncology centre in Canada, our goal is to lead the nation to improve outcomes for women with gynecologic cancer through excellence in patient care, research and education. Our Surgeon-Scientists are leaders in their field whose research has been recognized locally, nationally and internationally and our research has been selected for funding from esteemed agencies like the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Canadian Cancer Society and the US Department of Defense. We also receive funds through generous donations to the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation. This has made it possible to bring large, international trials in Gynecologic Oncology to Princess Margaret and to lead numerous impactful national and local studies.

Under the leadership of the Division Head, Dr. Bernardini and the Director of Research, Dr. Sarah Ferguson, the Gynecology Oncology Research Program was formally established in 2012. The program’s vision is to expand and promote clinical, translational and educational research by thoroughly integrating research activities in the clinical care setting. A full-time team of research coordinators work directly with Gynecologic Oncology patients at Princess Margaret. From their very first visit, we ensure each patient is individually assessed and connected with a diverse array of research participation opportunities. Our research team collaborates with a talented network of physicians and scientists at Princess Margaret and other regional cancer centres, hospitals and research institutes to maximize impact and promote important research in surgical techniques, disease etiology, hereditary factors, patient quality of life and survivorship in gynecologic cancer.

Ovarian Cancer Research Program

Dr. Liat Hogen, Research Director for the Comprehensive Ovarian Cancer Program

Ovarian cancer research plays a critical role in advancing our knowledge and combating this complex disease.

As international leaders in the field of ovarian cancer research, we have established a strong research platform within our institution. Under the leadership of Dr. Marcus Bernardini as head of department, and Dr. Liat Hogen as the comprehensive ovarian cancer program research director, and through our collaborative efforts, we aim to unravel the intricacies of ovarian cancer and pave the way for innovative discoveries.

Clinical research serves as a cornerstone in our pursuit of improved treatments. By conducting rigorous clinical trials, we can assess the efficacy and safety of various therapies, tailoring treatments to specific subtypes of ovarian cancer. Patient participation in these trials is invaluable, as it enables us to develop novel therapeutic approaches that can have a profound impact on patient outcomes.

Our steadfast commitment to surgical research involves pushing the envelope and embracing novel surgical techniques to enhance precision and optimize patient recovery. As skilled surgeons and dedicated researchers, we strive to advance surgical techniques and procedures. Through innovation and continuous refinement, we aim to enhance surgical precision, exploring and implementing cutting-edge approaches and optimize patient recovery. These advancements are only made possible through our robust research platform, international collaboration and the unwavering support of our patients and partners.

Moreover, our institution’s dedication to basic science research provides a solid foundation for breakthroughs in ovarian cancer. By delving into the fundamental biology of the disease, we gain insights into its underlying mechanisms, identify potential biomarkers, and uncover new therapeutic targets. This knowledge serves as a catalyst for the development of personalized treatments, revolutionizing how we approach ovarian cancer.

Our collective efforts, spanning clinical, surgical, and basic science research, has made a significant international impact through numerous publications, presentations at prestigious conferences, active participation in guideline development, and invitations to share our expertise as distinguished speakers. These accomplishments reflect our dedication to advancing knowledge and driving progress in the field of ovarian cancer research, ultimately improving outcomes and offering hope to patients worldwide.

The UHN GYN Blood Biobank

The GYN Blood Biobank is an investigator-initiated program in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. All newly diagnosed patients are approached to participate in research initiatives, including blood banking. The UHN GYN Blood Biobank was initiated in 2011 in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology. The goal of this blood bank is to establish a repository of high-quality blood samples and clinical data for ovarian cancer researchers.

            To date, >35 000 samples have been collected from >1,000 women with or at risk for ovarian cancer

Dr. Taymaa May, Clinical Director of the UHN GYN Biobank

All eligible patients attending the Gynecologic Oncology Clinics at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre or the Familial Ovarian Cancer Clinic (FOCC) at Women’s College Hospital are approached at their initial appointment and offered the opportunity to participate. Upon consent, additional blood samples are collected for the purpose of future research at the same time as clinical bloodwork.

Patient cohorts include:

  • ovarian cancer patients treated with primary surgery or neoadjuvant chemotherapy
  • women presenting with a suspicious pelvic mass without a cancer diagnosed after surgery
  • women with a confirmed germline mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes
  • women with a strong family history for ovarian/breast cancer planning surgery

Collections occur throughout the patients’ clinical course. Different sample types are collected (e.g. buffy coat, plasma and serum) dependent on time point. All samples are linked to high-quality de-identified clinical data available to researchers, including pathology information (stage, grade, histology), CA125 data, surgical and systemic treatment information and outcome data (progression-free and overall survivals).

Quality Improvement

Quality Improvement and Patient Safety (QIPS)

Director of
the Quality Improvement Program
Director of the Quality Improvement Program

The Gynecologic Oncology group is committed to quality improvement and patient safety to improve care of gynecologic oncology patients at UHN/SHS. Under the mentorship of Dr. Genevieve Bouchard-Fortier, the Gynecologic Oncology group is leading numerous quality improvement initiatives. There is a serious commitment to measuring quality indicators, supporting new implementation strategies, and improving perioperative outcomes of gynecologic oncology patients. The Gynecologic Oncology group also participates in the American College of Surgeon’s National Surgical Quality & Safety Program (ACS NSQIP>®). ACS NSQIP® is a leading validated, risk-adjusted, outcomes-based program to measure and drive improvements in surgical care. This program allows us to have access to high-quality clinical data that can be accurately compared against data at the local, provincial, national and international levels and identify  areas for improvement.