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Dr. James Whitlock - Division Head
The Division of Haematology/Oncology is one of the largest divisions in the Department of Paediatrics at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids); it provides a diagnostic service and specialist care for children < 18 years of age with cancer (paediatric oncology), non-malignant blood diseases (paediatric haematology) and haematopoietic stem cell (blood and marrow) transplantation. The division is the largest of its kind in Canada and among the largest in North America. The mission of the division is to achieve and maintain excellence in the areas of clinical care, education and research.
Reflecting the size and diversity of its clinical services, the division is functionally organized into six sections and three programs: the leukaemia/lymphoma section (Section Head, Dr. Ron Grant); the neurooncology (brain tumor) section (Section Head, Dr. Eric Bouffet); the solid tumor section (Section Head, Dr. Ronald Grant); the blood and marrow transplantation section (Section Head, Dr. John Doyle); the haematology section (Section Head, Dr. Victor Blanchette); the inpatient services section (Section Head, Dr. Ahmed Naqvi); the aftercare (long-term follow up) program (Program Head, Dr. Mark Greenberg); the new agents and experimental therapies program (Program Head, Dr. Sylvain Baruchel); and the cancer genetics program (Program Co-Heads, Drs. David Malkin and Rosanna Weksberg). The haematology section has well-defined large programs in paediatric haemostasis, the paediatric haemoglobinopathies and the paediatric marrow failure syndromes. The division is an active member of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), the largest paediatric clinical trials group in North America (SickKids Principal Investigator, Dr. Alberto Pappo), and is committed to the improvement in outcomes of children with cancer through participation in ethics approved, prospective clinical trials. The division is a member of the paediatric oncology phase I Consortium of COG (Principal Investigator, Dr. Sylvain Baruchel), and is an active participant in activities of the Society for International Paediatric Oncology (SIOP), the Histiocyte Society and the Berlin Frankfurt Munster (BFM) paediatric leukaemia clinical trials group.
The division is the largest Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada accredited training program for the specialty paediatric haematology/oncology in Canada (Training Program Director, Dr. Michael Capra). The education program in the division also includes a very large international training program in paediatric haematology/oncology and offers subspecialty training opportunities in areas such as paediatric neurooncology, cancer genetics and paediatric haemostasis. Research in the division spans from clinical to basic science with a special focus on translational research. Currently, 14 of the division’s 25 full-time faculty have appointments as clinician-scientists or clinician-investigators in the Department of Paediatrics with parallel appointments in the Research Institute. Foci of research include basic science studies in the paediatric leukaemias (Dr. Hans Hitzler), solid tumors (Dr. Meredith Irwin), brain tumors (Dr. Annie Huang), retinoblastoma (Dr. Helen Chan), neuroblastoma (Drs. Meredith Irwin, David Kaplan, Sylvain Baruchel), the genetics of childhood cancer (Dr. David Malkin), supportive care of children with cancer (Dr. Lillian Sung), adverse effects in survivors of childhood cancer (Drs. Mark Greenberg, Paul Nathan), experimental cancer therapies and angiogenesis (Dr. Sylvain Baruchel), paediatric cancer clinical trials, including phase I studies (all members of the division), paediatric marrow failure syndromes (Dr. Yigal Dror), platelet granule biology (Dr. Walter Kahr), and the inherited and acquired bleeding disorders of childhood including the haemophilias (Drs. Victor Blanchette, Manuel Carcao) and pediatric thrombosis (Drs. Leo Brandao, Susan Williams). Increasingly, research in the division is multidisciplinary, including health care professionals with relevant expertise from a variety of areas (e.g., nursing, pharmacy, psychology, social work). The division is committed to facilitating knowledge exchange through international partnerships with a particular focus on countries lacking the health care resources available in Canada.
The administrative team for the Division includes Dr. Victor Blanchette (Division Chief), Dr. Sheila Weitzman (Associate Director, Clinical), Judy Van Clieaf (Director, Child Health Services) and Lucy Holford (Team Leader, Administrative and Support Services).
During the 1970s, SickKids’ paediatric oncology unit was housed at Princess Margaret Hospital, while the haematology service was located within the hospital. In 1980, on the recommendation of a task force, oncology was moved to SickKids, and the two services were combined into the Division of Haematology/Oncology in the following year.
In 1974, the Division Head, Dr. Peter McClure, performed the first-ever paediatric bone marrow transplant, and SickKids soon became known as a leading centre for this procedure. Other significant achievements of the division's haematology branch included the development of a comprehensive haemophilia program in 1983 and a sickle-cell anemia program in 1985. Haematology research flourished, with landmark studies of congenital bone marrow and hemoglobin disorders, and of the inherited and acquired paediatric bleeding disorders.
Initially, oncology was largely viewed as an add-on to the primary focus of the division, namely the haematological diseases of childhood. The ensuing years saw a dramatic increase in our knowledge of the etiology and treatment of childhood malignancies, and the need for a separate oncology program within the division became evident. Over the past two decades, growth in the combined division of paediatric haematology, oncology and haematopoietic stem cell (bone marrow) transplantation has been consolidated through the recruitment of new full-time faculty and the creation of multidisciplinary disease-specific sections/programs in both haematology and oncology. The division now boasts one endowed chair (The SickKids Women's Auxiliary Millennium Chair in Paediatric Haematology/Oncology) and funds to allow specialist training in thrombosis (The Baxter BioScience Endowed Fellowship in Paediatric Haemostasis), leukaemia (the Markel Fellowship in Cancer Research), and pediatric oncology (Bank of Montreal Financial Group Oncology Fellowship and Scotiabank Clinician Scientist Training Fund).
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