Dr. Keith Stewart
Director, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre & Vice President, Cancer, University Health Network
As a world-class research institution Princess Margaret Cancer Centre attracts top global research talent and funding.
Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, is one of the top 5 cancer research centres in the world. One area where The Princess Margaret’s leadership is having a major impact is in multiple myeloma research and care.
Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the bone marrow caused by the proliferation of abnormal plasma cells. In 2022, an estimated 4,000 Canadians were diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an increasingly treatable, but still incurable blood cancer for many.
While a cure is elusive, survival outcomes for multiple myeloma have improved substantially over the past two decades thanks to the development of new therapeutics. The Princess Margaret has been at the forefront of all of them.
With one of the largest multiple myeloma programs worldwide, The Princess Margaret conducts more than 40 myeloma clinical trials and 300 stem cell transplants for myeloma patients annually. “Fourteen new myeloma drugs have been approved by regulators over the last 20 years and with each one there’s an improvement in safety and disease survival,” says Dr. Keith Stewart, Director of Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, and Vice President, Cancer at University Health Network (UHN) in Toronto.
The Princess Margaret — a magnet for global talent
Dr. Stewart has dedicated his career to myeloma research and care since he started his career at UHN in the early 1990s. Since then, he has held senior leadership positions at the Mayo Clinic in the U.S., and recently returned to Canada to direct The Princess Margaret. “The opportunity to lead one of the world’s top cancer centres and hopefully advance it and keep it moving forward, was too attractive to pass up at this stage of my career,” says Dr. Stewart, who is currently leading a project to test whether novel, small-cell molecule drugs can safely and effectively treat myeloma.
Other current myeloma research initiatives at The Princess Margaret include studies with antibody-based NK cells with potential to kill myeloma cells led by Dr. Rodger Tiedemann; improving multiple myeloma surveillance using plasma whole gene sequencing led by Drs. Trevor Pugh, and Suzanne Trudel; and continued immunotherapy research on T-cell therapeutics building on the groundbreaking work of Dr. Tak Mak, who was the first to clone the T-cell receptor in 1984. “His breakthrough advanced the development of the immunotherapy work he is continuing today,” says Dr. Stewart.
The Princess Margaret’s global team of clinicians and scientists includes fellows from around the world who come to The Princess Margaret to train as myeloma specialists. “We truly have a very global perspective. This year for example fellows from Brazil, Colombia, India and Israel will rotate through the lab or clinical practice,” says Dr. Stewart.
Recent donation a testament to The Princess Margaret’s prominence and skill in cancer research field
As rewarding as these developments have been, Dr. Stewart warns we’re not there yet. “For most people with myeloma, it’s still a chronic relapsing disease which is why we need to focus on more effective and less toxic therapies,” says Dr. Stewart.
Thanks to a recent $9.2 million donation from the Paula and Rodger Riney Foundation, researchers at The Princess Margaret can continue to do just that. “This donation is the first major investment the Paula and Rodger Riney Foundation has made in Canada,” says Dr. Stewart, adding: “I think that attracting support from a very large U.S.-based foundation really speaks to our prominence in the field and our position as one of the top 5 cancer research centres in the world.”
Please visit thepmcf.ca to learn more and to support The Princess Margaret.