Manitoba’s Renal Transplant Programs experience record year

A record 57 Manitobans, including six youth, received kidney transplants through Manitoba’s Renal Transplant Programs at HSC Winnipeg in 2016. Twenty-five of those gifts came from living kidney donors and another six came from three donors via Manitoba’s latest donation option – donation after cardiac death (DCD).

“Manitobans have access to some of the best kidney care and transplantation services in the country,” said Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living Kelvin Goertzen. “This is the first full year Manitobans have had the opportunity to consider DCD and we are so pleased to be able to give more families the option of choosing organ donation.”

Kidney disease is a growing problem and people living with it experience a reduced quality of life and risk premature death.

“Kidney transplantation is often the best treatment for people living with kidney disease,” said Dr. Peter Nickerson, Medical Director, Transplant Manitoba – Gift of Life. “A transplant means living a longer, healthier, active life without being tied to the demands of dialysis.”

“Children deserve the opportunity to fulfill their potential,” said Dr. Patricia Birk, Medical Director, Pediatric Renal Transplant program. “Dialysis is a great hardship on the kids and on the family. They’re going back and forth to the dialysis unit three or four times a week, they’re on multiple medications and they have a lot of dietary restrictions. It is a real burden.”

Manitoba is a leader in kidney transplantation and since 1969, over 1,500 kidney transplants have been performed by the adult program and the pediatric program combined. Led by Dr. David Rush and Dr. Patricia Birk, both programs, which operate out of HSC Winnipeg, were the first to introduce surveillance biopsy programs that has led to their adoption in many countries worldwide, and established Winnipeg as a centre of excellence in translational research.

“In over 30 years of caring for patients and being part of the changes in the field of transplantation, it is very rewarding to know we have been able to improve outcomes for kidney recipients and give them a better opportunity to live life to the fullest,” said Dr. Rush, Medical Director, Adult Renal Transplant Program.

In addition to Dr. Rush’s innovations, 2016 saw national and international honours and recognition for Dr. Nickerson and Dr. Julie Ho.

Dr. Nickerson, Vice-Dean (Research) and Distinguished Professor, Flynn Family Chair in Renal Transplantation, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, earned an AST Clinical Scientist Established Investigator Award for his work in leading the Canadian national standardization of HLA laboratory practice and the development of an interprovincial transplant network in Canada that has impacted the lives of hundreds of Canadians to date. His research on the genetic and immunologic basis of organ rejection has created new paradigms for transplantation.

He was also awarded the ASHI Paul Terasaki Award to acknowledge the success of his team in identifying the role of HLA antibodies in causing premature kidney transplant loss and developing novel strategies to prevent antibody development.

Dr. Ho, transplant physician at Transplant Manitoba and assistant professor of Internal Medicine, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, earned a $2.6 M Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) project grant to support a first-of-its-kind clinical trial. Dr. Ho and her team have identified a new urine test to detect rejection and predict outcomes in kidney transplantation – meaning patients at high-risk of losing their transplants may be identified sooner. Dr. Ho will study the impact of an early rejection marker on transplant outcomes with the goal of having new urine tests that could be used to personalize medicine and improve patient and transplant health.