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Volunteer Advocate

Spotlight on Research

Improving the Lives of People Depending on Transplants

For many people with cystic fibrosis (CF), lung transplantation offers hope for a second chance at life. CF is characterized by chronic lung infection and inflammation, which causes tissue damage over time. When the lungs have become damaged to the point that their function is severely reduced, lung transplant becomes the only option. Unfortunately, in Canada, the demand (or need) for viable donor lungs, and other organs, vastly outweighs the supply, with almost 4500 Canadians on transplant waiting lists (Canadian Organ Replacement Registry Annual Report, 2011).

In response to this need, the Canadian National Transplant Research Program (CNTRP; cntrp.ca) was created in 2013. This five-year program was formed after identifying that transplantation research and clinical applications would benefit from increased collaboration among the community. Led by Drs. Lori West at the Alberta Transplant Institute at the University of Alberta and Marie-Josée Hébert at the Université de Montréal, CNTRP brings together over 300 investigators, trainees, collaborators, patients and other partners at 29 sites throughout Canada to carry out research and develop resources to help Canadians waiting for transplants and to improve outcomes and quality of life after transplant.

The specific goals of the Canadian National Transplant Research Program (CNTRP) are to:

  1. Increase the number of transplants
  2. Extend the lives of transplant recipients
  3. Improve the quality of life of transplant recipients
  4. Develop and enhance the pool of talent in the transplant field
  5. Integrate and coordinate transplantation research nationwide

Two years into the five-year program, CNTRP is on track to make a positive impact in each of its identified goal areas. A few of their accomplishments are listed below.

  • They have brought new technology into operating rooms to enable surgeons to support and repair donated organs for transplantation that would have otherwise been discarded
  • They are examining key factors relevant to increasing organ and tissue donation
  • They are analyzing differences in donation rates across the country
  • They are improving testing to more accurately determine brain death
  • They are examining the expansion of living kidney donation
  • They gathered evidence and published national guidelines for working with organ donors at high risk of passing on infection; Ontario Trillium Gift of Life Network produced a tool kit based on these guidelines to assist health care workers and administrators in decisions related to accepting organs from high risk donors
  • They have explored legal and policy issues related to organ donation and produced a series of Fast Facts resources to inform policies and spark new research on topics such as consent for organ donation, potential benefits, impact and legality of incentives, organ trafficking and transplant tourism

Moving forward, the Canadian National Transplant Research Program (CNTRP) aims to continue the work started in the first two years of the program, in addition to further integrating patients, families, caregivers and members of the public. They also aim to explore additional partnerships and collaborations, and build sustainability into the future by communicating the importance of the network to a wide range of stakeholders. Cystic Fibrosis Canada looks forward to continued involvement with CNTRP in the years to come, in recognition of positive benefits of the network for the cystic fibrosis community.

To access the Executive Summary of the network’s Year Two Scientific Progress Report, click here.

Did you know? The Canadian National Transplant Research Program (CNTRP) is currently funded at a level of approximately $23 million, with $100,000 of that coming from Cystic Fibrosis Canada.

Did you know? As of 2011, 30-40% of Canadians needing a transplant over their lifetime would not receive one. The Canadian National Transplant Research Program (CNTRP) is working to increase the chances of receiving a transplant. 


Photo 1:

A surgery setting using organs shipped in traditional containers on ice ready to be retrieved or transplanted.

Photo 2:

Dr. Markus Selzner from University Health Network’s Toronto General Hospital with an OrganOx Metra device, which preserves organs outside the body by mimicking human physiological functions. Dr. Selzner successfully transplanted a deceased donor liver that was preserved using OrganOx Metra for almost 12 hours.

Photo 3:

Examples of new portable ex vivo organ perfusion devices that the CNTRP is testing across the country. These devices bring new technology into operating rooms, enabling surgeons to support and repair donated organs for transplantation that would otherwise be discarded. 

Photo 4:

Jayan Nagendran (pictured left), is a CNTRP lung surgeon at the Alberta Transplant Institute in Edmonton who is working on improving portable ex vivo lung perfusion technology and investigating how to retrieve and repair lungs prior to transplant. Darren Freed (pictured right) is a CNTRP heart surgeon, also at the Alberta Transplant Institute.