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The Garron Family Cancer Centre's Education and Training

Facilitating and promoting innovation in child cancer care and research isn’t all we do at the Garron Family Cancer Centre (GFCC). We’re committed to training the next generation of health-care professionals through fellowship opportunities.

Every year, the GFCC is able to provide over $500,000 for oncology trainee support through the generosity of the SickKids Foundation.


Training programs

Program information

Successful candidates complete a three-year Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC) accredited Training Program, with extensive clinical exposure in:

  • oncology (leukemia/lymphoma, solid tumor, neuro-oncology, cancer genetics, new agents and innovative therapies),
  • haematology (haemoglobinopathies, bone marrow failure and myelodysplasia, thrombosis/haemostasis and general haematology), and
  • bone marrow transplantation and cellular therapy.

Training also includes in-depth exposure to haematopathology (morphology, flow cytometry, cytogenetics, molecular genetics, blood bank and transfusion, special haematology, and coagulation), adult haematology, radiation oncology, and palliative care and symptom management.

Finally, opportunities exist to gain further experience through electives in areas such as diagnostic imaging, pathology and many others. Teaching occurs in both outpatient and inpatient settings, in addition to protected weekly Academic Half-Days, Continuity Clinics, multiple subspecialty rounds, lectures and seminars.

The focus of the first two years of this program is to gain clinical expertise in the subspecialty of Paediatric Haematology/Oncology and to begin to formulate scholarly ideas and proposals (basic science, translational, clinical, medical education and quality improvement).

The third year focuses on completing scholarly activities and pursuing further training in individual areas of interest. Successful candidates are fully funded during their 3-years of training. Clinical duties include outpatient and inpatient care, as well as on-call coverage for general haematology/oncology and bone marrow transplantation and cellular therapy.

Eligibility

  • Canadian and US Graduates who have completed at least 3 of a 4-year General Paediatric Residency Training Program and meet eligibility requirements to apply through CaRMS.
  • Sponsored residents from: Bahrain, Dominica, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia,The United Arab Emirates and Libya.

After completing the program...

All trainees who complete the three-year program will receive a certificate of completion from the University of Toronto. Successful trainees are eligible for Royal College certification in Paediatric Haematology/Oncology or certification via the Subspecialty Examination Affiliate Program (SEAP).

For more information, visit the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada's website for information or to apply online. Sponsored candidates can sumbit their application to Jessica.filion@utoronto.ca.

Apply for RCPSC training program

Successful candidates complete a two-year highly clinically focused Training Program, with extensive clinical exposure in:

  • oncology (leukemia/lymphoma, solid tumor, neuro-oncology, cancer genetics, new agents and innovative therapies), 
  • haematology  (haemoglobinopathies,  bone  marrow  failure and myelodysplasia, thrombosis/haemostasis and general haematology), and
  • bone marrow transplantation and cellular therapy.

Training also includes exposure to haematopathology (morphology, flow cytometry, cytogenetics, molecular genetics, blood bank and transfusion, special haematology, and coagulation), adult haematology, radiation oncology, and palliative care and symptom management, the extent of which depends on each candidate’s training objectives. Teaching occurs in both outpatient and inpatient settings, in addition to protected weekly Academic Half-Days, Continuity Clinics, multiple subspecialty rounds, lectures and seminars. Candidates are fully funded during their training. 

The second year is dependent on successful completion of the first year. Clinical duties include outpatient and  inpatient care, as  well as on-call  coverage  for  general  haematology/oncology  and  bone  marrow transplantation and cellular therapy. 

Eligibility

  • International Medical Graduates
  • Must have Certification in General Paediatric's
  • 1 year experience working and/or training in Paediatric Haematology/Oncology is required

Upon Completion of Program

All trainees receive a Subspecialty certificate in General Paediatric Haematology/Oncology from the University of Toronto.  

Timeline

  • Academic Year:  July 1, 2022 - June 30, 2023
  • Application Opens:  January 1, 2021
  • Submission Deadline:  April 30, 2021
  • Interviews:  June - July
  • Appointment Decision:  August

How to Apply

You can apply online by filling out the application - note that incomplete applications will not be considered.

Apply for the program

Subspecialty Training Programs are for those already trained in General Paediatric Haematology/Oncology who wish to obtain further clinical and/or research specialization.

Customized  programs  may  also  be  developed  according  to  a  trainee’s  interests.  Past customized subspecialty  programs have  included  Sarcoma, and  Adolescent and Young  Adult  Oncology Fellowships. Those interested in applying to a customized subspecialty program must highlight their rationale in the letter of intent.

Candidates  applying  to  a  Subspecialty  Program  are  ineligible  to  apply  to  the  Core  and Departmental Paediatric Haematology/Oncology Programs at the same time. Furthermore, candidates are only permitted to apply to a maximum of two Subspecialty Programs. 

Timeline

  • Academic Year:  July 1, 2022 - June 30, 2023
  • Application Opens:  January 1, 2021
  • Submission Deadline:  April 30, 2021
  • Interviews:  June – July
  • Appointment Decision:  August

How to Apply

You can apply online by filling out the application - note that incomplete applications will not be considered.

Apply for a subspeciality program

The Research Fellowship is open to physicians, pharmacy, nursing and allied health professionals pursuing their PhD or Master’s degree.

Application Requirements

  1. Current CV 
  2. Two professional letters of reference  
  3. GFCC Trainee Application 
  4. GFCC Fellowship Supervisor Application  
  5. One supervisor letter of support

Note: A supervisor and primary project must be identified at the time of application   

Deadline

The next application is TBD.

Duration

  • Two years 

Start Date

The next start date is TBD.

The Division of Hematology/Oncology Clinical and GFCC Research Fellowship is a four-year combined fellowship opportunity for physicians. The GFCC Research Fellowship component begins after two years of clinical training is completed.

Eligibility

Physician trainees awarded a 2-year clinical fellowship by the Division of Haematology/Oncology

Application Requirements

  1. Division of Haematology/Oncology Fellowship Application 
  2. GFCC Fellowship Trainee Application 
  3. GFCC Research Fellowship letter of intent outlining personal goals and preliminary high-level cancer-related research project ideas submitted to gfcc.fellowship@sickkids.ca 
  4. Supplemental applications due within the first 12 months of the clinical fellowship: 

Deadline

The next deadline is TBD.

Duration

  • Four years  

Start Date

The next date is TBD.

The Basic Science/Investigator Fellowship is facilitated directly through the SickKids Research Training Centre’s (RTC) Restacomp Program.

Fellowship Expectations 

  1. A progress report must be provided by March 31 of the first year research is undertaken and then in the final year of the fellowship.  
  2. Fellows in Stream 1 and Stream 2 may be required to commit up to 10% of their time to clinical activities during research training. 
  3. The GFCC should be acknowledged (using the GFCC logo) in all presentations, invited/submitted poster sessions etc. 
  4. The GFCC must be informed in writing of any future applications for funding, publications, new findings or conclusions drawn from the project or the experience that was gained through the GFCC fellowship. 

Fellowship Deferral  

Research Fellowships can be deferred up to a maximum of 1 year. A written letter advising of deferral is required and include signature from fellow and supervisor.

Please email gfcc.fellowship@sickkids.ca for more information. 


Current research fellows

Dr. Sarah Cohen-Gogo

Dr. Sarah Cohen-Gogo

Supervisor: Dr. Daniel Morgenstern

PARP Inhibitors and Chemotherapy for children, adolescent and young adults harbouring Tumours with homologous Recombination repair deficiency: a phase II pilot study

While the survival rate in Canada approaches 82 per cent for all child, adolescent, and young adult cancer patients, the prognosis for patients with refractory, relapsed or metastatic disease remains unacceptably poor.
A pan-Canadian collaboration called PRecision Oncology For Young peopLE (PROFYLE) was created to improve survival for the patients with ‘hard-to-treat’ cancers by providing better access to next generation sequencing and targeted therapies. The PROFYLE program expands and integrates the Toronto regional paediatric cancer precision medicine program called KiCS (Kids Cancer Sequencing).
Among the identified genetic aberrations, those leading to deficiencies in a DNA repair pathway called homologous recombination are a promising group for targeted therapy. A family of drugs called PARP inhibitors is now part of the treatment for some adult cancers (ovarian, breast) that have such abnormalities.
As it remains unclear how to best identify paediatric, adolescent and young adult patients who may benefit from these drugs, we are developing a Canadian pilot clinical trial that will provide access to these new drugs for patients with hard-to-treat cancers, and take into account the information from the PROFYLE sequencing study to look for potential biomarkers.

Dr. Grace Egan

Dr. Grace Egan

Supervisor: Dr. Aaron Schimmer

Nuclear Hexokinase 2: Mechanism of Regulating Stemness

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) remains one of the most difficult to treat childhood cancers given its high rates of relapse and treatment-related toxicity.  Leukemic stem cells (LSCs) are thought to be responsible for initiation, maintenance, and recurrence of AML. Understanding the biology of leukemia stem cells is crucial for developing effective, targeted, therapies for AML.

Previous work has shown that enzymes involved in metabolism can influence gene expression when they move from the mitochondria to the nucleus. Little is known about this process in AML. Hexokinase 2 (HK2) is a metabolic enzyme involved in glucose metabolism. Recent work in our lab has demonstrated that leukemia stem cells have increased levels of HK2. When nuclear HK2 is over-expressed in AML cells, it is associated with a stem-like phenotype, making cells resistance to differentiation with chemotherapy. The mechanism of how nuclear HK2 contributes to stemness is unknown. My project will decipher these mechanisms, which appear to involve epigenetic processes and DNA damage repair signaling pathways. By exploring the interacting proteins and pathways of nuclear HK2, it may be possible to discover novel therapeutic ways of selectively reducing the leukemia stem cell population in AML.

Dr. Reena Pabari

Dr. Reena Pabari

Supervisor: Cynthia Guidos

The use of high dimensional mass cytometry to detect and characterize relapse-originating cells in acute myeloid leukaemia

Patients with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) have high rates of relapse, despite initial apparent responsiveness to chemotherapy in many cases. There is evidence that the relapsed disease derives from a population of leukemic stem cells that are present at the time of diagnosis. In patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), flow cytometry is used to identify the persistence of leukemic cells (minimal residual disease) after induction chemotherapy in order to guide and intensify treatment if needed.

In contrast, AML is a heterogeneous disease that is difficult to characterize with routine flow cytometry. I will be using high dimensional mass cytometry to characterize and evaluate the relapse-originating cells in diagnosis-remission-relapse samples from patients with AML. Mass cytometry can profile up to 40 markers per cell and has a greater ability to characterize heterogeneous cell populations. Our goal is to be able to identify and monitor the relapse-seeding clones in patients with AML in order to better guide therapy and prevent further progression of disease.

Dr. Tristan Knight

Dr. Tristan Knight

Supervisor: Dr. Donna A. Wall

Re-envisioning the autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplant as immunotherapy

Autologous bone marrow transplantation plays a key role in the treatment of many aggressive childhood cancers. This procedure involves the collection and storage of a child's own blood-making stem cells, administration of high-dose chemotherapy, and then the return of the child's previously-collected cells in order to re-build the blood-making system. This allows more intensive than usual chemotherapy to be administered. However, only 1% of the collected cells (the graft) are stem cells – the rest are a mixture of immune cells, but the type, function, and abilities of those immune cells is not understood. This project will therefore aim to characterize the immune cells present in the graft, and to improve the function and anti-cancer activity of the immune cells. In this way, a child's own immune system will be harnessed to help fight their cancer following bone marrow transplantation.

Dr. Fyeza Hasan

Dr. Fyeza Hasan

Supervisor: Dr. Lillian Sung

Children with Cancer as Participants in End of Life Research

Survival rates for childhood cancers have increased dramatically, but 20 per cent of patients still die of their cancer or its treatment. The end-of-life (EOL) care of these children is difficult and includes addressing complex symptoms, and challenging issues around decision making, such as decisions about resuscitation, ongoing therapy and clinical trials.
Palliative care research studies can help us to identify evidence informed strategies for managing the complex EOL issues faced by children with cancer and may improve quality of life and satisfaction with care for patients and their families.

Despite the need for this type of research, palliative care studies are extremely rare in paediatric oncology. There are a number of possible barriers including the reluctance of physicians to offer research to families, and reluctance of families to take part, or remain enrolled.

My research aims to explore stakeholder perceptions about the enrolment of children with cancer in paediatric oncology palliative care research. Studying the views of potential research participants will allow researchers to understand parents’ and clinicians’ decision making processes. This will assist them in designing studies that are meaningful and acceptable to stakeholders, improving recruitment and creating knowledge that ultimately improves EOL care.


Parent and family resources

Photovoice Program

As leaders in child health, the oncology social workers at SickKids have implemented a therapeutic Photovoice group where teens meet weekly to record, reflect, and critique issues they have faced on their treatment journey.

Photovoice is a therapeutic photography program focused on creating a supportive peer-focused environment aimed at bringing a voice to teens with varying cancer diagnoses, while facilitating better communication between patients and their healthcare teams. A concurrent Photovoice group for teen siblings is also available. Photos from both groups are displayed at the annual Exhibition to kick off Cancer Awareness Week and are subsequently hung on clinic walls.   

Email sonia.lucchetta@sickkids.ca or wendy.sharma@sickkids.ca for more information.

'It's All About Me' Sibling Appreciation Day

A child’s diagnosis of cancer or serious blood disorder has a significant impact on the entire family. Siblings of children with cancer/serious blood disorders are often overlooked and their needs minimized as their parents and healthcare professionals focus on the ill child. The Annual “It’s All About Me” Sibling Appreciation Day provides creative opportunities to address the most common concerns about the sibling experience.  

It promotes the expression of feelings, coping, and problem solving with the goal of enhancing self-esteem. Throughout our programming, we aim to enhance sibling’s adjustment to living with a life-threatening illness within the family, reinforce their importance within the family, and provide much needed recognition for their important role in their family’s journey at SickKids.  

Email sonia.lucchetta@sickkids.ca or wendy.sharma@sickkids.ca for more information. 

The Childhood Cancer Therapy Update

The Childhood Cancer Therapy Update (CCTU) is a one-day conference that brings together national and international experts to share leading practices and applied science. The aim of the conference is to achieve a thought-provoking, relevant and scientific meeting to advance paediatric oncology care locally, nationally, and internationally.

Due to social distancing restrictions the 2021 CCTU will be hosted virtually on the afternoons of February 3 and February 10. Register online using the link below!

CCTU registration

Contact the GFCC

Contact the GFCC

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