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Ottawa Hospital hires star geneticist to run special cancer lab

The Ottawa Hospital is set to revolutionize personalized cancer care.

This fall it will open the city's first lab devoted to treating and studying the genetics of cancer.

Dr. Bryan Lo, a star research geneticist who most recently worked at the biotechnology firm Genentech in San Francisco will head up the Molecular Oncology Diagnostics Laboratory.

"Where we would like to head is the day where as soon as the cancer is discovered, the lab will have a big part to play in characterizing genetically the cancer," he said. "The reason this is important, this genomic information together with pathology - it's very important to be putting things in context - will help identify vulnerabilities, pathways that might be targeted with newer therapies that are being developed."

Health care providers using the lab will be able to analyze the genetic flaws inside tumour cells and tailor therapies to a patient's individual type of cancer.

This gives them the ability to predict while drugs would best be suited for particular patients and which ones would not work.

Dr. Lo said the lab will also mean they can do sophisticated genetic tests right here in Ottawa instead of sending them out to other cities.

"There are some genetic tests that help oncologists determine the course of treatment that are standard of care," he said. "They're being ordered right now, but they take a long time simply because they're being sent away. So that's going to be tremendously meaningful, I think, right from the get-go when the lab opens."

The Ottawa Hospital has already raised $1.5-million of the $3-million needed to build the lab, which is expected to open in the fall.

Dr. Lo has an MD/PhD from the University of Toronto and conducted his medical genetics residency at the Hospital for Sick Children. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University from 2005 to 2007, when he was hired as a research fellow at Genetech.

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