Research Partnerships

Canadian National Transplant Research Program

The liver is the 2nd most transplanted organ in Canada. With an increase in liver diseases such as fatty liver disease and liver cancer, and with an aging population of people who may have progressive chronic liver disease, the need for liver transplantation is on the rise in Canada.

The Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) applauds Canadians and their families who have chosen to offer the gift of life to others through organ donation, however, there are still too few donor organs available to offer to the hundreds of Canadians on the liver transplant waiting list. Sadly, this lack of available donor organs means that many Canadians will die while waiting for a much-needed liver transplant.

With such a critical shortage of organs, it is vital to ensure that every liver transplant has the best possible outcomes and research holds the key. To demonstrate our commitment to improving liver health through research and education, the CLF is proud to be a partner with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) in support of the Canadian National Transplant Research Program (CNTRP).

The objective of this program is to enhance the survival and quality of life of Canadians who undergo transplantation, through multi-disciplinary, collaborative and leading-edge research. Led by Dr. Lori West of the University of Alberta, the CNTRP involves research teams from 18 transplant centres and 15 universities and research centres across Canada plus collaboration with international researchers from Europe, Asia, Australia, USA and South America.

The goals for this research on stem cell and solid organ transplant (including liver transplant) are to:
1.    Increase the number of transplants
2.    Extend the life of transplant patients
3.    Improve the quality of life of transplant patients
4.    Develop and enhance training for transplant specialists and researchers
5.    Develop and coordinate a collaborative transplant network
6.    Enhance transplantation data management systems

The CNTRP is supported through the CIHR with $11.25 million plus additional funding from six CIHR partners, including the CLF, of $2.6 million, for a total of $13.85 million. The CNTRP has raised an additional $9.5 million in support from academia, industry, and provincial organ procurement organizations, for a total of $23 million for this transplant research program.

This concentrated focus on improving transplantation through research is an incredible investment in the lives of Canadians who have diseases which have progressed to a point where a transplant may be the only hope for survival. On behalf of all Canadians with or at-risk of liver diseases which may one day progress to the need for a liver transplant, the CLF is honoured to be a partner and a supporter of this research program.

If you would like to make a donation to support CLF liver transplant research, please click here or contact Karen Seto at or 1-800-563-5483 x 4939.


National CIHR Research Training Program in Hepatitis C

The National CIHR Research Training Program in Hepatitis C (NCRTP-HepC) is combining expertise with raw talent in an innovative approach to nurturing the next generation of researchers. A cooperative effort funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), Canadian Liver Foundation and a variety of industry partners and private individuals, the program hopes to foster learning and collaboration amongst various clinical, scientific and social disciplines in an effort to not only lessen the effect of hepatitis C but to one day prevent infection.

Under the leadership of Dr. Naglaa Shoukry and Dr. Julie Bruneau, the program has assembled a transdisciplinary team of experts from ten academic institutions to identify and tutor the next generation of trainees who will lead the initiative for improved care and research in hepatitis C. The participating institutions include: University of British Columbia, University of Alberta, University of Saskatchewan, University of Montreal, McGill University, University of New Brunswick, Memorial University, University of Toronto, Dalhousie University, and University of Western Ontario.

The program is open to graduate and PhD students, medical GI fellows, nurses and others involved in basic, clinical, social and behavioural sciences, immunology, virology and other disciplines. The ultimate goal of the program is to recruit and train new scientists to the study of hepatitis C in order to build research capacity in Canada and redirect the attention and resources of established scientists in related fields toward research in hepatitis C.

For more information on this program, its mentor and participants, please visit the NCRTP-Hep C website.

Improving care for hepatitis C

Partnership with Toronto Health Economics and Technology Assessment Collaborative (THETA)

A person may live with chronic hepatitis C for years, even decades, without experiencing any obvious symptoms. Over time however, the virus wreaks increasing amounts of damage on the liver until eventually cirrhosis, liver failure and even liver cancer may develop. If left undiagnosed or untreated, chronic hepatitis C will take its toll on life expectancy, quality of life,  productivity and finances for the individual as well as drive up costs for the health care system. Unfortunately, there have been no studies in Canada that have looked at this long-term impact and the factors that could play a role in improving these outcomes.  

Through a collaborative partnership between the CLF and Dr. Murray Krahn at the Toronto Health Economics and Technology Assessment Collaborative (THETA), the CLF is funding a two-year study on the connections between the demographics of people with chronic hepatitis C living in British Columbia, the types of care they receive and the resulting health outcomes. Lead investigator Dr. Wendong Chen and his colleagues will examine how drug treatment, referrals to specialists, ultrasound screening for liver cancer, endoscopy screening for varices and other patient care protocols can impact long-term life expectancy, quality of life and the related economic and productivity losses for people with chronic hepatitis C.

By identifying the gaps between the current patterns of care and the clinical guidelines for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C, Dr. Chen and his team will help demonstrate where changes are necessary to improve patient health and quality of life as well as reduce the burden of care.

Making hepatitis C treatment decisions easier

Partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Genetics and Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes

For patients with hepatitis C, the odds of successfully getting rid of the virus with currently available drug treatments ranges from 40 to 80 per cent. Where someone falls within that range depends upon some known factors, such as the genotype of the hepatitis C virus, as well as other factors that scientists have yet to identify. Hepatitis C treatment can be long (24 – 48 weeks), expensive (if not covered) and fraught with side effects. If doctors had a way of accurately predicting which types of treatment patients would respond to, they could create treatment plans with the best odds of achieving that goal.

Dr. Jordan Feld and his colleagues at the Toronto Western Hospital and Mt Sinai Hospital are hoping to identify new genetic markers that will make it easier to predict who will respond to a course of treatment. The goal is to create a panel of simple blood tests that will accurately forecast potential treatment outcomes for individuals.  

Patients undergoing hepatitis C treatment at Toronto Western Hospital will have the opportunity to participate in the study. The team will collect a small sample of blood and will screen each person’s DNA for millions of genetic markers. Dr. Feld and his colleagues will then look to identify specific markers that are associated with the response to treatment.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Genetics and Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes partnered with the Canadian Liver Foundation in a Clinical Investigatorship Award that will fund Dr. Feld’s promising research over the next two years.

To make a donation in support of liver health research, click here.