The Cell Therapy Program (CTP) at the University Health Network is pursuing translational and clinical research to develop cell therapy based treatment strategies for cancer, autoimmune, trauma and degenerative diseases. Our vision is to become a global leader in cell therapy research.

The CTP consists of five components:
  • Good Manufacturing Process (GMP)-compliant cell manufacturing facilities.
  • A translational laboratory for conducting animal studies, the Orsino Cell Therapy Translational Research Laboratory.
  • Clinical Research Program which includes nurses and clinical fellows.
  • A training program, which trains investigators on regulatory processes and practical GMP-compliant laboratory procedures.
  • Regulatory consulting services including preparation of Clinical Trial Applications (CTA), and liaising with local research ethics boards.
The aims of our Program are:
  • Translation of laboratory research into preclinical models leading to clinical cell therapy trials.
  • Design and implementation of innovative cell therapy studies for cancer, regeneration of injured tissue and autoimmune disease modulation.
  • Development of correlative studies to rigorously investigate the mechanisms of cell-based therapy and thus inform future studies.
  • Providing consultative regulatory, manufacturing and pre-clinical services to local (University Health Network), regional (Ontario-wide), national (Canada-wide) and international collaborators.

Cell Therapy and Cancer

The human immune system has a remarkable capacity to identify, attack and destroy abnormal cells and foreign bodies. Cell therapy aims to harness this potential and direct it specifically against cancer cells. Our research program focuses on cells of the innate immune system, such as natural killer (NK) cells and gamma delta T (GDT) cells, and spans in vitro laboratory studies to early phase clinical studies. In addition, we are also interested in investigating antigen specific T-lymphocytes, the subject of an early phase clinical trial.

Cell therapy may offer several advantages compared to traditional cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy. As it uses the body's own immune cells to target and destroy the cancer, and allows for very specific targeting of malignant cells, cell therapy is expected to be associated with few, if any, side effects. For patients for whom there were previously very few treatment options, Cell Therapy may also offer new hope.

Cell Therapy and Degenerative Diseases

Some cells have a high capacity for regeneration, and may therefore be applied to the repair of injured tissues or organs. Additionally there is evidence for the role of mesenchymal stromal cells and hematopoietic progenitor cells in the regeneration of a variety of tissues, including cardiac, spinal cord, brain, vasculature, cartilage, bone and wound healing. In addition, there is growing interest in the immuno-modulatory properties of mesenchymal stromal cells and their application in autoimmune disorders. These studies are done in collaboration with leading investigators in each field, and extend from in vitro and pre-clinical animal studies, to the development and initiation of early phase clinical trials.