Results of MI4 Pfizer Early Career Investigator Award

MI4 is pleased to award funding for two investigators in Year 1 of the MI4 Pfizer Early Career Investigator Award program. MI4 would like to acknowledge that support for this program has been provided by Pfizer Canada Inc.

MI4 is also delighted to announce that they have partnered with the LDI and JGH Foundation to support an additional project for the LDI-JGH MI4 Early Career Investigator Award. Congratulations to all the awardees!

Please join us in congratulating the following researchers on their successful submissions.

Lead Investigator

MI4 Pfizer Early Career Investigator Award

Ian Watson

PhD (McGill)

Investigation of sex differences in response to immune checkpoint inhibitors in melanoma

Lay Summary

More men develop melanoma than women. Once male patients have melanoma, they have a worse prognosis than female patients. In the past, this has been attributed to differences in behavior. However, evidence now clearly points to biological sex differences being responsible for this phenomenon. Furthermore, reports are emerging that male and female patients have different drug responses to the latest melanoma treatments. Interestingly, reports indicate men have better responses to immune therapies and women respond better to targeted therapies. The reason for this is unknown.

Our group recently identified a gene that is preferentially mutated in male melanoma patients. We believe mutations in this gene may explain the observed sex differences in patient response to immune therapies, which we will investigate in this this study. Our research will lead to a better understanding of the differences in the biology of melanomas between male and female patients. Importantly, our study will work towards developing clinical tests that may help select patients most likely to benefit from either immune or targeted therapies.

Abhinav Sharma


Optimizing the timing of influenza vaccination in patients with heart failure: the FLU-HF randomized trial

Lay Summary

Heart failure (HF) is one of the most common causes of hospital admission in Canada and costs the Canadian healthcare system over $1 billion annually. Influenza vaccination is an inexpensive strategy to prevent influenza infections and reduce an important trigger for HF decompensation and hospital readmission. Yet, the optimal timing of vaccine administration remains unclear. When patients with HF are admitted to the hospital with an acute decompensation in advance of, or during, the ‘flu season’, this can be an ideal time to administer the vaccine. However, patients with acute HF decompensation have significant inflammatory injury, and may have substantially impaired immune responses; thus vaccine administration while admitted during an acute decompensated HF episode may not lead to high anti-influenza antibody titres. A more effective strategy can be to vaccinate after the decompensation has resolved, when patients are more stable. The FLU-HF randomized trial will determine whether administering the influenza vaccine to patients admitted in-hospital with an acute HF decompensation or waiting until they have stabilized as an out-patient leads to an improved anti-influenza response. We hypothesize that the seasonal influenza vaccination given to patients acutely decompensated with HF will elicit diminished humoral immune response (seroresponse) compared to patients receiving vaccination when stabilized as an out-patient. The primary outcome will be the number of individuals who develop protective antibodies to influenza virus strains included in the vaccine. This study will significantly inform a larger multicentre trial evaluating clinical outcomes.



Khashayar Esfahani


Uncoupling the efficacy and toxicity of immune checkpoint inhibitors through the novel use of kinase inhibitors

Lay Summary

In the last decade, cancer care has made enormous strides forward with the development of treatments that activate our natural immune system to attack cancer cells. Specifically, drugs called “Immune checkpoint inhibitors” (ICIs) have provided dramatic improvements in response and overall survival to a growing number of deadly malignancies. Unfortunately, the activated immune system does not always exclusively target cancer cells. Indeed, inappropriate targeting of normal human tissues has led to a wide variety of auto-immune side effects, which can sometimes be severe and long-lasting, even occasionally fatal.

We have studied how small molecules that inhibit intra-cellular signaling can modify the response to ICI in animal models, and more recently, in patients experiencing severe side effects. In this application, we propose to test whether such inhibitors can increase anti-tumor activity and/or decrease auto-immune toxicity in an animal cancer model where both anti-tumor activity and auto-immune toxicity are induced. Our focus will be on melanoma as the cancer model and immune colitis as the toxicity of interest. We anticipate this work to lead to the development of new treatments to combine with ICI to increase anti-cancer activity while decreasing or controlling immune side effects.

See the press release.

Back to top