Septic shock is the most severe form of infection seen in intensive care units (ICUs), a “sneaky and unpredictable” condition according to The Ottawa Hospital’s Dr. Lauralyn McIntyre. In response to the infection, the body’s immune system becomes overactive, causing organs to fail. Each year in Canada, some 100,000 patients are admitted to ICUs with septic shock (accounting for 30% of all admissions) and 30-40% of patients will die from it. Survivors can experience long-term damage to their ability to function physically and to their quality of life. To date, there have been no treatments developed that will improve either the death rate or the prospects of survivors. Sepsis accounts for about half of all critical care costs, in Canada, about $4 billion/year.
Dr. McIntyre is leading a team testing a new and exciting potential therapy for septic shock that uses mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to tell the immune system to calm down and let repairs begin. Her team is the first in the world to conduct and complete a phase I trial of the treatment, testing safety and dosage. Now, Dr. McIntyre is leading a multicentre phase II randomized controlled clinical trial that will involve a larger number of patients. At the same time, she will be focusing on improving the quality of the MSCs and developing less expensive and intensive ways to manufacture the cells.
The next step before MSCs can be approved for use in treating septic shock will be an international phase III trial, conducted in association with industry partners and involving large numbers of patients. If successful, the result would be thousands of lives saved and significant healthcare savings.
 In an interview in the UOJM, May 2013
Lauralyn McIntyre’s research project is part of The Clinical Trials Program which will provide $4.214M for 6 trials. A total of 38 investigators (6 Principal Investigators & 32 Co-Investigators) at 12 institutions and 50 trainees will be engaged in these trials, which will determine the safety and efficacy of new stem cell treatments in humans. This is the first time in SCN’s history that it has offered support for clinical trials. This program supports phase I/II trials with the potential to be economically viable for health care systems and show a benefit to patients. Funded trials will focus on a spectrum of health issues including treating fatal illnesses such as septic shock, evaluating a stem cell therapy for diabetes, and expanding stem cells from cord blood for efficacious and cost effective transplantation. Researchers will also be working in the areas of acute myocardial infarction, liver transplantation and type 1 diabetes.
For more information on the Stem Cell Network’s 2016 research funding results click here