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Medical & Scientific Firsts


Princess Margaret Cancer Centre is continually discovering new strategies to better control and ultimately conquer cancer. Some of our key achievements include:

1961 Drs. James Till and Ernest McCulloch discover stem cells.
1971 Bone marrow transplant unit performs first allogeneic transplant, transplants between unrelated donors.
1984 Dr. Tak Mak discovers the T-cell receptor, which in many ways provided the Rosetta Stone for all subsequent work on the adaptive immune system.
1999 First North American installation of full-field digital mammography at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Mount Sinai Hospital, enabling earlier diagnosis of breast cancer with less radiation.
2002 Together with The Hospital for Sick Children, researchers identify a gene that, when mutated, results in medulloblastoma, the most common brain tumour in children.
2005 Dr. Norman Boyd identifies breast density as a major risk factor for breast cancer, and later demonstrates that it is highly inheritable.
2006 Dr. John Dick identifies colon cancer stem cells.
2008 Drs. Frances Shepherd, Ming Tsao, and Igor Jurisica identify gene ‘signature’ that predicts lung cancer patients’ response to chemotherapy in combination with surgery.
2011 Dr. John Dick isolates a human blood stem cell in its purest form – as a single stem cell capable of regenerating the entire blood system.
2012 The Princess Margaret is the first site in Canada to use a robot to produce chemotherapy doses for patients.
2012 The Princess Margaret is one of the first hospitals in Ontario to offer patients 3-D breast mammography scans, called ‘tomosynthesis’.
2013 Dr. Rodger Tiedemann identifies immature tumor cells as a root cause of resistance and relapse in multiple myeloma.
2013 Dr. Tak Mak receives Health Canada and U.S. FDA clearance for a new anticancer agent that will target an enzyme called PLK4, which plays a crucial role in the process of cancer cell division. The anticancer agent is moved into Phase I clinical trial in 2014.
2014 Drs. John Cho and Marc de Perrot discover that radiation therapy prior to surgery doubles survival rates in mesothelioma patients.
2014 Dr. Robert Bristow develops a genetic test to identify which men are at highest risk for their prostate cancer to come back after localized treatment with surgery or radiotherapy.