Summer 2019 OMPRN Newsletter

Jul 24, 2019

Summer 2019 OMPRN Newsletter

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  • new projects & reported projects
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  • funding opportunities for the network

news-photo We hope everyone is having an amazing summer! OMPRN would like to share some news from the Network, including a feature interview with OMPRN awardees on their recent publication, as well as announcements about current funding opportunities and upcoming events.


A few timely updates from the Network Leader

Dear colleagues,

Our first newsletter in too long presents me with an opportunity to update Network members on a few reasonably timely items.

What comes after OMPRN?

     When OMPRN was originally conceived, OICR committed to funding us for four years, ending March 31st, 2020. Happily, OICR has agreed to support us for an additional year. Thank you OICR! What happens after March, 2021, is currently unknown, I believe, by anyone.

     OMPRN’s fate is likely to be determined according to priorities that OICR establishes as it develops its next five-year strategic plan. Largely in order to help inform this plan, OICR and OMPRN co-hosted a workshop in May during which representatives from Ontario’s academic pathology community and OICR leadership discussed how OICR might continue to support cancer pathology research. Among the many issues discussed were the dearth of time that is available to pathologists to engage in research, how to provide career support for early career pathologist investigators, how to facilitate sharing of various kinds of research data, and how to identify and address obstacles to inter-institutional correlative research. No firm conclusions as to OICR’s course of action were reached during the workshop but these discussions will, no doubt, continue.

Operating grants

     We received 23 applications last October in OMPRN’s third grants competition. Seven of the 14 (50%) Stream 1 applications were funded as were 4 of the 9 (44%) Stream 2 applications for an overall success rate of 49%. The names of the funded researchers and brief descriptions of their projects are available here on the OMPRN website. The sustained interest in these grants over the first three years of the Network’s existence and the generally high quality of the proposals reflect the vitality of the pathology cancer research community in the province.

     We have released the request for applications (RFA) for our fourth grants competition. The application deadline is October 28th. The RFA and other application-related information and materials are available here. Unfortunately, we can only offer the smaller, one-year, Stream 1 grants this year with an operating budget of up to $35,000. We will NOT be considering any new applications for the larger, two-year Stream 2 grants. The reason is that, since the current fiscal year was originally expected to be OMPRN’s last, no provision was made in the budget for supporting two-year grants that would necessarily extend beyond OMPRN’s lifetime.

OMPRN research fellowship

     We launched our inaugural OMPRN Cancer Pathology Research Fellowship competition last autumn with an application deadline in November. We received three very strong applications and funded the application from Dr. Sebastiao Martins-Filho. Dr. Martins-Filho will be working under the supervision of Dr. Ming Tsao at University Health Network in Toronto on a project dealing with the response of lung cancer cells to treatment with EGFR inhibitors.

     We have released the RFA for the second round of OMPRN fellowships; the application deadline is September 3rd for fellowships that will begin no earlier than July 1st, 2020. Besides a stipend for the trainee, this attractive fellowship will cover operating expenses up to $80,000. The RFA and other application-related information and materials are available here.

Have a great summer!

     Now that we have a full-time OMPRN Project Manager in the person of Dr. Kyster Nanan, there is no excuse not to send out this our newsletter more regularly. If you have information that you would like the letter to convey, or issues that you would like to see addressed in the newsletter or in the Network more generally, then please let Kyster or me know.

Meanwhile, I hope everyone has a pleasant, relaxing and/or fun summer!


Almost Implemented: Physicians' views on the incorporation of AI into diagnostic pathology

An interview with OMPRN awardees about their article on AI in diagnostic pathology
By: Kyster Nanan for OMPRN

     Artificial intelligence (AI) is entrenched in our daily lives. Familiar implementations of this technology range from digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, to Netflix’s recommendation algorithm and self-driving cars. AI is prized for its abilities to improve efficiency and minimize risk in fields like commerce, finance, and transportation, therefore, it is not surprising to see the emergence of AI in various healthcare settings. Indeed, with its ability to integrate disparate data sets and breeze through repetitive tasks, AI may be a boon to diagnostic subspecialties such as radiology and pathology. But, as with any nascent technology, AI incorporation into diagnostic medicine must undergo considerable vetting before acceptance into conventional practice. The potential implementation of AI into healthcare prompts novel concerns regarding accuracy, safety, and implications for liability. More generally, the critical issue of physicians’ perspectives on AI integration into diagnostic practice has been largely unexplored. This latter issue was the subject of a recent npj|Digital Medicine article by Sarwar et al., 2019 from co-corresponding authors and OMPRN grant recipients, Dr. Phedias Diamandis and Dr. Randy van Ommeren. In an interview with OMPRN, Phedias and Randy shed light on their shared interests in AI and shared thoughts on its potential incorporation into medical education and conventional pathology practice.

Siri, can you help me?

     Like others, Phedias recognized a potential role for AI in fields of diagnostic pathology and biomedical research in which visual information feeds into decision-making processes. Asked to share his thoughts on the current AI landscape, Phedias remarked that in our era of peak processing power, massive storage capacity, and agile data transfer rates, AI is poised to become “a disruptive movement in medicine and biomedical research.” Randy largely agreed with Phedias’ comments that there is ample opportunity for deep learning approaches to facilitate a more thorough understanding of medical and biological data in both academic and clinical settings. Randy further added that AI, with capacity for incorporating data from myriad disparate sources, including histological imaging, molecular profiling platforms, and electronic medical records, has significant untapped diagnostic potential.

     In Sarwar et al., 2019, 487 pathologists from various countries were surveyed to assess their perspectives on AI in clinical pathology practice. Survey results indicated that most respondents were early-career practicing pathologists, based in cities throughout North America and Europe, who predicted implementation of AI into routine clinical practice within a surprisingly short 10-year period. Interestingly, most respondents viewed AI as a beneficent force that would complement the pathologist, increase their demand, and increase their personal efficiency. Randy agrees with this finding, explaining that, “a realistic view is to expect that diagnostic pathology AI algorithms will augment, rather than replace, pathologists, resulting in greater efficiency and fewer errors.”

     Despite substantial enthusiasm surrounding use of AI in diagnostic specialties, the surveyed pathologists were frequently concerned about the lack of established regulatory and medicolegal frameworks relating to the medical AI space. Additionally, the absence of educational and training guidelines represents a severe impediment to the timely adoption of AI tools in clinical pathology practice. To this latter point, Randy commented that, “to a large degree, there is not a lot of time spent on digital technology in medical school. This reflects an older form of medicine that was based on understanding medicine biology but doesn’t reflect technologies that are important in being an effective physician and diagnostician.” While Phedias and Randy both agree that there are limitations in the current continuum of physician training, they are both expecting that this will soon change. Randy would not be surprised to see curriculums in undergraduate medical school, residency, and diagnostic specialty programs updated to begin incorporating more digital approaches to complement traditional physician training.

     While formal medical training in the use of AI in diagnostic pathology may be years away, this should not necessarily be considered a roadblock to learning about AI-based technologies. In fact, abundant online resources, such as YouTube tutorials, E-learning modules, and online courses are available to anyone with an internet connection and a keenness to learn about this technology. The opportunity to engage in this type of self-directed learning truly, as Phedias puts it, “speaks to the power of the era that we live in, where virtually everyone has a screen in their pocket.” Indeed, if the recent spate of interest in the use of AI in biomedical research is any indication, we should expect the future of diagnostic pathology to rely not primarily on microscopic pattern recognition, but on the ability to, computationally or otherwise, integrate histological data with genomic profiling, proteomics, electronic medical records, and perhaps even geographical data, to produce a unified diagnostic pathology report. As in other fields, the AI revolution may soon prove to be a disruptive factor in diagnostic medicine and, if this trend continues, Phedias predicts that pathology could develop as one of the medical subspecialties “where tech-savvy physicians go.”

Click here to read the article by Sarwar et al., published April 26, 2019 in npj Digital Medicine.
To search “artificial intelligence in pathology” in PubMed, click here.

OMPRN grant and fellowship funding opportunities

Applications are currently being accepted for both the 2019 Cancer Pathology Research (CPR) Fellowship and the Cancer Pathology Translational Research Grant (CPTRG) programs! Please visit our Funding Opportunities page for complete information on these programs and to download each of the respective Requests for Applications (RFAs).

Spotlight on upcoming events

October 7, 2019 - Ottawa, ON
OMPRN recently announced that this year's Pathology Matters Meeting will be held at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in historic Ottawa, ON on October 7th, 2019. We are busy designing the scientific and educational programs. An announcement will be shared shortly when meeting registration has opened.

November 1-2, 2019 - Toronto, ON
Pathology Update is an annual review of new and important topics in diagnostic surgical pathology. This symposium is designed to highlight recent advances in surgical pathology with corresponding clinical correlation and prognostic implications. The theme for 2019 is Gynecologic Pathology: New entities and new approaches to old problems. Visit their official website for more information:

January 2020 - Mississauga, ON
The second Applied Molecular Pathology Course will be held in January, 2020 at the Hilton Garden Inn prior to the CAP-ACP Resident Review Course. OMPRN is collaborating closely with CAP-ACP to plan this event and additional details will be shared as they become available. Please our events calendar, join our mailing list, or follow @OntarioPath on Twitter for updates on this and other events!

Thank you for reading our newsletter! If you have any questions or suggestions for the newsletter or Network, please contact us!



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