Dr. Tony Truong
Job title: Pediatric Oncologist, Division of Pediatric Oncology and Blood and Marrow Transplantation, Alberta Children’s Hospital; Assistant Professor, Departments of Oncology and Pediatrics, University of Calgary
Why he's a 2016 Top 40:
Dr. Truong’s innovative research in the field of stem cell transplantation offers hope to children and their families suffering from painful and life-threatening blood conditions.
Photograph by Erin Brooke Burns. Photographed at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning at the University of Calgary.
For children and teenagers facing cancer and serious blood conditions, the work done by Dr. Tony Truong in stem cell transplantation (SCT) could be a potential life-saver.
“When people hear ‘stem cells,’ they think embryonic cells,” says Truong, but he stresses that his research does not use stem cells derived from human embryos. Rather, family members with matching blood types donate peripheral blood, which is simply blood flowing through their veins, containing immature stem cells that are stimulated with medications — these cells provide the basic material used in Truong’s clinical work.
Working from the Division of Pediatric Oncology and Blood and Marrow Transplantation at Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary, Truong is one of only three physicians in the province specializing in pediatric SCT. “SCT is a way to use blood stem cells to treat and cure the most life-threatening cancers and chronic blood conditions such as thalassemia and sickle cell disease,” says Truong, who diagnoses and treats patients with these conditions and works to develop additional treatments through his innovative research.
Truong designed a clinical trial to expand the availability of SCT for children with sickle cell disease who were previously ineligible due to a mismatch in their blood type with that of their donor. This will be the first study seeking a level of tolerable risk using mismatched blood or bone marrow in a reduced-intensity transplantation on children with sickle cell disease. That means very sick children who were previously ineligible for SCT might have the chance to receive the treatment without the dangerous and painful side effects of full-intensity bone marrow transplants.
Truong’s proposal earned him a Department of Pediatrics Innovation Award in March 2016 and grant funding for an additional two or three patients with this uncommon condition each year. He hopes to attract sickle cell patients from across the country for SCT treatment in years to come.
Truong has also earned recognition for a recent study, the largest of its kind, examining how children tolerate SCT infusions, that was published in the prestigious journal, Bone Marrow Transplantation. As well, Truong is the principal investigator in Canada for a multinational, multi-institution clinical trial examining SCT in patients with high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia, with the intent to develop a chemotherapy-based treatment regimen that would avoid the high risks and painful side effects of total body irradiation.
“In bone marrow transplant, we deal with the sickest kids — so that’s the inspiration,” says Truong. — Jay Winans