Dr. Tiffany Winstone received a one-year $35,000 Research Fellowship for 2015-16.

After graduating as a respirologist in 2015 from the University of British Columbia (UBC), she spent an additional two years of specialized training in interstitial lung disease (ILD) under the supervision of Dr. Chris Ryerson, director of the St. Paul’s Hospital ILD clinical and research program in Vancouver. She also completed a program in clinical effectiveness at Harvard University in Boston.

CPFF funding made it possible for her to pursue these additional years of specialization. “I am so grateful to CPFF and its donors, for supporting my additional training. Not only did I have the opportunity to care for these amazing patients, but I had the time to dedicate to research,” said Dr. Winstone. “And the Harvard program was very practical in teaching its students, mainly doctors, to effectively conduct and analyze clinical trials and to help us critically review data and research for its relevance to our patients.”

When she finished her fellowship in 2016, she was hired as an ILD specialist by the Fraser Health Authority in Burnaby B.C. – the third ILD specialist serving the province. She now has a busy, community-based practice in the area, which serves patients from across province. She gets two or three new pulmonary fibrosis patients each week.

The addition of Dr. Winstone’s practice has meant reduced wait times for patients to see an ILD specialist in the province. “My patients come from all parts of the province,” she says. “And the one good thing I can say about this pandemic is that we’ve all gotten better, both doctors and patients, at using technology to meet and that is improving access, especially to more remote areas.”

Dr. Lee Fidler received a one-year $60,000 Research Fellowship for 2015-16.

Dr. Fidler did his fellowship at the University Health Network (UHN), Toronto General Hospital.

Since his fellowship Dr. Fidler has went on to become a prolific researcher in the pulmonary fibrosis field, as well as one of the ILD specialists at the Toronto General Hospital and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Dr. Nicole Sitzer received a one-year $60,000 Research Fellowship for 2015-16.

Dr. Sitzer did her fellowship at the University Health Network (UHN), Toronto General Hospital.

Dr. Sitzer went on to contribute to the pulmonary fibrosis literature in the years to follow, including her contributions to the “Treatment of Gastroesophageal Reflux in Patients With Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis” and “Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis: A Review of Disease, Pharmacological, and Nonpharmacological Strategies With a Focus on Symptoms, Function, and Health-Related Quality of Life” research papers.

The Toronto General Hospital was awarded a $32,000 Research Grant in 2015 for funding of testing equipment to be used in the proper diagnosis of IPF and other ILDs in a study called “Screening for Myositis Antibodies in Idiopathic Interstitial Lung Disease”. Results of the study were published in March 2019.

The study was conducted over several years and involved a review of 165 cases of ILD, in which patients’ blood was tested for myositis antibodies. Up to one third of patients with myositis – an auto-immune disease – have ILD as their first and dominant symptom. Other symptoms include rash, muscle weakness and arthritis.

“Essentially, we found that screening for these antibodies led to a change in diagnosis for 8.5% of patients. For those patients, the results had major implications for their care,” said Dr. Fidler. While myositis-ILD treatment is focused on immune-suppressing medications, the same medications can increase mortality in patients with IPF (idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis). Anti-fibrotic medications are currently unproven in the treatment of myositis-ILD and are routinely used to treat IPF.

“We find that some of our sickest ILD patients are the ones with myositis,” said Dr. Shapera, “yet when properly diagnosed and treated, many respond well and some can experience a dramatic recovery. For instance, one young woman is no longer on oxygen therapy and with proper medication is able to live a fairly normal life.”

In addition to a change in diagnosis and treatment, screening for myositis antibodies may prevent the performance of surgical lung biopsies for some patients.

Testing for myositis antibodies costs between $150 and $250 per test. CPFF funded such testing for several years for this research project. The screening is now part of routine clinical care at the TGH ILD Clinic and covered by the hospital.