Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology

New Program Aims to Help Women with Rare Form of Cancer

Feb 4, 2019

Photo of Drs. Genevieve Bouchard-Fortier and Kate PulmanOn February 4, the world comes together to mark World Cancer Day - a day to support those living with cancer, remember those who have been lost, and work together to find better treatments for the future. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, about 1 in 2 Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime with the most common types being lung, colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers. Oncologists both in Canada and around the world are seeking to support their patients in the diagnosis and treatment processes, and this is no different for those gynaecologic oncologists in Ontario who have come together to create a new program with the University of Toronto for women affected by a rare type of cancer: Gestational Trophoblastic Disease (GTD).

Drs. Genevieve Bouchard-Fortier and Kate Pulman, Assistant Professors with the University of Toronto's Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, are spearheading the development of the Trophoblastic Disease Program. This new program, which is a partnership between Sinai Health System-University Health Network and Trillium Health Partners, aims to provide a number of services to better assist women with GTD, as well as their medical professionals.

"Gestational Trophoblastic Disease is a rare group of tumours caused by abnormal proliferation of the placenta," explains Dr. Bouchard-Fortier, a gynaecologic oncologist with UHN. "These tumours affect women of reproductive age. They develop in the uterus and are related to pregnancy. If treated appropriately this type of disease is extremely curable, however if not managed correctly it can be fatal."

Given the rarity of this disease, centres of excellence have been established throughout Europe and the United States to improve patient outcomes, however there are no such centres in Ontario. The members of the Trophoblastic Disease Program hope to change this. 

Recently, Dr. Bouchard-Fortier had the privilege to learn from and collaborate with world-renown expert Professor Michael Seckl, who leads the largest trophoblastic disease program at Charing Cross Hospital in the United Kingdom. She and her partners at Sinai Health System-UHN and Trillium Health Partners hope to expand the Trophoblastic Disease Program to other centres in Ontario.

The program has a number of goals that they hope to accomplish in the near future. Some of these goals include: 

  1. Support ACCESS to the best possible care for women diagnosed with GTD 
  2. Facilitate provincial and national COLLABORATION for the care of women with GTD through a centralized clinical information database 
  3. Provide a platform for the ADVANCEMENT of treatments for this rare disease
  4. Support the EDUCATION and training of practicing physicians, medical students, residents and fellows

For more information, please visit the Trophoblastic Disease Program's website.

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