Immune disorders and cancers are among the most serious conditions affecting the patients treated at the CHU Sainte-Justine. 

Every year, about 150 new patients are treated at the Centre de cancérologie Charles-Bruneau at the CHU Sainte-Justine. Sadly, 20% of them will not survive their illness.

So that life will always triumph…

The CHU Sainte-Justine is the only hospital centre in Quebec to perform all types of solid organ transplants and to be accredited for pediatric bone marrow transplants. It also has the largest cord blood transplant centre in the world.

The CHU Sainte-Justine is also responsible for the diagnosis and treatment of nearly 65% of pediatric tumours in Quebec.

  • Cancer remains the leading cause of death from disease among children under 14.
  • Between 15% and 20% of children with cancer are resistant to traditional chemotherapy treatments. 
  • 70% of children who react “well” to traditional chemotherapy treatments live with long-term and painful consequences.
  • The CHU Sainte-Justine diagnoses and treats 70% of cases of serious childhood immune diseases.

One step away from the dream

During the course of their work, CHU Sainte-Justine researchers, students and clinicians had already begun to radically transform the way cancer was being treated. 

The Charles-Bruneau Immuno-Hemato-Oncology Research Unit, created by the exceptional $22 M pledge from the Charles-Bruneau Foundation, has cemented the CHU Sainte-Justine’s position as a world leader in pediatric oncology.

Today, the baton has been handed to the Charles-Bruneau Unit, which is now paving the way for the use of targeted therapy, immunotherapy and psycho-oncology.  Pediatric oncology is moving towards precision medicine and giving us hope that we will be able to offer personalized, targeted treatment with as little trauma as possible to every child with cancer.

It is enabling hematologists, oncologists and immunologists to join forces and develop ever-increasing numbers of research protocols. 

Over the last 30 years, these protocols have helped children’s survival rates rocket from 30% to 85%. Thanks to this new unit, we can concentrate our efforts on the remaining 15%!

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Laurent and his parents, Hélène and Réal

“I Wish they’d just invent a pill to cure my cancer”

Twelve-year-old Laurent doesn’t remember much about the past three years of his life. Most likely because his road has been a particularly bumpy one. And, besides, he’d much rather focus on the future.

It all started with a "really bad stomach ache" in September 2014… One night, Laurent was in so much pain that he couldn’t sleep and when his parents discovered a lump on his abdomen, they knew it was serious… At the emergency room, they received the verdict: liver cancer.

Laurent underwent intensive chemotherapy and two liver transplants in less than two weeks. But he was still so weak and sick that he had to stay in bed through the autumn. 

Wearily, he voiced his wish for a pill that would make his cancer go away, just like a headache. It seemed like a wild idea at the time, but it turned out to be somewhat prescient. 

By the time spring rolled around, he seemed to have turned a corner, or so his family hoped. But they hadn’t seen the last of the cancer.

That’s when Dr. Monia Marzouki suggested that Laurent be enrolled in an experimental study. 

It would involve a biopsy and an in-depth analysis of his cancer cells at the genetic level using highly sophisticated equipment. This would shed light onto how the disease was progressing in order to zero in on its weak spots. Laurent and his family choose to go ‘all in’ by trying this new therapy, known as “targeted” therapy, which is making rapid progress. 

From the beginning, the difference was like night and day compared to previous treatments. Laurent’s long-awaited “little pill” actually made the cancer retreat. He was able to go back to school and spend time with his friends. 

Laurent has since completed the final phases of his treatment. His liver is working like a charm and the last scans of his lungs were very promising indeed. 

Research in this field is just starting to pay off. And the initial results are transforming Laurent’s wish into a message of hope for all young cancer patients.

Our greatest dream is that we never have to say to a family that the only remaining treatment option for their child is palliative care. 

Dr. Michel Duval

Pediatric hemato-oncologist and head of the bone marrow transplant unit
CHU Sainte-Justine