$10-million gift from the Michael McCain Family to help reverse the growing burden of urologic disease in Canada

Jun 14, 2019

The new McCain Centre for Urological Innovation and Education will strengthen Toronto’s position as a world-class hub for urological research, education and patient care.

Neil Fleshner sits in an armchair surrounded by team members Miran Kenk, Karen Hersey and Heidi Wagner, in a hallway indoors.Neil Fleshner MD, MPH, FRCSC (seated) with select members of his research team (from left to right) Miran Kenk, PhD; Karen Hersey, RN; and Heidi Wagner, BSc., PA.
Dr. Neil Fleshner MD, MPH, FRCSC (seated) with select members of his research team (from left to right) Miran Kenk, PhD; Karen Hersey, RN; and Heidi Wagner, BSc., PA.

With a $10-million donation, the University of Toronto is partnering with Princess Margaret Cancer Centre to launch the McCain Centre for Urological Innovation and Education. The gift from the Michael McCain Family will help researchers at U of T and the Princess Margaret harness the latest scientific and technological advances in the field of urology, educate the next generation of urological surgeon scientists, and expand an already world-class tissue biobank to significantly improve patient care.

“The McCain Centre for Urological Innovation and Education will be a trailblazer in the field of urology,” says President Meric Gertler. “Together, U of T and Princess Margaret will create a new landscape in the area of urological health, education and research in Toronto and Canada. Michael’s vision and leadership will make a huge difference in this area.”

Urological disease: a leading cause of death and disability among Canadians

Urological disease is a leading cause of death and disability among Canadians, with prostate cancer alone accounting for more than 20,000 new diagnoses each year. An estimated one in five Canadians over the age of 35 are affected by an overactive bladder, up to half of men over 40 experience erectile dysfunction, and more than 500,000 Canadian seniors suffer from urinary incontinence.

The McCain Centre will make a transformative impact in research, training, clinical care and technological innovation. The gift will provide long-term support for trainees through U of T’s Surgeon Scientist Training Program and expand the Genitourinary (GU) BioBank – soon to be renamed the McCain GU BioBank – into a world-leading research resource that will advance our understanding of cancers of the prostate, kidney, bladder and testes. It will also create the McCain Professorship in Urological Innovation — the first of its kind in North America — to explore the role of artificial intelligence in the field of urology.

“The McCain Family’s gift signals a new era for the field of urology,” says Trevor Young, Dean of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine. “The urologist of the future will work in a healthcare environment increasingly governed by artificial intelligence, collaborative medicine, telemedicine, machine learning and personalized robotics. There is no better place in Canada — and few better places in the world — than Toronto, in which to develop a world-class program in urology.”

Visionary leadership

Under the direction of Dr. Neil Fleshner, Chair of U of T’s Division of Urology, the McCain Centre will provide highly skilled scientists at U of T and The Princess Margaret with the tools they need to advance their innovative research, training and clinical care.

“Innovative results start with innovative leaders,” says Michael McCain. “Dr. Fleshner is an exceptional surgeon, researcher and educator who understands how critical it is to develop Canada’s next generation of urologists, and the important role of technology to drive the field forward.”

Dr. Fleshner holds the Love Chair in Prostate Cancer Prevention at The Princess Margaret, where he also leads the renowned GU Biobank. A world leader in research on urological cancer prevention with an emphasis on prostate cancer, Dr. Fleshner has authored over 400 scientific papers and is the recipient of numerous awards.

“I’m tremendously honoured that Michael and his family have chosen to entrust us with such an important undertaking,” says Fleshner. “The McCain Centre will immediately strengthen the work of our faculty members and trainees across the city, and eventually lead to scientific advancements and new diagnostic and treatment options that will save and improve the lives of millions of Canadians and people around the world suffering from urological conditions.”

A unique partnership

The McCain Centre will create a hub of multidisciplinary exploration into the causes and treatment of urologic disease.

“The Centre brings world-class talent, technology and resources together to create a truly game-changing approach to urologic research and treatment in Canada,” says Michael Burns, President and CEO of The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation. “Together, the University of Toronto and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre will push beyond institutional and disciplinary boundaries to find new pathways of discovery and clinical care.”

Home to Canada’s largest and most comprehensive group of urological specialists, U of T’s Division of Urology is a world-leader in research, education and patient care in a range of areas, including urologic oncology, male fertility, incontinence and neuro-urology. The division oversees urological research, training and clinical programs across the Greater Toronto Area, with 30 clinicians and scientists embedded at five University teaching hospitals.

Princess Margaret Cancer Centre is one of the top five cancer research centres in the world. It is home to more than 1,000 researchers and research staff seeking to understand all aspects of cancer through the study of stem cells, cell signaling, cell biology, structural biology, immunology and immune therapy, psychosocial oncology and palliative care. Princess Margaret Cancer Centre is also a leader in robotic surgery and Canada’s top centre for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the prostate.

“An industry pioneer, Michael McCain has long understood the importance of investing in the future,” says Fleshner. “His visionary gift will help to reverse the growing burden of urologic disease by allowing us to find new ways to improve the lives of patients and their families.”