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Dr. Gunaratnam’s Story

I know all too well what a difference research like mine can make for patients, caregivers, and families.
Early in my career, I received funding from The Kidney Foundation of Canada’s KRESCENT program to study at Harvard, one of the top centres in the world, and bring those learnings back home to Canada and invest in our country’s kidney research efforts.  

The desire to further kidney research for the benefits of Canadians, as well as witnessing patients and families thrive after receiving the care they need, still to this day continue to drive me in my work to better understand kidney disease and kidney cancer. 

Kidney cancer is a very serious form of kidney disease. When caught early, patient outcomes are favourable, and the survival rate is high. But once the cancer spreads beyond the capsule of the kidney, it becomes enormously hard to treat—with often poor outcomes.  

The challenge is that one-third of kidney cancer patients discover their disease at a late stage. The 5-year observed survival of patients whose kidney tumour has spread outside of the kidney or to other parts of the body is less than 10 percent due to the lack of effective treatment options, So, we need better ways to detect and diagnose kidney Cancer or therapies that can block the spread of kidney cancer. It’s these needs that push my current work researching kidney injury molecule 1, or KIM-1.  

This molecule, which is involved in kidney injury and repair, can be detected during the early stages of the most prevalent types of kidney cancer. Our work supported by a research grant from the Kidney Foundation of Canada aims to better understand the role of KIM-1 kidney cancer and its spread so that we can develop more effective treatment options for people afflicted with this disease.  

Together, we have the opportunity to lead the way in kidney health innovation in Canada. And as someone whose own family is touched by kidney disease, I know all too well what difference research like mine can make for patients, caregivers, and families. But it’s still an underfunded area compared to other major diseases.