Special Tribute to David Smyth
David was so special in life and continues to touch us all. Please see the link for the David Smyth Fellowship Award that was awarded in Montreal.
The legacy of Oakville resident David Smyth lived on with an award given out in his name, earlier this month (May), to promote research in the blood and marrow transplant field.
Smyth passed away on Sept. 3, 2010 at the age of 20 following a battle with leukemia, but not before raising awareness about the importance of registering as a bone marrow donor.
His efforts convinced hundreds of people to register as potential bone marrow donors before his death with hundreds more signing up in his memory.
In recognition of Smyth’s work, the Canadian Blood and Marrow Transplant Group (CBMTG) created the David Smyth Fellowship in April 2012.
The annual award provides a maximum of $10,000 to eligible individuals to undertake research on topics that will have a relevance to blood and marrow transplantation.
This year, the grant went to Nurse Samantha Mayo during the CBMTG 2015 Annual Conference, which took place in Montreal on May 15.
Mayo, who is a post-doctoral fellow at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, is researching the side effects of stem cell transplantation.
Stem cells are essentially blank cells that can develop into healthy bone marrow once the diseased bone marrow is removed.
“I am very honoured to have received the David Smyth Fellowship,” said Mayo in an email.
“Grants such as these are essential for supporting researchers in pursuing innovative ideas that will contribute to the quality of life of patients treated with stem cell transplantation.”
Mayo noted following stem cell transplantation, some patients experience memory and concentration issues.
“These deficits can impact patients’ everyday functioning and quality of life after completion of treatment. Unfortunately, treatment options for patients with persistent deficits are limited,” said Mayo.
“The funding from the fellowship will be used to conduct a small feasibility study of a brain training program among patients treated for stem cell transplantation. I will test whether it is feasible for patients to complete the program as well as explore how this program affects patients’ cognitive functioning.”
The results of this study will be used to inform the development of larger studies of ways to treat cognitive issues following cancer treatment.
Smyth’s parents, Michael and Kim, said they are deeply comforted by the fact a grant baring their son’s name continues to fund groundbreaking research.
The Oakville parents journeyed to Montreal where they participated in the award ceremony.
“It was really very nice and when Kim and I were there, they treated us like a princess and a prince for coming there and trying to help in some way even though we’ve lost our son,” said Michael.
“It was very special because some of these doctors did the first (bone marrow) transplants and they are still working on it,” said Kim.
“One of the doctors I am very fond of is from Vancouver Children’s Hospital and his goal is to make these transplants safe. If this was achieved, maybe David could have had a transplant before he became terminal.”
The couple said there has been some progress in the area of bone marrow transplants since Smyth’s death with some hospitals in Canada are now harvesting umbilical cords for their stem cells.
That said, the national bone marrow registry remains small with approximately 317,000 potential donors listed on it.
Canada’s bone marrow registry is so small, Michael said, Canadians in need rarely find a match and must rely on international registries.
The number of people needing a bone marrow transplant in Canada has grown from 800 in 2010 to about 1,000 today.
CBMTG describes itself as a member-led, national, multidisciplinary organization, which provides strategic leadership that results in excellence in clinical care, research and education within the Canadian blood and marrow transplant field. For more information visit www.cbmtg.org.