Dr. Jean-Philippe Lafrance
The fearless data hunter
Nephrologist, Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital Research Centre
Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Physiology
Université de Montréal
When he’s not hiking through Quebec’s wilderness or bicycle touring with his family, Dr. Jean-Philippe Lafrance is either doing research, teaching or monitoring kidney disease patients.
The recently appointed director of nephrology research at Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital is interested in “mathematical models and the analysis of databases of kidney disease patients.” The 43-year-old nephrologist, who recently took over from Dr. Vincent Pichette, is now responsible for the research centre’s industry-sponsored phase I clinical trials.
“Our strength in phase I clinical trials is that we have a large number of kidney disease patients. We have a brand new Dialysis Unit, the largest in Quebec on a single site, serving a population of 535,000. We follow 450 to 475 patients with severe renal failure.”
The hospital’s pool of intra-hospital patients in pre-dialysis is a veritable gold mine for pharmaceutical companies. Ever since Dr. Vincent Pichette’s work demonstrated that chronic renal failure affects the metabolic elimination of drugs, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has required companies to test the safety of investigational drugs in patients with renal failure.
Therefore, pharmacokinetic testing is an important market for phase I clinical trials. Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital’s nephrology research team is increasingly in demand. In 2017, the team successfully conducted a safety study on bremelanotide, a female “Viagra,” in pre-dialysis patients.
But how do you convince kidney failure patients to participate in clinical trials testing the safety of drugs they may never need – for indications ranging from cardiology to neurology, gastroenterology and sexual health?
It’s about trust. “I love my patients. I have very sick patients I’ve been seeing for 10 years. They trust us. And we choose drugs that we think are safe for them. They come over the weekend… We’re very thorough and I’m sure it can be tedious, but we take good care of them and we try to make it fun.”
In 2016, Dr. Lafrance was named Young Nephrologist of the Year by the Société québécoise de néphrologie, Thankfully, he has a long way to go before retiring and devoting himself to cycling and hunting. Nevertheless, he is already preparing the future. “What I am most passionate about now is training the next generation of scientists,” he says.
« Le plus important en recherche clinique, ce ne sont pas les équipements, mais plutôt l’équipe en place, affirme-t-il. Et c’est justement la grande richesse qui se trouve ici. »