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REF NO.: 183

SUBJECT: Research to improve outcomes for inflammatory arthritis funded for $2.5 million
DATE: Feb. 13, 2006

Researchers at Memorial University are leading the genetic investigation for a $2.5 million study over five years to improve the diagnoses and management of two forms of inflammatory arthritis – psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis

The grant is the first National Research Initiative (NRI) from The Arthritis Society of Canada, which selected the Spondyloarthritis Research Consortium of Canada (SPARCC) to receive the grant.

At Memorial, Dr. Proton Rahman, Faculty of Medicine, is one of four principal investigators in Canada for the SPARCC project. The other principal investigators are Drs. Robert Inman and Dafna Gladman, University Health Network, Toronto; and Dr. Walter Maksymowych, University of Alberta, Edmonton. “We are the node for all the genetic investigations, which include genotyping and training for the consortium,” said Dr. Rahman.

“Leading edge research accelerates the development of new treatments which offer hope for people with these types of arthritis. This is especially important in an aging population,” said Dr. Christopher Loomis, vice-president (research) at Memorial. “Understanding of the role genetics in these diseases is an important focus of research at Memorial. This grant from the NRI and The Arthritis Society of Canada will advance our efforts in a major way.”

Dr. James Rourke, dean of Medicine, said this grant is an example of how research in the Faculty of Medicine is unique and applicable to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. “It is part of our mission to conduct research in clinical and basic medical sciences as well as applied health sciences. Dr. Rahman is one of our most industrious and dynamic researchers and his participation in this first national grant from The Arthritis Society of Canada is a tribute both to him and to the quality of research at Memorial University and within the Faculty of Medicine.

Vivian Randell, chair of the Newfoundland and Labrador Division of The Arthritis Society, is very pleased that this province will play an important role in carrying out this research. “Dr. Rahman and Memorial University have developed a recognized expertise in arthritis research,” she said. “This research award will allow this expertise to be applied to improving our understanding of spondyloartthritis and improving care and treatment for people who endure the debilitating consequences of this disease. Arthritis in its many forms is the leading cause of disability in Canada.

Ms. Randell pointed out that the research program administered by The Arthritis Society is made possible through the on-going financial support of individual and corporate donors. "It is rewarding to know that donor funds will result in direct benefits for persons with spondyloarthritis through this research, and also very rewarding to know that substantial funds are being directed to Memorial University and this province to nurture and support local research expertise".

Known collectively as spondyloarthritis (SpA), this group of diseases is characterized by chronic inflammation of the pelvic joints and spine. It is frequently accompanied by arthritis in a number of other joints. SpA affects at least the same number of Canadians as rheumatoid arthritis (one in 100 people). Until recently, SpA was both under-recognized and under-studied in Canada.

The NRI grant is patient-focused in its goals with improved outcomes for people living with SpA as its defining mission and in its action plan. It will enable SPARCC to support a research program that includes: developing a better understanding of the role of genetics; developing a better understanding of the causes, occurrences and control of SpA; addressing the biological basis of the disease; and determining the impact that care and treatment options can have on individuals and the health care system.

SPARCC will use a multi-disciplinary approach to draw expertise from across the spectrum of health research as well as from consumers. The research program has been designed to help improve people’s lives through the identification of improved diagnosis and treatment options. By bringing a diverse group of experts together, The Arthritis Society and SPARCC are confident that this approach will reduce the time it takes to translate academic research into clinical practice.

The core sites for the SPARCC network will initially be in St. John’s, Toronto and Edmonton. As a result of the NRI grant, the network will be expanded to include sites in Halifax, Montreal, Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Vancouver.

The Arthritis Society is Canada’s only not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing and promoting arthritis education, community support and research-based solutions, to the more than four million Canadians living with arthritis. Since its inception in 1948, The Society has contributed more than $100 million towards arthritis research to develop better treatments for arthritis and ultimately, to find cure. The Society is also committed to providing diversified programs to help those living with this disabling disease. In Newfoundland and Labrador alone, 94,000 people are currently living with arthritis, making it the most common chronic condition in the province.

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