March 12, 2010
By Kris Foster
Saskatchewan has one of the highest multiple sclerosis (MS) incidence rates in Canada, and that is part of the reason behind establishing the MS Clinical Research Chair in the College of Medicine.
“For every 100,000 people in Saskatchewan, 300 have MS,” said Dr. Katherine Knox, assistant professor, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and director of the Saskatoon MS Clinic. “It is one of the highest rates in the world. Establishing this research chair will allow us to improve the quality of patient care and translate our research on this debilitating disease into patient treatment and potentially a cure.”
Part of the chair’s proposed research agenda will be to investigate possible new treatments or a cure for MS. Investigators in Saskatchewan are currently planning follow-up research on the findings of Dr. Paolo Zamboni, professor of medicine at the University of Ferrara in Italy, said Knox. Zamboni’s findings – being heralded as a possible cure to the disease –suggest that MS may be caused by restricted blood flow to the brain, leading to increased iron deposits that cause symptoms of the disease. There is a lot of research to be done with many new experimental treatments on the horizon, said Knox.
But before the chair and its research agenda are established, an endowment fund needs to be created, said Dr. William Albritton, dean of the College of Medicine. To that end, the university, the Saskatoon City Hospital Foundation and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada have launched the MS Clinical Research Campaign with the goal to raise $5 million.
The endowment is a small figure when compared to the almost $1 billion MS is estimated to cost Canada each year, said Knox. “MS is a devastating disease, but Saskatchewan has a great MS research community looking for answers. We also have the facilities – Cameco MS Neuroscience Research Center and the Canadian Light Source – to advance our research.”
Another key to the program’s success is the level of clinical follow up that is possible in Saskatchewan, explained Knox. “Because migration out of Saskatchewan is low, we are able to continue long-term follow up with MS patients to determine efficacy of treatment, this is a major advantage.”
The chair, a permanent, tenure track position, will contribute to all aspects of the field, said Albritton. “This chair will be a leader in MS research, education, diagnosis and patient care, and will make Saskatchewan a leader in advancing MS treatments and discoveries.”