U of S hosts childhood arthritis study launch

SASKATOON – Hosted by the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) Division of Pediatric Rheumatology, a team of 55 Canadian pediatric rheumatology researchers will meet in Saskatoon this weekend to begin a five-year international study on childhood arthritis.

The study, which will see collaboration of Canadian and Dutch researchers, including Saskatchewan team members, is supported by $8 million in research funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, ZonMw (the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development) and Reumafonds (the Dutch Arthritis Foundation). Leading the study are Dr. Rae Yeung from Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and Dr. Nico Wulffraat from Utrecht University.

“This international study will help doctors better diagnose and treat arthritis in children and promises to be of tremendous benefit to young arthritis patients,” said Dr. Alan Rosenberg, a U of S professor of rheumatology and one of the Saskatchewan researchers participating in the study.  

A total of 3,000 children will be enrolled in the study, featuring innovative research to identify specific genetic and immune markers, and lead to individualized treatment approaches. The expected outcomes include more precise diagnosis, earlier and more frequent inactivity of the disease, fewer treatment side effects, and lower costs to families and the health-care system. The study also has the potential to help improve understanding of the causes of childhood arthritis.

This Canadian-led, international collaborative research will allow doctors and families to know quickly if a child with arthritis needs biologics—a class of powerful drugs that can dramatically reduce joint inflammation and pain, and prevent joint damage in the longer term—as well as which biologic will work best for the child, and when the biologic can be safely stopped. The team will develop low-cost tests to rapidly identify the best treatment for each child, transforming the treatment of childhood arthritis.

Biologics are expensive, and currently children may only qualify for them after traditional treatments have failed, by which time permanent damage may have occurred. Evidence shows that early short-term biologic treatment, even for as little as three months, can result in long-lasting disease control in the most severely affected children, possibly even curing the disease.

Arthritis is among the most common of chronic childhood diseases. More than 24,000 children in Canada live with arthritis, a painful disease that can result in destruction of joints and permanent disability. Prompt diagnosis and early treatment will help prevent permanent joint damage. Saskatchewan has among the highest prevalence rates of arthritis in Canada, with our Indigenous populations more frequently afflicted and with more severe disease.

For more information, visit: Personalizing approaches to treating childhood arthritis

To arrange an interview, please contact:

Kate Blau
Communications Specialist
College of Medicine
University of Saskatchewan


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