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Arthritis Society announces inaugural Ignite Research Grants

New projects to unlock innovative approaches to arthritis diagnosis and care  

For most people, a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis means starting on the drug methotrexate. But this medication is not a silver bullet treatment for everyone.  

For about one-third of patients, methotrexate isn’t effective on its own, which often means prolonged pain and symptoms after diagnosis. For these patients, there is no way to avoid the trial-and-error method for finding an effective treatment to achieve early remission, which impacts how patients fare in the long term. 

Dr. Inés Colmegna is conducting research that could eventually change that. Her project, looking at tiny cell particles called extracellular vesicles (EVs), could lead to a non-invasive blood test to predict methotrexate response for people with rheumatoid arthritis and get them into remission faster.  

Dr. Colmegna’s  research is one of nine innovative projects being funded through the inaugural round of Ignite Research Grants recently launched by the Arthritis Society. Thanks to donor support, nearly $900,000 will be contributed to these projects over the next two years.  

“These researchers are exceptionally creative, exploring out-of-the-box ideas. We’re committed to supporting their innovative efforts because arthritis needs bold solutions,” says Dr. Siân Bevan, Chief Science Officer at the Arthritis Society. “There are six million Canadians living with the fire of arthritis and we need to strive for improved treatments – or better yet, a cure – to transform their lives.”  

The Ignite Research Grants are the newest pillar in the Arthritis Society’s robust research program, which includes the Stars Career Develop Awards, the Strategic Operating Grants, and research training awards. Last year $3.6M was invested in research. All of these projects are selected for funding after a competitive process that draws on the expert input of scientists, clinicians and patients.  

Here's the full list of Ignite Research Grant recipients: 

Dr. Nathalie Bureau, Université de Montréal: Using advanced ultrasound technologies to characterize the entheses (the tissue where tendons attach to bone) to better diagnose fibromyalgia and psoriatic arthritis, with to learn more about what causes pain in the two conditions and enhance quality of life for patients. 

Dr. Vinod Chandran, University Health Network: Using novel technology combining a smartphone app, a wearable device and weekly finger-prick blood samples to create personalized pictures of arthritis flares to help prevent pain and other symptoms. 

Dr. Inés Colmegna, McGill University: Investigating whether tiny cell particles in the blood can predict response to methotrexate in people with rheumatoid arthritis to personalize treatments. 

Dr. David Holdsworth, Western University: Creating a low-cost, wearable device to measure physical activity and movement in people with arthritis to more accurately gauge the success of treatments. 

Dr. Armand Keating, University Health Network: Studying bone marrow lesions in people with osteoarthritis undergoing knee replacements to better understand the biology of this painful disease and how to treat it. 

Dr. Emily Lalone, Western University: Developing and testing a new tool to improve X-ray imaging of the wrist to improve diagnosis of ligament tears that can lead to arthritis. 

Dr. Joy MacDermid, Western University: Developing the first technology-enabled joint protection program for shoulder arthritis – an area not as well studied as knee and hip arthritis.  

Dr. Rebecca Moyer, Dalhousie University: Using persuasive technology in a personalized and accessible smartphone-based intervention to reduce sedentary behaviour and improve joint and overall health in people with knee osteoarthritis.  

Dr. Daniel Pincus, University of Toronto: Analyzing patient-reported data from everyone undergoing hip and/or knee replacement in Ontario to understand and improve differences in patient-centred outcomes between surgeons and hospitals and improve patient satisfaction with joint replacement surgery. 


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