Leading Arthritis Researchers Share their Knowledge at National Symposium

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Some of the world’s leading osteoarthritis (OA) researchers met in Kananaskis, Alberta, in October to present new ideas that could provide the tools Canada needs to manage a disease burden that will more than double within a generation. They were brought together by the Arthritis Alliance of Canada for its third annual meeting and research symposium, New Directions in Osteoarthritis Research. Among the presenters:

  • Gillian Hawker, Sir John and Lady Eaton Professor and Chair, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto: “Rates of OA are increasing fastest among young people, 20 to 59 years, due largely to childhood obesity and knee injury.” Dr. Hawker said effective therapies for OA exist, but as much as 90% of people with OA have at least one additional chronic health condition – most often diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure. She said the high prevalence of these comorbidities makes managing OA especially challenging.
  • Ewa Roos, professor and head of the research unit for Musculoskeletal Function and Physiotherapy, University of Southern Denmark: “Contemporary OA treatment . . . starts with patient education and exercise.” Dr. Roos said focused and supervised exercise reduces pain from OA by up to 30%. But many people with OA respond to pain by reducing their level of activity, leading to a further decline in health. Denmark successfully rolled out an education and exercise program for people with OA over a three-year period via 250 physiotherapy clinics. “We see reduced sick leave, reduced intake of analgesics, reduced pain, improved physical function and walking speed, and increased physical activity,” Dr. Roos said.
  • Deborah Marshall, Canada Research Chair, Health Services and Systems Research, University of Calgary, and Health Technology Assessment Director, ABJHI: Dr. Marshall issued a call to action reviewing the strides made in OA research and challenging colleagues to maintain the momentum they have built. She called for more research to distinguish joint loads that induce protective responses from loads that harm the joint, further investigation into genetic engineering of growth factors to enhance joint tissue repair, and continued development of robust and validated biomarkers and novel disease-modifying OA drugs. Dr. Marshall said conservative intervention remains a critical component of OA care. “Exercise combined with diet for weight loss should be the mainstays of rehabilitation for people with knee and hip OA.”

Click here to here view all of the presentations at the AAC symposium.

The Arthritis Alliance of Canada estimates 4.4 million Canadians have OA, a number that will more than double to 10 million in a generation.

The Alliance’s symposium, organized in partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (Institute of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis), paid tribute to the accomplishments and legacy of Dr. Cy Frank, who passed away suddenly in March 2015. A distinguished researcher, leading orthopaedic surgeon, creative innovator, inspired visionary, and tireless patient advocate, Dr. Frank was remembered in a video tribute produced by the AAC.

Other speakers at the symposium were: consumer representatives Alison Hoens, John Coderre, Anne Fouillard and Dr. Jean Miller; Dr. Frank Beier, Canada Research Chair in Musculoskeletal Research; Dr. Nicholas Mohtadi, Director, Sport Medicine Centre, University of Calgary; Dr. Carolyn Emery, Professor and Associate Dean, Research, Kinesiology, University of Calgary; Dr. Linda Li, Associate Professor, Physical Therapy, University of British Columbia; Dr. Hani El-Gabalawy, Scientific Director, Institute of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis; Dr. Laura Cruz, physician, Toronto; Dr. Natasha Gakhal, rheumatologist, Women’s College Hospital; Joe Kwan, Extended Team Manager, and Corinne Bryant, Extended Team Lead, Calgary Foothills Primary Care Network; Dr. Jeff Dixon, Professor and Co-director, Bone and Joint Institute, University of Western Ontario; Dr. John Woolcott, Senior Manager, Pfizer Canada; Dr. Jason McDougall, professor, Pharmacology, Dalhousie University; Kelly Lendvoy, Vice-president, Arthritis Consumer Experts; Gillian Kennedy, Manager, Government Affairs, AbbVie Canada; Dr. Joanne Homik, rheumatologist, University of Alberta; Linda Wilhelm, President, Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance; Tania Alexander, Marketing Manager, Janssen Inc.