Culture of collaboration puts osteoarthritis research on fast track

Growing numbers of Canadians are outliving their joints. Over 115,000 hip and knee replacements are done each year in Canada and this number will grow as our population ages. In fact, one in four adults has arthritis. Nearly 60 per cent of these adults with arthritis are working age.

Joint replacements typically restore lost mobility, making possible for people to get health-enhancing exercise or do the countless activities that require movement.
Mindful of more than 4,000 procedures which are done at Toronto Western Hospital, the rising tide of worn-out hips, knees, ankles, shoulders, elbows and spines worries Arthritis Program Medical Director Dr. Nizar Mahomed.

“We don’t think the current state of arthritis treatment is acceptable,” he comments. “Fortunately, the Campaign to Cure Arthritis has made it possible  to develop the breadth and depth of research expertise to tackle this problem from a multi- dimensional aspect.” To that end, Dr. Mahomed is looking to respected Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr. Wayne Marshall, Executive Director of the Osteoarthritis Research Program at Toronto Western Hospital.

“Our vision is to reverse the disease process to cure osteoarthritis,” states Dr. Marshall. “Many Canadians are entering the stage of life where they worked hard so that could
be ready to enjoy their retirement years. But they are now dealing with pain, joint stiffness and restricted mobility from osteoarthritis.”

Respected professionally as a caring surgeon, Dr. Marshall is a widely appreciated orthopedics expert with a vast expertise in all facets of osteoarthritis. His knowledge in osteoarthritis is extensive and ranges from diagnosing and treating early cartilage injury to performing full joint replacement for end-stage diseases.

Bridging the gap

Besides his work as an orthopedic surgeon, he has actively worked and consulted with several pharmaceutical and biotechnology organizations, as well as starting his own company. As a culmination of his proficiency, he has authored over 100 clinical and scientific papers and abstracts. His expertise bridges the gap between discovery research and development of commercially viable products.

Dr. Marshall explains that the Osteoarthritis Research Program focuses on three areas of the new medicine: phenotyping, biomarkers, and Big Data that will help shift the focus from surgical interventions to regeneration and restoration.

“We are in a strong position because of the number of patients we treat, we can bank tissue samples to help us understand why some people succumb to joint degeneration sooner than others,” he explains.  “There are other questions too. For example, why do some patients respond better to certain medications? Biomarkers and phenotyping can help answer these puzzles.” Dr. Marshall and his team want to see improvement to osteoarthritis care as soon as possible. A clinical trial, the first in North America, has just finished and is now evaluating mesenchymal stem
cell injections as a treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee.

Both Drs. Mahomed and Marshall agree that the donations to the Campaign to Cure Arthritis have allowed them to make meaningful progress. Bringing new therapies to patients is an expensive process and the Orthopaedic Surgeons have stepped up with their own personal donations to lead by example and show their commitment to this vision. As the Campaign to Cure Arthritis enters its next phase, Dr. Marshall keeps a steady eye on the evolving research funding model that leverages industry, government, commer-cialization and philanthropy.

“Most of our supporters are grateful patients who want to help improve the lives for their families and friends who may otherwise need joint replacement therapy in the future.”
“We are very grateful to our donors who have joined us in our vision to find a cure for arthritis.”

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