Research

Pursuing knowledge to better understand, treat and manage rheumatic diseases.

Our division's dedicated research programs in autoimmunity and rheumatology rank us among the top research programs in the country. The Division of Rheumatology, including the Pediatric Rheumatology section, are involved in multiple national and international studies supported by peer reviewed and industry funding. Faculty members hold extensive experience conducting innovative, award winning and internationally recognized rheumatology research. 

Our basic, clinical and translational research programs span a wide range of areas including disease-specific research, epidemiology, health service research, simulation modeling, outcomes research, clinical trials, quality of care and health economics. Through our research, we work to:

  • Increase knowledge and understanding of the mechanisms of rheumatic disease in order to create more effective treatments and therapies.
  • Understand the causes of rheumatic diseases by investigating novel biomarkers and autoantibodies, and defining their role in aiding the accurate identification of early-onset systemic autoimmune rheumatic diseases.
  • Identify and address inequities in healthcare delivery, and improve quality of care and patient outcomes.
  • Collaborate locally, nationally and internationally with research networks aimed at integrating research into clinical practice to improve outcomes for persons living with rheumatic diseases.
  • Actively collect data from a wide range of patients, providing investigators with a large and diverse pool of patient information for research. 

Key research areas

Our faculty undertakes a broad range of basic and translational research, with the goal of identifying and understanding the pathogenic mechanisms that induce the development and progression of conditions related to rheumatology and immunology. This includes research into Novel Antibodies in SLE, lipidomic biomarker in SLE and rheumatoid arthritis development projects, and serological and biomarker studies using advanced diagnostic platforms.

Key researchers:

Our division leads and supports a wide-range of disease-specific research programs across rheumatic diseases and disciplines. This includes investigation into conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic autoimmune rheumatic disease, lupus and other types of arthritis.

Key researchers:

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Crystal Arthropathies

Inflammatory Arthritis

Lupus: 

Our division is home to the Lupus Centre of Excellence, home to world-renowned researchers who are dedicated to advancing understanding of the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of SLE and translating these discoveries into clinical practices and policies that provide a healthier future for those with lupus. Led by Dr. Ann Clarke, the Centre participates in clinical trials that provide patients with access to new and novel therapies. Members of the Lupus Centre of Excellence include the faculty researchers listed below, as well as Dr. Kim Cheema (Nephrologist) and Dr. Leslie Skeith (Hematologist). 

Scleroderma

Spondyloarthritis

Uveitis

Vasculitis

Faculty are involved in numerous research projects that strive to understand health disparities, quality of care and clinical outcomes for patients living with rheumatic disease. 

One of our major projects includes Rheum4U, an initiative undertaken by clinicians and researchers within the Division of Rheumatology to create an inflammatory arthritis registry that captures patient demographics, treatments, and outcomes over the continuum of care. Since its launch in clinic in August 2016, Rheum4U has supported recruitment and data collection for numerous studies for PI’s from Rheumatology, Community Health Sciences, Radiology, and Gastroenterology. Use of Rheum4U has streamlined recruitment and data collection processes in clinic.

Key researchers:

In collaboration with the Department of Pediatrics Rheumatology Section, our faculty are involved in a wide range of pediatric rheumatology research programs. 

 

UCAN CAN-DU: Precision Decisions for Childhood Arthritis

UCAN CAN-DU is a multicenter observational cohort study which incorporates biomarker science and health economics on an online eHealth platform in order to better understand and define the biologic pathways that are predictive of disease course, treatment, and remission.

Key contact: Dr. Susanne Benseler, Principal Investigator, Susanne.benseler@ahs.ca, 403-220-8302.


The BrainWorks Study

Doctors caring for patients with inflammatory brain diseases including CNS vasculitis around the world teamed up with basic science and clinical researchers, families, medical specialists and supportive organizations to establish a network that we call BrainWorks. The BrainWorks team built a web-based, international prospective cohort of patients from around the world with brain inflammation.

Key contact: Dr. Susanne Benseler, Principal Investigator, Susanne.benseler@ahs.ca, 403-220-8302.


Canadian Alliance of Pediatric Rheumatology Investigators (CAPRI) National JIA Registry

The CAPRI JIA registry prospectively collects information on disease course, outcomes and medication adverse events among Canadian children with JIA.  The registry will provide answers about the expected disease outcomes and the risks of medication adverse events and contribute to new insights about JIA and its treatment through yearly updates of registry findings and publication of scientific papers.

Key contact: Dr. Heinrike Schmeling, Principal Investigator, Heinrike.schmeling@ahs.ca, 403-955-7771.


The PRINTO Evidence-based Revision of the ILAR Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis Classification criteria

Various attempts have been made to classify JIA, a heterogeneous group of diseases, with the aim of identifying mutually exclusive categories suitable for etiopathogenetic studies. The classification that is currently used worldwide was proposed in 1995 by the International League of Associations for Rheumatology (ILAR). Since then increasing evidence has accumulated suggesting that some of these categories are heterogeneous. Therefore, there is a need to revise the criteria in order to identify more homogeneous entities and to try to distinguish those diseases, if any, that are observed only in children from those that represent the childhood counterpart of adult diseases.           

Key contact: Dr. Heinrike Schmeling, Principal Investigator, Heinrike.schmeling@ahs.ca, 403-955-7771.
 

Multiple international clinical trials investigating novel therapeutics for childhood arthritis

These trials are designed, overseen and conducted by the North American Paediatric Rheumatology Collaborative Study Group (PRCSG) and the Paediatric Rheumatology European Society (PRES) in partnership with pharmaceutical industry. Our centre is internationally recognized as one of the leading recruitment centres from North America. This participation provides our patients access to the newest and most advanced treatments that are not yet licensed, in order to help optimize their care.

Key contact: Dr. Heinrike Schmeling, Principal Investigator, Heinrike.schmeling@ahs.ca, 403-955-7771.


Autoinflammatory diseases research program

This research program is imbedded in the autoinflammatory clinic and includes a prospective observational arm and studies of disease specific outcome measurements for autoinflammatory diseases. The research program is part of a larger North-American Autoinflammatory research group working towards better diagnosis and treatment for children with autoinflammatory diseases and optimizing care and outcomes.

Key contact: Dr. Marinka Twilt, Principal Investigator, Marinka.twilt@ahs.ca, 403-955-7771.


Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance (CARRA) Registry

This observational North-American registry includes already > 10,000 children with rheumatic diseases. The registry is designed to look at clinical outcome, treatment response and associated adverse events in childhood rheumatic diseases such as JIA, JDM, SLE.  The CARRA registry is working towards imbedded consensus treatment protocols to better evaluate treatment to optimize care and outcomes.

Key contact: Dr. Marinka Twilt, Principal Investigator, Marinka.twilt@ahs.ca, 403-955-7771.


TMJ arthritis in patients with childhood rheumatic diseases

This program is imbedded in the rheumatology clinic and the specialized combined dental-rheumatology clinic and includes several studies looking at the TMJ in Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. The TMJ is a difficult to diagnose and treat joint and the several studies are directed towards better diagnosis and earlier treatment.

Key contact: Dr. Marinka Twilt, Principal Investigator, Marinka.twilt@ahs.ca, 403-955-7771.

Members of our Division are involved in numerous research programs that utilize imaging techniques to better understand the causes of rheumatic diseases, enhance diagnostic capabilities, improve outcomes for patients and study the impacts of treatments and therapies. 

Key researchers:


Faculty researchers

The following is a list of our Division's faculty researchers and their areas of focus.


Claire E. H. Barber

Health services research, outcomes research, quality of care, epidemiology, early inflammatory arthritis.

View profile

Megan Barber

Lupus.

View profile

Cheryl Barnabe

Rheumatoid arthritis, Indigenous health equity, health services research, epidemiology.

View profile

Susan Barr

Lupus, ultrasound.

View profile

May Y. Choi

Diagnostics biomarkers for autoimmune diseases, autoantibodies, epidemiology, machine learning, lupus.

View profile

Ann Clarke

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), epidemiology of SLE (particularly malignancy, economic burden and autoantibody profiles), antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, lupus nephritis, development of disease activity and damage measures.

View profile

Caylib Durand

Scleroderma.

View profile

Aurore Fifi-Mah

Vasculitis, rheumatic diseases and immune-related adverse events of cancer immunotherapy.

View profile

Marvin Fritzler

Biomarkers (particularly in autoimmune diseases), Autoantigens and Autoantibodies in autoimmune/inflammatory diseases, Diagnostic technologies.

View profile

Glen Hazlewood

Early inflammatory arthritis, patient preferences.

View profile

Frank Jirik

Inflammation and autoimmunity, arthritis, functional genetics using transgenic systems, transgenic models of human genetic diseases, tumor immunology, in-vivo imaging, DNA repair.

View profile

Michelle Jung

Lupus.

View profile

Sharon LeClercq

Scleroderma.

View profile

Paul MacMullan

Cardiovascular risk and abnormal platelet function in inflammatory disease, Crystal Arthropathies, Health systems optimization and cost containment.

View profile

Sarah Manske

Imaging, Rheumatoid arthritis, Osteoarthritis.

View profile

Deborah Marshall

Patient preferences, care pathway and health-system modelling, economic evaluation of health-care programs, tools to inform personalized decision-making in health.

View profile

Liam Martin

Clinical trials in novel therapies in the treatment of inflammatory arthritis, outcomes of treating inflammatory arthritis in the early phase of the disease.

View profile

Dianne Mosher

Models of care for arthritis, outcome measures for patients with arthritis, spondyloarthritis, Indigenous health, simulations with equity lens.

View profile

Chris Penney

Ultrasound.

View profile

Olga Ziouzina

Ankylosing Spondylitis, Uveitis.

View profile