September 2, 2010 (Toronto, ON)
Dr. Katherine Siminovitch, a renowned clinician and geneticist in the emerging area of personalized medicine, is leading research aimed at helping patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
Dr. Siminovitch, Lunenfeld Senior Investigator and the Sherman Family Research Chair in Genomic Medicine, directs a research program for autoimmune diseases, a group of common, debilitating and usually difficult-to-treat conditions. Much of her research focuses on rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory arthritis that can affect and damage almost any joint. By applying new “genomic” technologies to the analysis of rheumatoid arthritis patient sample sets, Dr. Siminovitch is pinpointing the genetic lesions that influence one’s risk for rheumatoid arthritis, as well as outcomes of the disease.
“Advances in genetic technologies over the past few years have made it possible to identify the group of genes that predispose to common chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis,” said Dr. Siminovitch. She explains that a key goal of her research is to accurately predict how the disease will progress in each patient, and how each individual will respond to specific treatments.
Dr. Siminovitch’s research is directly linked to the large population of rheumatoid arthritis patients followed at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Rebecca MacDonald Arthritis Centre for Arthritis and Autoimmune Disease. In collaboration with other rheumatologists at the Centre, she is collecting and analyzing clinical information and biological samples from thousands of rheumatoid arthritis patients and their families. This unique clinical-research interface has placed Dr. Siminovitch and her colleagues on the leading edge of translational research, allowing new research findings to be rapidly translated into improved patient outcomes.
Last year, Dr. Siminovitch’s team identified some of the critical genes linked to the development of rheumatoid arthritis, and her group is now assessing whether these genetic data can be used to predict outcomes. Her team’s efforts are part of a large collaborative research endeavour, the results of which will help provide arthritis patients with more effective, individualized treatments.
Dr. Siminovitch’s groundbreaking work in this area will also become a model for future healthcare centres in Canada and worldwide. “While the promise of personalized medicine has been espoused for some time, Dr. Siminovitch is one of the few individuals in Canada who has embraced the technology and applied it to patients,” noted Dr. Jim Woodgett, Director of Research at the Lunenfeld. “In fact, Dr. Siminovitch is pioneering approaches that I fully expect to become standard practice in the years to come in our quest to improve outcomes for patients.”
Internationally respected for her pioneering work in the area of immunologic diseases, Dr. Siminovitch is an acclaimed leader in genomic medicine, and is world-renowned for her successful use of new genomic techniques to identify the genes underlying autoimmune diseases.
“In the past few years, genomic technologies have enabled an unprecedented rate of genetic discoveries,” said Dr. Siminovitch. “Thanks to these and the many other remarkable advances in genetics, the opportunity to ‘personalize’ and thereby optimize care for rheumatoid arthritis and other common debilitating diseases has never been better.”
According to a recent Health Canada study, one in six Canadians has some type of arthritis, and 60 per cent of them are under the age of 65. By 2026, it is estimated that more than six million Canadians older than age 15 will have arthritis.