The Canadian Institutes of Health Research, or CIHR, has awarded grants to five University of Saskatchewan health-research teams totalling $4.85 million, nearly half of which will go directly towards research into Indigenous knowledge of health and wellness.
The federal grants have been awarded as follows: $2.26 million to research Indigenous health knowledge, $100,000 to research a four-drug combination chemotherapy for advanced colorectal cancer that has spread to the liver, $872,000 to research radioactive antibodies used to treat advanced colorectal cancer, $765,000 to research radioactive antibodies used to fight bone cancer and $864,450 to research natural proteins that attack the HIV virus by mutating it.
College of Medicine researchers Malcolm King, scientific director of the Saskatchewan Centre for Patient-Oriented Research and member of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, and Alexandra King, Cameco chair in Indigenous health at the U of S and member of the Nipissing First Nation in Ontario, are leading the research project on Indigenous knowledge of health and wellness.
The four-year study aims to establish Indigenous health-knowledge development centres in First Nations and Métis communities that will lead the research. Malcolm King spoke to the university for the official press release.
“We will explore what makes and keeps Indigenous people and communities well and how Indigenous wellness can be achieved or regained through practices and interventions based on a blending of traditional and Western knowledge,” Malcolm King said.
Three other university teams received funding to research the treatment of cancer, two of which are studying the treatment of advanced colorectal cancer.
Shahid Ahmed, clinical associate professor of medicine at the U of S, and his research team were awarded $100,000 to research a four-drug combination chemotherapy used to treat advanced colorectal cancer that has spread to the liver. The team will evaluate how effective this combination therapy is at shrinking live tumours that are too large to remove surgically down to a surgically removable size.
A second team led by Humphrey Fonge, radio-pharmacist in the Saskatoon Health Region and assistant professor of medical imaging in the College of Medicine, was awarded $872,000 to research new therapies for advanced colorectal cancer. The five-year research program will focus on developing antibodies that cling to colorectal cancer cells. One of these antibodies is attached to radioactive molecules, giving it the ability to kill colorectal cancer cells and earning it the nickname the assassin antibody.
The team is developing yet another antibody that will cling to colorectal cancer cells as a means of flagging and tracking the spread of cancer, allowing for earlier diagnosis and targeted treatment.
But Fonge’s team is not the only group of researchers studying radioactive antibodies for the treatment of cancer.
Another team led by Ekaterina Dadachova, radio-pharmacist and professor in the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, and Maruti Uppalapati, pathologist and faculty member in the College of Medicine, was awarded $765,000 for their research into using radioactive antibodies to target a protein expressed by the bone cancer known as osteosarcoma.
These assassin antibodies attack bone-cancer tumour cells while leaving healthy tissue behind. The treatment can be used on both humans and pet dogs, for whom cancer treatments are currently limited.
The fifth and final team of researchers to be awarded funds by the CIHR is led by Linda Chelico, microbiologist, biochemist and faculty member in the College of Medicine. The fiveyear project was awarded $864,450 to study various natural proteins that attack and destroy the HIV virus in order to develop treatments that bolster the immune system against the virus.
Karen Chad, U of S vice-president research, said in a release issued by the university that the federal funding awarded to these five teams of researchers will benefit both the province of Saskatchewan and the country as a whole.
“This cutting-edge health research — some of which uses our world-class cyclotron facility for nuclear imaging — will not only benefit people in the province but throughout Canada,” Chad said.