Facebook Pixel Code
About Sickkids
About SickKids

March 4, 2010

SickKids researcher awarded $3.5 M from the Ministry of Research and Innovation to study chronic pain

Funding will support research into development of more effective therapies

TORONTO – Dr. Michael Salter, a researcher at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), has been awarded a Research Excellence Grant from the Ministry of Research and Innovation’s Ontario Research Fund (ORF) to study chronic pain. The grant, totalling $3.5 million over five years, will support lead investigator Salter and his team to study pain pathways and potentially develop innovative new drugs to prevent and treat chronic pain.

“This investment will enable Dr. Salter’s team to gain new scientific insight into the fundamental mechanisms of chronic pain, which could lead directly to the development of a number of new pain-relieving compounds,” says Dr. Janet Rossant, Chief of Research at SickKids. “These compounds would have the great potential to transform the treatment of chronic pain. ”

An estimated 2.5 million Canadians, and approximately 1 million Ontarians, experience chronic pain. The cost of chronic pain to the health-care sector is estimated to exceed $250 million dollars annually, with the broader impact on lost income and productivity estimated to be several billion dollars per year.

Unlike acute pain, which is a normal and important process to signal injury, chronic pain is poorly understood and often persists long after an injury or illness has healed. Chronic pain includes both inflammatory pain and neuropathic pain. Neuropathic pain involves direct damage to nerves and is a major clinical problem in a broad range of disorders including spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, stroke, diabetes, HIV and cancer. Salter's research will focus specifically on finding treatments for neuropathic pain because, unlike acute and inflammatory pain for which many effective therapies exist, neuropathic pain is generally resistant to all treatments currently available.

"Until very recently, pain was simply thought of as the neural response to tissue damage, but it has become clear that this is an overly simplistic notion," explains Salter, Head & Senior Scientist in the Neurosciences & Mental Health Program at SickKids Research Institute, Professor of Physiology at the University of Toronto, International Scholar of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and Canada Research Chair in Neuroplasticity and Pain. "We are now at the threshold of understanding key issues in pain mechanisms and management, and are beginning to unravel the molecular, cellular and neural mechanisms as well as the biopsychosocial factors involved."

Salter and his colleagues have already identified several key molecular complexes and signalling pathways involved in the pain response, and by bringing together many diverse and extensive lines of research, have created an integrated model of neuropathic pain. The ORF will enable Salter and his team to build on this success, expanding both the scope of the research and the pace at which the research will be conducted.

“Our work involves identifying critical pain-promoting molecules and cells in the spinal cord, and designing approaches to inhibit these without affecting normal spinal cord function,” says Salter. “Our overall goal is to use these discoveries as a springboard to produce several series of new drugs that can be used for chronic pain in general and also in specific clinical situations like preventing neuropathic pain after surgery or trauma.”

The study will be carried out at SickKids, in collaboration with University Health Network, SickKids Corporate Ventures and NoNO Inc., a privately-held Ontario biotech company dedicated to developing new therapeutics for neurological disorders, cofounded by Salter, Dr. Michael Tymianski of University Health Network and several other internationally-recognized Canadian neuroscientists. Other partners that are supporting this work and have been crucial in the success to date include the Krembil Foundation and the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, in addition to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), HHMI and SickKids Foundation.

For more information about ORF, visit http://www.mri.gov.on.ca/english/programs/researchfund.asp.

The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is recognized as one of the world’s foremost paediatric health-care institutions and is Canada’s leading centre dedicated to advancing children’s health through the integration of patient care, research and education. Founded in 1875 and affiliated with the University of Toronto, SickKids is one of Canada’s most research-intensive hospitals and has generated discoveries that have helped children globally. Its mission is to provide the best in complex and specialized family-centred care; pioneer scientific and clinical advancements; share expertise; foster an academic environment that nurtures health-care professionals; and champion an accessible, comprehensive and sustainable child health system. SickKids is proud of its vision of Healthier Children. A Better World.™ For more information, please visit www.sickkids.ca.

For more information, please contact:

Matet Nebres
The Hospital for Sick Children
Phone: 416-813-6380
email: matet.nebres@sickkids.ca

Suzanne Gold
The Hospital for Sick Children
Phone: 416-813-7654 ext. 2059
email: suzanne.gold@sickkids.ca