Lab Canada

Pfizer Canada announces recipients of neuropathic pain research awards program

Kirkland, QC – Pfizer Canada has announced the recipients of its third Neuropathic Pain Research Awards Competition, which aims to fund and support Canadian innovation within independent neuropathic pain research in the areas of basic biomedical, clinical and health sciences.

The long-term goal of the Neuropathic Pain Research Awards is to provide new approaches for developing prevention tools and therapeutics,” said Dr A John Clark, professor of anesthesia at Dalhousie University in Halifax and chair of the Neuropathic Pain Research Awards Committee. “These awards will enable the many talented recipients to continue to work toward the common goal of better understanding and treating neuropathic pain.”

Sixteen research proposals were submitted to the competition and six proposals were funded based on ranked scores from the review committee, which is composed of 12 Canadian medical researchers familiar with neuropathic pain research.

The recipients of the 2009 awards are:

(1) Dr Brian E Cairns, associate professor at the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, the University of British Columbia. Subject: An animal model of burning mouth syndrome for assessment of peripheral GABA-A receptors as an analgesic target.

Through his research, Dr Cairns is developing an animal model of burning mouth syndrome (BMS) for assessment of peripheral GABA-A receptors as an analgesic target. BMS is a chronic intraoral pain condition characterized by “burning like” pain commonly experienced on the tongue.

Dr Cairns is a hospital residency trained pharmacist who has developed an interest in pain research. He is exploring the role biology plays in the increased prevalence in women of certain chronic pain conditions that affect the head and mouth, such as migraine headache, burning mouth syndrome and temporomandibular disorders. In particular, he is investigating whether sex-related differences in the sensitivity of nerve fibres that conduct painful impulses from the mouth, jaw muscles and jaw joints contribute to differences in the occurrence of these pain conditions in men and women.

(2) Dr Cory C Toth, assistant professor at the Department of Clinical Neurosciences and member of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary. Subject: Diabetes and falling: the potential role of neuropathic pain.

Dr Toth’s research explores the potential role of diabetes and neuropathic pain (NeP) as risk factors for falling accidents and injury. This research will contribute to the understanding of comorbidities associated with NeP and may also lead to new methods for fall risk management in populations of patients with diabetes.

He is the director of the Neuropathic Pain Clinic. He performs clinical research in neuropathic pain and neuropathy, as well as basic science research in diabetic complications of the nervous system and neuropathic pain. Dr Toth further collaborates with local and international researchers regarding problems in nerve regeneration and motor neuron diseases. He is funded by CIHR, AHFMR, and JDRF for his basic science research.

(3) Dr Elizabeth G VanDenKerkhof, associate professor at the Department of Anaesthesiology, Queen’s University. Subject: The epidemiology of neuropathic pain in Canada.

Dr VanDenKerkhof’s research focus is on the epidemiology of Neuropathic Pain in Canada. The results from this study will provide valuable information about the prevalence of pain of predominantly neuropathic origin (POPNO) in Canada, the comparability of results from two commonly used questionnaires to measure POPNO in the community, and the impact of POPNO on individuals and the healthcare system.

Her research program focuses on understanding the etiology and impact of acute and chronic pain with a particular focus on women’s health. Her studies are conducted at both the patient and population level. At the patient level she is studying the development of chronic post surgical pain, as well as the associated healthcare utilization in women. At the population level, she utilizes large national databases to examine predictors of chronic pain in Canadians.

(4) Dr Jeffrey S Mogil, professor, Department of Psychology, McGill University. Subject: Neuropathic Pain and Sexual Behaviour in Mice.

Dr Mogil has pioneered valuable research through his study of neuropathic pain and sexual behaviour in mice. Pain sufferers experience decreased libido as a result of their persistent symptoms, and these studies will provide a new tool that basic scientists can use to elucidate the proposed relationship between neural circuits subserving reproduction and analgesia, and employ as a preclinical screen for novel analgesics and libido-enhancing compounds.

He has made seminal contributions to the field of pain genetics and is the author of numerous major reviews of the subject including an edited book, The Genetics of Pain (IASP Press, 2004). He is also a recognized authority in the fields of sex differences in pain and analgesia, and pain testing methods in the laboratory mouse. He currently serves as a Section Editor (Neurobiology) at the journal, Pain, and is the chair of the Scientific Program Committee of the upcoming 13th World Congress on Pain.

(5) Dr John Xavier Pereira, clinical assistant professor of Family Medicine, University of Calgary. Subject: A preliminary study of serum omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratios in patients with chronic pain.

Dr Pereira plans to conduct a preliminary study of serum omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratios in patients with chronic pain. The results of this study will open up new avenues of research including dietary modification as well as the development of new pharmaceutical agents to aid in changing patients’ fatty acid composition.

He is the Pfizer Canada scholar in persistent and neuropathic pain at the Calgary Chronic Pain Centre of Alberta Health Services. He is a past Ronald Melzack clinical and research fellow of the McGill Pain Centre at the Montreal General Hospital. His interest in the field was fuelled by medical school and residency pain management rotations at the Massachusetts General Hospital, McGill Pain Center, UCSF Pain Clinic, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. Following his residency training in family medicine in Ottawa, he began his fellowship at McGill.

(6) Dr Patrick J Whelan, associate professor at the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, and member of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Faculty of Medicine and associate professor at the Department of Comparative Biology and Experimental Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary. Subject: Role of kinins in modulating pathological activation of spinal motor circuits by pain afferents during early development.

Dr Whelan’s research explores the role of kinins in modulating pathological activation of spinal motor circuits by pain afferents during early development. These research results are valuable as pain pathways are functional as early as 24 weeks of gestation, yet despite this pediatric pain remain under diagnosed and often left untreated.

He has been involved in spinal cord research for nearly 20 years. His main interest is the organization and function of spinal cord networks that produce locomotion. These networks are essential for recovery of function following spinal cord injury. Part of Dr Whelan’s research interests lies in understanding how motor network are organized and respond to descending stimuli. Over the past few years Dr Whelan has begun to examine the role of nociceptive input in the control of locomotion. This is an area which has received little research attention but is of major importance to those suffering from SCI since up to 80% of these individuals report having recurring neuropathic pain.