​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​What is Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a "silent" bone disease characterized by bone loss that makes bones weak and prone to fracture. Osteoporosis develops when the balance between bone formation and bone removal becomes skewed and bone is lost faster than it can be replaced. This can occur naturally due to: insufficient intake of bone-building nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D; low levels of estrogen in women after menopause; a general decline in bone health as a result of old age, or due to secondary causes such as taking medications that cause bone loss.

Image of Dr. Angela M. Cheung
Dr. Angela M. Cheung, Director of the Osteoporosis Clinic & Research Program

The Osteoporosis Clinic & Research Program​

Dr. Angela M. Cheung founded the Osteoporosis Clinic & Research Program and continues to serve as Director of the Program. The clinic offers state-of-the-art diagnostic and expert care services to patients with osteoporosis and metabolic bone diseases, with a focus on fracture risk reduction and quality of life improvement. The Program serves over 3000 patients annually and helped establish the Centre of Excellence in Skeletal Health Assessment – a group of bone diagnostic centres – in partnership with the Department of Medical Imaging at University Health Network and Mount Sinai Hospital. The Osteoporosis Program is one of the most productive osteoporosis programs in Canada, playing a key role in the development of novel diagnostic, preventative and treatment options for osteoporosis patients. The team has also taken a leadership role in developing guidelines and policies for osteoporosis care in Canada and North America.​

The vision of the Osteoporosis Program is to improve the lives of patients by creating effective strategies for diagnosis before patients suffer from a fracture, including finding better treatment options and reducing the osteoporosis care gap which exists in Canada and around the world.

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The Impact of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis affects both men and women and can attack at any age. Fractures caused by osteoporosis are a major cause of alarm, particularly when they occur at the hip or spine, as they cause short-term disability and can even lead to permanent physical disability and a loss of independence. Moreover, experiencing an osteoporosis-related fracture automatically increases a patient’s risk of suffering from another fracture, leading to further pain and disability.

Osteoporosis Fast Facts

  1. Fractures from osteoporosis are more common than heart attack, stroke and breast cancer combined.
  2. The overall yearly cost to the Canadian health care system of treating osteoporosis and the fractures it causes was over $2.3 billion as of 2010.
  3. Osteoporotic hip fractures consume more hospital bed days than stroke, diabetes or heart attack.
  4. Osteoporosis currently affects 2 million Canadians and this number is expected to increase to 6.9 million by 2016.​​​

Funding Priorities

Donor support is key for the Osteoporosis Clinic and Research Program to continue its progress towards improving the lives of those affected by osteoporosis through increased understanding of the disease and better treatments. The following funding priorities have been identified:

Atypical Femur Fractures Project

Rare conditions such as Atypical Femur Fractures (AFFs) are unusual fractures of the femur (thigh bone) that are not well understood. Currently, we are following a cohort of 160 people who have suffered from this type of fracture. Funding is needed to conduct genetic analysis ($3000/patient) and determine the mechanical and structural factors associated with AFFs. Research scientists and graduate students are also required to analyze and interpret the data and biological samples.

New Diagnostic Equipment and Software

New equipment is now available which can better measure the mechanical properties of bone and will be invaluable in looking at who is at highest risk of fracture (Xtreme CT scanner 2 – cost $800, 000). In addition, proprietary software for our current DXA machines can offer patients a better assessment of the structure and condition of their bones (cost $20, 000/DXA machine x 10 machines). Personnel are required to study the use and effectiveness of new bone measuring software and devices.

Examining Biomarkers Representing High Risk for Fragility and Frailty

Osteoporosis patients who have a history of falls and are frail tend to sustain more fractures. More research is needed to determine individuals who are high risk of falling and better diagnostic tools and tests need to be explored to predict frailty. This is a critical area of research which needs to be funded in order to reduce the burden of osteoporosis on our aging population.

Studying the Relationship Between Bone and Muscle

An emerging area in osteoporosis research is the study of muscle loss with aging (sarcopenia) and how this relates to age-related bone loss. Future studies in this area will aim to determine which factors predict both sarcopenia and bone loss, and whether exercise and nutrition can play a role in prevention and treatment. The potential for medications to improve mobility and muscle function in order to prevent debilitating fractures will also be explored. Research scientists, post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, and research assistants interested in bone and muscle health will be required to run these new studies.

The Arthritis Program at University Health Network

The Arthritis Program at University Health Network is Canada’s largest multidisciplinary Arthritis Program with more than 80,000 outpatient visits annually. It has the largest division of arthritis clinical researchers in North America. There are four areas of focus: Osteoporosis, Orthopedics, Rheumatology, and the Hand Program. The Osteoporosis Program is recognized nationally and internationally for its unique approach to improving care for osteoarthritis patients. The Division of Orthopedic Surgery provides the most complex surgical treatments for patients with arthritis in Canada, with more than 1000 joint replacements performed annually. The Division of Rheumatology is ranked #1 in North America.

Help us support the Arthritis Campaign.
For more information please contact:
Anette Larsson, CFRE, Director, Campaigns, Arthritis Program
Phone: 416 603 5800 ext.4059 Fax: 416 603 6224 Email:​ anette.larsson@uhn.on.ca
Website: www.cureforarthritis.ca​

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