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Toronto (Sept. 1, 2008) - September marks Arthritis Month across Canada and the Arthritis & Autoimmunity Research Centre at the University Health Network (UHN), has announced the creation of a UHN Biomarker Discovery Centre. The Centre will have a specific focus supporting biobanking and biomarker discovery in arthritis research that may bring us one step closer to finding a cure for arthritis and related conditions.

Biomarkers provide insight into predictors of disease and prognosis and drug responsiveness. This will allow greater emphasis to be placed on preventative medicine, individualized therapies and earlier treatment options that may ease disease progression. Biomarkers may also provide targets for new drug development.

"Through on-going support and leading research, we believe we are closer than ever to finding cures for these debilitating diseases," said Dr. Eleanor Fish, Director, Arthritis & Autoimmunity Research Centre. "Our researchers are committed to work focused on identifying disease predictors that are crucial for early diagnosis and that may provide targets for drug development. Early disease intervention could mean dramatically less deterioration for patients and more cost effective treatments."

Currently, with more reactive treatment options in place, the total economic burden of musculoskeletal diseases in Canada is estimated at $20.6 billion, with an additional strain of 2.7 million workdays lost each year due to arthritis symptoms. Arthritis falls under the musculoskeletal grouping and includes over 100 different conditions, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, vasculitis, lupus, ankylosing spondylitis, scleroderma and gout. These conditions account for over 10 per cent of the total burden of all illnesses in Canada, but only 1.3 per cent of attributed health science research is dedicated to this area.

This initiative is funded through the Canada Foundation for Innovation and is part of UHN's recent award in the federally supported Research Hospital Fund. The Centre's facilities will be located across UHN and will establish Canada as a world leader in biomarker discovery.

Over 4.5 million Canadians suffer from arthritis conditions, affecting nearly twice as many women as men.

About The Arthritis & Autoimmunity Research Centre Foundation

The Arthritis & Autoimmunity Research Centre (AARC) Foundation raises funds for arthritis and autoimmune disease research taking place in laboratories and clinics across University Health Network. The Foundation is dedicated to finding cures for the chronic illnesses in the arthritis family and raising awareness about maintaining good musculoskeletal health.

About University Health Network

University Health Network consists of Toronto General, Toronto Western and Princess Margaret Hospitals. The scope of research and complexity of cases at University Health Network has made it a national and international source for discovery, education and patient care. It has the largest hospital-based research program in Canada, with major research in transplantation, cardiology, neurosciences, oncology, surgical innovation, infectious diseases, and genomic medicine. University Health Network is a research hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto.

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Phone: 416 340 4636

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