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Understanding Childhood Arthritis to Improve Treatment


Scientific Study Title:


UCAN CAN DU and beyond: Towards a genomic partnership for childhood arthritis.


Principal Investigators: 


Susa Benseler, MD, PhD, Director, Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, Pediatric Rheumatologist, Alberta Children’s Hospital

Professor of Pediatrics, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary

Husky Energy Chair in Child and Maternal Health 

Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation Chair in Pediatric Research 

Research Scientist, Arthritis Research Canada


Rae Yeung, MD, PhD, FRCPC, Professor of Immunology, University of Toronto


Study Start Date:


January 1, 2021


Study End Date:


March 31, 2024




Joseph Cafazzo, David Casey, Anna Goldenberg, Stephen Scherer, Jennifer Stinson, George Tomlinson, Marinka Twilt


Why do this research?


Arthritis is a chronic, disabling disease of childhood. Many children with arthritis will continue to have arthritis as adults. New medications called biologic therapies are now available to treat arthritis in children. They target key biologic molecules that cause inflammation. While they are effective, they may have serious side effects including infections and cancer. They are also expensive. If we know the biological characteristics of each child’s arthritis, then we could select the most effective biologic therapy for that child. Thus, we would improve the health of each child, be able to prevent medication side effects and reduce the health care burden for patients, families and society. One of the many advantages of studying diseases in children is that we will learn about the underlying biology without the complicating influences of aging, environmental exposures and lifestyle choices that affect adults. This research will promote a better understanding of the biology of arthritis which will lead to better therapies and eventually a cure for arthritis. 


Who is involved?


UCAN is a multi-centre observational cohort study with participating rheumatology care centers across Canada and the Netherlands. Currently, we have 11 enrolling centers in Canada. Each center is recruiting from our four study cohorts: Cohort 1 – Biologic Basis of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA); this cohort looks at childhood arthritis and aims to help our study team determine which management approach is best for each child; Cohort 2 – Start Biologics; this cohort aims to help our study team develop a tool to predict response to therapy; Cohort 3 – Stop Biologics; this cohort aims to help our study team develop a tool to predict who will remain in remission after discontinuing therapy; and lastly Cohort 4 – Extreme Phenotypes; this cohort aims to help our study team with new gene discovery and drug target identification.


What will be done?


In this unique Canadian-Dutch Research Network, we will develop tests that enable us to learn about the biology of each child’s arthritis and be able to predict when and which biologic therapy to start and when to stop it. Our interdisciplinary research team will partner with patients, family members and policy-makers. We expect the results will lead to improved care for children with arthritis as it will help ensure that we use biologic therapies in the safest, most beneficial and cost-effective way to improve the health and quality of life of affected children and their families. We will share the information we gain about childhood arthritis with physicians around the world by partnering with them and by building an electronic health tool to share information with physicians, patients and their families.


Funding Agency:


Canadian Institutes of Health Research


How do people get involved?


Eligible children and their families are identified by their treating pediatric rheumatologist. Families who are interested in participating and would like more information can visit www.ucancandu.com.