Thanks to a $46-million investment from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and other funding partners, the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA) will be renewed for a second phase, announced today.
CCNA, the national component of the Government of Canada's dementia research strategy, brings together 311 researchers across the country to collaboratively investigate the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of dementia and other age-related neurodegenerative diseases. CCNA is supported by 11 other provincial partners and non-profit organizations. Baycrest will become CCNA's scientific headquarters.
Delaying dementia's onset
This funding will support the continuing work of 19 research teams, which includes basic molecular research, studies on the treatment and diagnosis of dementia and research looking at ways to improve the quality of life of individuals living with different forms of dementia.
The second phase of CCNA includes the launch of a new national prevention platform, the Canadian Aging and Neurodegeneration Prevention Therapy Study Using Multidimensional Interventions for Brain Support - Unified Platform (CAN-THUMBS UP). This large-scale study on dementia prevention will build on research accomplished during the first phase of CCNA to identify individuals at greater risk of dementia and provide them an opportunity to undertake combination interventions to prevent its progression.
CAN-THUMBS UP aligns with similar international studies in Sweden and the United States and through its results, CCNA aims to develop effective, evidence-based dementia prevention strategies that can be implemented as part of public policy by 2029.
There are at least 20 prevention strategies currently available that have the potential to slow cognitive decline and prevent various forms of dementia. An international study has shown that up to one third of dementia cases could be delayed or prevented by managing certain health conditions. CCNA intends to make Canada a leader in dementia prevention by creating an infrastructure and a master protocol that can be used to test combination interventions, both pharmacological and non-pharmacological."
Dr. Howard Chertkow, CCNA's Scientific Director, and Senior Scientist and Chair in Cognitive Neurology and Innovation at Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute
"Researchers will closely monitor individuals involved in CAN-THUMBS UP to determine whether interventions can slow the progression of cognitive decline among older adults and delay the onset of symptoms", adds Dr. Chertkow.
Moving the dial on dementia research
Launched in 2014, CCNA's first phase included setting up the world's most in-depth study into different forms of dementia and the largest dementia study in Canada, the Comprehensive Assessment of Neurodegeneration and Dementia (COMPASS-ND) study. Through the study, extensive health data is being gathered from about 2,000 older adults with mild memory loss or various forms of dementia. This study aims to accelerate dementia research around the world by providing data that will contribute to a better understanding of Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders, and assist in the development of ways to prevent, diagnose and delay the onset of dementia.
As part of CCNA's second phase, the COMPASS-ND study will also include an in-depth look into how microorganisms in our bodies (bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microbes) may play a role in brain diseases, an emerging area of research. This will be the first study of its kind collecting this data.
During the first phase, CCNA established the necessary infrastructure to foster close collaborations among Canadian researchers. Through these partnerships, researchers created health promotion materials, such as the Brain Health Food Guide and Indigenous-specific factsheets on dementia. Researchers also discovered potential biomarkers in saliva that could lead to earlier detection of Alzheimer's disease.
"CCNA is an innovative and powerful national collaborative hub for dementia research and knowledge translation, says Dr. Yves Joanette, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Aging. "Over the last five years, Dr. Chertkow and his colleagues have mobilized the dementia research community and created the environment and the shared platforms required to synergize research efforts in all the areas that will make the most impact in preventing, treating brain diseases causing dementia and in best supporting those living with dementia and their caregivers. CIHR is pleased to be joined by many relevant partners in supporting Phase II of CCNA as they will be adding a critically important research program on dementia prevention."
CCNA's scientific headquarters moves to Baycrest
During its first five years, CCNA was based at the Lady Davis Institute of McGill's Jewish General Hospital in Montreal and received strong support from the institution. In its second phase, the scientific headquarters of CCNA will be based at Baycrest in Toronto, a global leader in geriatric residential living, healthcare, research, innovation and education, with a special focus on brain health and aging, and a University of Toronto teaching hospital. The administrative centre will remain at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal.
With the move of its scientific headquarters to Baycrest, CCNA will tap into various areas of the Baycrest campus focused on the prevention, early detection, and treatment of Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders:
- the Baycrest-led Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation has partnered with CCNA to accelerate the development and commercialization of technology to support people with dementia and their caregivers,
- Researchers at Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute and Baycrest Hospital are currently members of various CCNA teams,
- Cogniciti, the Baycrest-developed online brain health assessment, will enhance CCNA's recruitment efforts to encourage more individuals to participate in clinical trials of medications to delay and prevent Alzheimer's disease.
- the expected launch of the Kimel Family Centre for Brain Health and Wellness at Baycrest, a unique research and care, brain health facility, aligns with CAN-THUMBS UP's work to investigate the best ways to help prevent dementia
With the establishment of CCNA's scientific headquarters at Baycrest, our organization has the largest network of dementia research being done across the country. CCNA joins Baycrest's robust research network supported by our scientists at the Rotman Research Institute and innovators at the Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation."
Dr. William Reichman, President and CEO of Baycrest