Indigenous cancer care, MS among U of S research projects awarded $1.8 million

Several researchers from the College of Medicine are among those awarded Establishment Grants and research fellowships from the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation

Complicated, foreign and often inhospitable. This is how an Indigenous patient once described Saskatchewan’s complex cancer care system to University of Saskatchewan researcher Dr. Gary Groot.

That conversation convinced Groot that more needs to be done to support Indigenous cancer patients in the province, who continue to encounter systemic and racial barriers while attempting to access cancer care.

Groot, a surgical oncologist, clinical professor in surgery, and associate professor in Community Health and Epidemiology at the U of S, has been awarded a $120,000 Establishment Grant by the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) for a pilot research program that will use peer navigators to help Indigenous patients deal with the health system.

The award to Dr. Groot is among nine Establishment Grants and eight research fellowships totalling $1.8 million awarded to U of S researchers by SHRF on June 29

“These awards and fellowships are a worthy recognition of the hard work and talent of our community of researchers, and they also reflect the tremendous contribution the U of S is making to advancing health care in Saskatchewan,” said U of S Vice-President Research Karen Chad.

The three other College of Medicine researchers awarded three-year Establishment Grants are:

  • Dr. Michael Levin, Medicine: Dr. Levin was awarded $120,000 to help establish the Office of the Saskatchewan Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Clinical Research Chair as a province-wide resource for people with MS and researchers who study MS in the province. The funding will help initiate and guide development of novel therapies that target nerve cell death, a major feature of progressive forms of MS.
  • Scott Widenmaier, Physiology: An excess of cholesterol can cause non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, a liver disease that affects six per cent of North American adults and is a leading cause of liver failure and liver cancer. Widenmaier was awarded $120,000 for research to improve understanding of the disease and address the critical need for therapies that improve the health outcomes in people with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.
  • Dr. Yanbo Zhang, Psychiatry, College of Medicine: Dr. Zhang was awarded $117,500 to study the effectiveness in using Low Filed Magnetic Stimulation (LFMS) of the brain in treating cognition issues and depression in patients with multiple sclerosis. LFMS is used already as a safe and novel treatment for depression, and Zhang is using MS mouse models to study if the procedure can reduce neuroinflammation and brain damage and promote brain repair.

SHRF also awarded $100,000 research fellowships to eight U of S postdoctoral fellows, including:

  • Renuka Dahiya, Experiemental Pathology, College of Medicine
  • Amit Gaba, Microbiology and Immunology, College of Medicine
  • Tetiana Katrii, Pathology, College of Medicine
  • Thaisa Sandini, Physiology, College of Medicine
  • Ornwipa Thamsuwan, Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture

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