BC Centre for Excellence Establishes the First Nationwide HIV/AIDS Antiretroviral Research Network

Vancouver, November 27, 2008 — Dr. Robert Hogg, director of the Drug Treatment Program at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) and Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences, at Simon Fraser University, announced today the establishment of the Canadian Observational Cohort (CANOC): a nation-wide HIV/AIDS antiretroviral research network. CANOC will study the effectiveness of antiretroviral therapy for HIV/AIDS treatment.
This marks the first time Canada has undertaken a nation-wide cohort to study the effectiveness of antiretroviral therapy. CANOC brings together 31 HIV/AIDS experts, including Dr. Marina Klein in Montreal and Dr. Sean Rourke in Toronto, to pool research on HIV-positive Canadians receiving antiretroviral treatment. Research will be drawn from clinics, research centres and universities, including Simon Fraser University, University of Toronto, McGill University and Université de Montréal. The study population will consist of nearly 50% of those starting antiretroviral therapy since 2000 in Canada.

CANOC’s mandate is to develop a nationally and internationally recognized research program in HIV treatment, to establish training and research opportunities for graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and clinicians across Canada, and to improve research information provided to physicians and persons living with HIV/AIDS. CANOC also plans to share research information with policy makers so its findings can be incorporated into provincial, national and international treatment policies and guidelines.

CANOC has also established an award for qualified applicants at the Masters, PhD, and Post-doctoral or clinician level enrolled in a program at any Canadian university or research centre. In this establishing year, three students have been selected for CANOC studentships. Aranka Anema, a PhD candidate from UBC will be working with the CANOC data to assess the impact of food insecurity and malnutrition on HIV treatment outcomes. Luke Swenson, a Masters student at UBC, will be working with the CANOC group to investigate HIV immune escape and drug resistance with regards to the emergence of antiretroviral drug resistance. The third student, Tony Antoniou, from the University of Toronto, will be conducting pharmacoepidemiologic research using the CANOC database. All three awardees have previous experience in the field of HIV/AIDS research and have demonstrated academic and community leadership.

Currently, approximately 58,000 people live with HIV in Canada and new infections are occurring every day. To meet the care needs of HIV-positive people, Canada will spend up to $42 billion over their lifetimes. Yet, despite major funding commitments from government agencies, Canada has a limited understanding of HIV/AIDS treatment.

Hogg is hopeful that the new network will improve treatments for people with HIV/AIDS across Canada. “CANOC will enable us to share information and knowledge across Canada and develop a national strategy to provide effective, consistent treatment for all Canadians with HIV/AIDS,” he says.

An important element of the CANOC collaboration is the Community Advisory Committee (CAC). The functions of the CAC are to advise on and help build community partnerships; to contribute to research questions; and to assist with knowledge translation. There will be up to 6 CAC members, representing the 6 sites of CANOC.

The study is funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research. Other partners include the Ontario HIV Treatment Network, Clinique medicale l’Actuel, Montreal Chest Institute Immunodeficiency Service Cohort, the Electronic Antiretroviral Therapy (EARTH), Maple Leaf Clinic and the Canadian HIV-HCV Co-infection Cohort Study.

For more information or interview requests, please contact Stephen Burega, media relations, 604-506-3734 (c), stephen.burega@karyo-edelman.com. He can also assist with the interviews with investigators in Vancouver, Toronto, or Montreal. You may also visit the CANOC website at www.canoc.ca.

About the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS
Founded in 1992 by St. Paul’s Hospital and the provincial Ministry of Health, the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS is a key provincial resource seeking to improve the health of people with HIV through the development, ongoing monitoring and dissemination of comprehensive investigative and treatment programs for HIV and related diseases. St. Paul’s Hospital is one of seven care facilities operated by Providence Health Care, Canada’s largest faith-based health care organization.