Saskatoon hosts top minds in fight against childhood arthritis

Dr. Alan Rosenberg, his Canadian colleagues, and other International experts are now collaborating to try and answer many of the outstanding questions surrounding childhood arthritis in a study that promises to revolutionize treatment of the disease.

Sask. has high rate of childhood arthritis

The study, according to the University of Saskatchewan's Dr. Alan Rosenberg will help establish more effective treatments and may even begin to address that cause of childhood arthritis. (Allison Dempster/CBC)

It is sadly fitting that Saskatoon served as the host this past weekend for some of this nation's top minds in the battle to ease the suffering caused by childhood arthritis.

It's fitting because this province has one of the highest rates of the disease in Canada.

They (children) inspire us every day.- Dr. Alan Rosenberg 

Saskatchewan's high rate of childhood arthritis is just one of the mysteries that haunt the mind of Dr. Alan Rosenberg, a professor of rheumatology at the University of Saskatchewan.

"Our Indigenous populations, unfortunately, are afflicted more frequently with more severe disease," Rosenberg said in an interview with CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning.

"It (childhood arthritis) compromises the child's future quality of life and productivity and can be devastating for the child and the family."

Disease a mystery 

Dr. Alan Rosenburg is a professor of rheumatology at the University of Saskatchewan and will work with other researchers to find more effective treatments of childhood arthritis. (CBC)

Rosenberg, his Canadian colleagues and other International experts are now collaborating to try and answer many of the outstanding questions surrounding childhood arthritis in a study that promises to revolutionize treatment of the disease.   

"We'll be able to determine which medication will work, its effectiveness, how long it will need to be used, and when it can safely be stopped," Rosenberg said.

Three thousand children will take part (including as many as 300 in Saskatchewan) in a study that will identify genetic and immune markers. 

"It's technologically very sophisticated and it involves not only researchers and clinicians, but also parents and children. They will be engaged electronically in getting these results in almost real time."

That will allow doctors to know which medicines will work best for a specific child and when that treatment can safely be stopped.

But for Rosenberg, this study may take their understanding to new depths, getting to the very heart of the matter in finding a cause and a way to prevent childhood arthritis.

A cure is a big motivating factor for Rosenberg, who never forgets that his patients are children.

"It's incredible how well they do, they inspire us every day."

with files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning