Researchers of McMaster University’s Population Health Research Institute will play a foundational role in a new, coast-to-coast patient-driven network tackling the challenge of heart failure, a common condition that is often fatal and on the rise in Canada.

One in five Canadians experiences heart failure – when the heart muscle doesn't pump blood as well as it should – impacting people of all ages. About 35 to 40 percent of people with heart failure die within five years – a figure comparable to several cancers.

The Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences will be among six research hubs working on two dozen projects across the country in the Canadian Heart Function (CHF Alliance) network launched today, during National Heart Failure Awareness Week.

The CHF Alliance is supported with $5 million from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) in partnership with Heart and Stroke Canada and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute – along with $27 million in support (cash and in-kind) from other academic, foundation and industry partners nationally.

“We will be expected to make transformative discoveries in the next five years,” said Salim Yusuf, PHRI’s executive director, distinguished professor of medicine at McMaster.

PHRI is setting up a translational clinical trials centre in Hamilton to explore whether novel approaches such as anti-inflammatory drugs, supplementation with the vitamin thiamine, and reducing weight in obese people with heart failure will be beneficial, in addition to currently proven treatments.

An important initiative in the CHF Alliance is PHRI’s CIHR-funded randomized trial, COLT-HF, with 2,500 participants in seven countries expected, which will investigate if colchicine and thiamine can affect outcomes for people with ischemic heart failure.

Leading the trial, Philip Joseph, PHRI investigator, associate professor of medicine at McMaster, said: “We look forward to collaborating with such an extensive network to identify new ways to improve survival and quality of life for those living with heart failure.”

The alliance spans eight provinces and one territory, and involves 12 patient/caregiver partners, 13 Indigenous partners, and 132 investigators (42% women; two dozen early-career investigators).

Eva Lonn, PHRI senior scientist and medical director of the heart failure program at McMaster, said that as well as impacting patients’ quality of life, “heart failure accounts for substantial heath care costs; the most common cause of hospital admission for people 65 and over in Canada is decompensated heart failure which requires immediate medical treatment.”

The scientific director of the CHF Alliance, Jean Rouleau – a professor of medicine at the University of Montreal and cardiologist at the Montreal Heart Institute – noted that databases comprised of hundreds of thousands of study participants around the world for more than a decade, developed by and housed at PHRI, “will be probed by the CHF Alliance to advance our understanding of heart failure, using big data and advanced analytics such as artificial intelligence.”


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