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Dr. Liam Brunham receives 2016 Innovation and Translational Research Award

The Providence Health Care Research Institute (PHCRI) is pleased to support clinical research projects to improve patient care. 

Congratulations to Dr. Liam Brunham, Principal Investigator at the Centre for Heart Lung Innovation and Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine at UBC, recipient of the 2016 PHCRI and VCHRI Innovation and Translational Research Award. This award will fund Dr. Brunham’s project, Targeted Next Generation Sequencing to Improve the Diagnosis and Treatment of Familial Hypercholesterolemia in British Columbia.

This research study aims to provide proper diagnosis and treatment for patients with familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), a genetic disorder that is often misdiagnosed and leaves patients untreated and at risk of heart disease. FH elevates cholesterol levels in patients of all ages and is commonly passed down to family members.

Although 1 in 300 Canadians have FH, only 10% of FH patients are properly diagnosed, making it difficult for patients to receive the life-saving treatment needed, and for patient family members to be screened in a timely manner.    

Dr. Brunham, a pharmacogenomics researcher specializing in cardiovascular and lipid disorders, aims to bridge this gap by using a highly successful tool, targeted next generation sequencing (NGS), to identify problem genes in patients and in their family members. The tool allows researchers to study specific disease-causing genes in an accurate and cost-effective way. This is the first time NGS will be used to test FH in BC.

The project will also test patients and family members for FH, and examine their attitudes toward genetic testing, to allow Dr. Brunham and his team to design the most suitable treatment for FH patients in the future.

“Using genetics to identify patients with FH will allow us to offer more precise and definitive diagnoses to patients and their family members,” says Dr. Brunham. “Ultimately, we hope that this research will allow us to diagnose more patients with FH in the province. Accurate diagnosis is the key first step to ensuring that these patients receive life-saving cholesterol-lowering medication.”

The project is funded by a partnership award between PHCRI and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute. Dr. Bob Sindelar, President of PHCRI, notes the importance of such funding support for clinical research projects like Dr. Brunham’s. "Clinical research has changed the face of modern medicine leading to better patient care and outcomes. All clinical research builds upon an important hypothesis,” says Dr. Sindelar. “I am excited about the partnership of PHCRI and VCHRI to fund new and novel clinical research hypotheses such as this one proposed by Dr. Brunham that if proven and successful, will contribute to the next great change of medicine."

This study will take place at the Healthy Heart Program Prevention Clinic at St. Paul’s, where Dr. Brunham is also an attending physician. The Prevention Clinic is the only clinic in western Canada that conducts in-depth studies on familial hypercholesterolemia.

To learn more about Dr. Liam Brunham’s research, visit:https://www.hli.ubc.ca/profile/brunham/liam

To learn more about FH, visit FHCanada.net.