Collaboration fuels province-wide research into lymphedema and lymphatic diseases

    New collaboration aims to provide a better study the lymphatic system.

    By FoMD news staff on October 22, 2015

    To support establishing a provincial multidisciplinary research and education program on lymphedema, and more broadly, the lymphatic system and lymphatic diseases, the Dianne and Irving Kipnes Foundation has partnered with the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, the Calvin, Phoebe and Joan Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases and the Salutaris Centre (Edmonton) to form the Alberta Lymphedema Network, or ALNET, which is now connecting researchers across the province.

    As a collaboration, ALNET aims to engage interested researchers, clinicians and health care providers, as well as medical, undergraduate and graduate students and clinical and post-doctoral fellows, to better study the lymphatic system. This will generate knowledge on lymphedema and to ultimately find ways to improve patient care for those that are suffering from this condition, which causes localized fluid retention as a direct result of a compromised lymphatic system.

    “With few dedicated clinics and expertise in this area, there is a need for further research, education and increased awareness in order to improve care delivery for lymphedema patients”, says Kelly Narine, program manager of ALNET. “We want to get Albertans involved with ALNET to ensure lymphedema does not stay a condition that is under-studied, under-treated and under-recognized.”

    Data estimates that 180–250 million people suffer from lymphedema—it is reported to be the most debilitating complication for breast, ovarian, cervical, prostate, testicular, bladder, colon, and head and neck cancers, as well as melanomas. If it is left untreated, there is a risk of loss of limb function as well as the onset of chronic infections.

    ALNET’s multidisciplinary approach involves researchers from both Calgary and Edmonton versed in unique imaging technologies such as live cell, quantum dots, fluorescence and real time intravital imaging, all of which will contribute to exploring the molecular mechanism of lymphatic disease. Furthermore, with the expertise of researchers in metabolomics there is the potential for developing candidate biomarkers for human lymphedema that, hopefully, will be helpful in the in vitro diagnosis of early latent disease. The team also possesses the clinical and subject matter expertise to develop a cohort of patients with lymphatic disease in order to translate findings to the clinical area, with the possibility of developing novel therapeutic strategies to modulate lymphatic function.

    An ALNET Scientific Advisory Board has been established to provide strategic guidance on the development, progression and knowledge translation of the program. The board includes Dianne Kipnes, a psychologist, and herself a lymphedema patient, and Cyril Kay and Anthony Fields, both of whom bring extensive experience in basic research and clinical care.

    The network is a direct result of the $5 million gift made by the Dianne and Irving Kpnes Foundation to the University of Calgary, which help build a work-class lymphatic imaging suite. The network is based out of the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta.

    A training program will be open to interested parties in Edmonton, Calgary and across Alberta and would encompass course components (lymphatic system, lymphedema, treatment, patient care) and practical components (laboratory, clinical care) in Alberta. To encourage interest in lymphatic research in the university community, a scholarship award will be offered each year to a student interested in pursuing this field of study.

    Clinicians, researchers and other interested parties are encouraged to contact ALNET for more information: knarine@ualberta.ca, 780-492-9883.