Research project focuses on Indigenous cancer care

Bianca Bharti

A University of Saskatchewan researcher is piloting a program that will help Indigenous cancer patients navigate the healthcare system.

The Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation granted Dr. Gary Groot $120,000 to fund the initiative.

Indigenous people face unique obstacles when diagnosed with cancer, often experiencing “systemic and racial barriers” accessing cancer care, according to a press release.

“As I’ve got to know the Indigenous community better, and I start to understand how they see the world, how they interact with it… my capacity and ability to have ideal interactions with them as a care provider has increased significantly,” he said. “If I can do that I believe others can do that as well.”

The researcher, assisted by the Prince Albert Grand Council and the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan, plans to redesign cancer services to meet the needs of Indigenous patients.

The study involves 30 Indigenous cancer patients from several northern communities, including Prince Albert, Cumberland House, Black Lake and Shellbrook.

Through interviews and questionnaires, Groot wants to gain a cleared understanding of how navigators accompanying the patients might help improve their understanding and access to health care. He also wants to raise awareness amongst healthcare professionals to be more culturally sensitive.

Eight other researchers also received grants:

  • Robert Laprairie, College of Pharmacy and Nutrition: Laprairie was awarded $120,000 for research to develop cannabinoid-based medicine for a form of epilepsy called absence seizures that account for about 10 per cent of childhood seizures, and for other forms of pediatric epilepsy for which there is a clinically unmet need in Saskatchewan.
  • Jessica Lieffers, College of Pharmacy and Nutrition: Lieffers was awarded $80,000 for a multidisciplinary research project to understand parent perspectives about nutrition and tooth decay in children in diverse areas of Saskatoon, as well as the content of publicly available written information on tooth decay and nutrition available to them.
  • Dr. Michael Levin, College of Medicine: Dr. Levin was awarded $120,000 to help establish the Office of the Saskatchewan Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Clinical Research Chair as a province-wide resource for people with MS and researchers who study MS in the province. The funding will help initiate and guide development of novel therapies that target nerve cell death, a major feature of progressive forms of MS.
  • Emily McWalter, College of Engineering: McWalter, a biomechanical engineer, will be examining understudied tissues — synovium, muscles, tendons and ligaments—in knee osteoarthritis with her award of $120,000. The techniques proposed will provide objective measures of osteoarthritis required to develop and evaluate the effectiveness of new treatments.
  • Dylan Olver, Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM): Obesity and high blood pressure are primary risk factors for developing dementia, with an estimated 10 people in Saskatchewan developing dementia daily. Olver was awarded $120,000 for research to provide new insights on the causes of vascular dementia and identify targets for future prevention or treatment options.
  • Eric Price, College of Arts and Science: Price was awarded $120,000 for research that will advance the development of novel radioactive agents for use in positron emission tomography imaging, with improved imaging and treatment efficacy. These improved agents can lower the radiation dosage to healthy organs, and have the potential to improve patient care.
  • Scott Widenmaier, College of Medicine: An excess of cholesterol can cause non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, a liver disease that affects six per cent of North American adults and is a leading cause of liver failure and liver cancer. Widenmaier was awarded $120,000 for research to improve understanding of the disease and address the critical need for therapies that improve the health outcomes in people with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.
  • Dr. Yanbo Zhang, College of Medicine: Dr. Zhang was awarded $117,500 to study the effectiveness in using Low Filed Magnetic Stimulation (LFMS) of the brain in treating cognition issues and depression in patients with multiple sclerosis. LFMS is used already as a safe and novel treatment for depression, and Zhang is using MS mouse models to study if the procedure can reduce neuroinflammation and brain damage and promote brain repair.