New Resources for British Columbians with ALS


March 23, 2005

Grand Opening VCH ALS Centre

New Resources for British Columbians

More help is available for British Columbians with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), an untreatable neurological disease, with the opening of a new ALS centre. The Vancouver Coastal Health ALS Centre, located at GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre in Vancouver, will provide improved treatment; diagnostic, clinical and outreach services; as well as access to research opportunities for British Columbians with ALS.

Patients will no longer have to travel between two sites - one at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) and the other at GF Strong Rehab Centre - to receive treatment, rehabilitation, and support for their illness.

"This centre will improve patient care by providing access to specialized diagnostic resources, an interdisciplinary care and rehabilitation team, and new research at a single, wheelchair accessible site," says Dr. Howard Feldman, Head of the Division of Neurology at the University of British Columbia and VGH, and whose vision helped support the project.

Dr. Neil Cashman, a Canadian leader in neurodegenerative disease, has been recruited from Toronto to become the Centre's new academic director.

"The close collaboration between the diagnostic and medical treatment team and the outreach rehabilitation team will create increased opportunities for clinical ALS research," says Cashman. "We intend to aggressively pursue the basic and clinical science necessary to defeat this tragic disease. As an example, we have established a collaborative team to explore the potential benefit of stem cells therapies in ALS. The goal will be to develop safe, effective treatments of ALS and foster the use of such treatments in Canada and elsewhere."

Cashman, a Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Neurodegeneration and Protein Misfolding Diseases and professor of neurology at UBC, is also an international expert in prion or "mad cow" disease. He will maintain research labs, the first dedicated labs for prion disease west of Ontario, at the Brain Research Centre at UBC Hospital and at the Life Sciences Institute at UBC.

VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation has raised close to $600,000 through community and corporate donors to help build and equip the leading-edge facilities at the new ALS Centre.

Ron Dumouchelle, president & CEO of VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation says, "This was a key priority for the Foundation and our donors as the ALS Centre will offer enhanced treatment, care and research to support individuals and families throughout British Columbia living with ALS."

The new VCH ALS Centre is a joint effort involving VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation donors, Vancouver Coastal Health, and the University of British Columbia. A partnership with the ALS Society of BC has further strengthened this effort. This project highlights a team effort where the health care industry and the community are working together to better serve the needs of ALS patients in our province.

The Centre also includes the Andrew Eisen Diagnostic Laboratory in honour of Dr. Eisen's lifetime dedication to ALS research. In 1980, Dr. Andrew Eisen first established the ALS Clinic at VGH to develop ALS research and provide clinical referral services.

The Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute is the research body of Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. In academic partnership with the University of British Columbia and philanthropic partnership with the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation, the institute advances health research and innovation across BC, Canada, and beyond.

VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation is a registered charity that raises vital funding for life-saving equipment, world-class research, and improvements to patient care for Vancouver General and UBC Hospitals. For 25 years, the foundation and its donors have bridged the gap between basic and advanced health care by contributing over $185 million to support the critical needs of the hospitals.

The Canada Research Chair (CRC) program is designed to build Canada's research capacity. The CRC program will invest $900 million to support the establishment of 2,000 Canada Research Chair positions at universities across the country by the end of 2005.


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