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Alberta research promoted by Social Media fundraising

Image of Ice Bucket ChallengeLast year, the Ice Bucket challenge became a viral fundraising bonanza for ALS, and that money is now being put to use. Several of my friends got involved and posted elaborate videos of the rush of cold water coming down on their heads. I was anxious at the time that the vast sums of money coming in might not be used appropriately or even accounted for. My fears were put to rest with the recent announcement from the ALS Society of Alberta. They explain that “Albertans raised a remarkable $2.8 million for the ALS Society of Alberta during this social media campaign”. Brain Canada matched funds raised across the country so that a total $21.5 million will be invested in research across Canada.

The ALS Society defines amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) as “a rapid, always fatal neurodegenerative disease in which nerve cells die and leave voluntary muscles paralyzed.” Dr. Sanjay Kalra, a researcher in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Alberta has received a grant of $2.94 million. This will help fund Kalra’s research team to explore “new high-powered MRI techniques that may be able to diagnose ALS earlier, monitor disease progression and determine treatment efficacy.” The big goal as explained on their website indicates that: “These methods show immense promise in providing a biomarker, namely a test that can be used to detect disease earlier, monitor disease progression, and evaluate new therapies. Such a tool would accelerate drug testing and lead to the realization of effective treatment faster.”

Another major fundraising effort comes each November called "Movember" also known as "No-Shave November".  Funding from Movember allowed the University of Alberta to establish Dr. John Lewis as the first Frank and Carla Sojonky Chair in Prostate Cancer Research. Additionally, Dr. Nawaid Usmani at the University of Alberta received Movember money to research better prediction of the risk of radiation toxicity after prostate radiotherapy. At the University of Calgary, Dr. Lauren Walker, Division of Psychosocial Oncology, was awarded funds to delve into the problems of sexual recovery after prostate cancer. Dr. Roger Zemp, also of the University of Alberta, was awarded a Discovery Grant from Movember to measure circulating tumor cells (CTCs). There is a need to develop predictive tests since prostate cancer can be very aggressive in the early stages. According to Dr. Zemp “Developing blood tests that use nanotechnology to zero in on blood-based biomarkers that can help make this crucial diagnosis as early and accurately as possible”. Hopefully, this research will complement or even replace the PSA test.

The next time I wonder where all the research money goes, I will remember these individuals and the innovative research they are doing right here in Alberta with funding raised (in part) via social media.

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Alberta research promoted by Social Media fundraising

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