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When Rev. Brian McKay was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, he felt he had been given a death sentence. Leaving hospital with a list of what he could no longer do, he went into a “blue funk” for months. “I didn’t know how I was going to survive.”

That was 40 years ago. Not only has Rev. McKay survived, he is a model of how to live well with diabetes. The St. Joseph’s patient is also devoted to doing what he can for diabetes patients of tomorrow. On March 2, he became one of the first Canadian patients to enroll in a landmark international trial – the REMOVAL study - aimed at reducing the risk of heart complications in adults with type 1diabetes.

“Somewhere in Ontario, a five-year-old will find out she has diabetes. If I can help her live better for one moment, for one day, it will be worth it.”

The Canadian arm of the REMOVAL study was launched at St. Joseph’s Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism and will be led by the centre’s chief, Dr. Irene Hramiak. The trial will test whether metformin – a drug commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes – could help prevent or reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications in people age 40 and older with type 1 diabetes.

Dr. Hramiak’s lead role in the trial speaks to speaks to the renowned endocrinologist’s expertise and the caliber of our program here at St. Joseph’s, says St. Joseph’s President and CEO Dr. Gillian Kernaghan.  The trial, adds Gillian, is an excellent fit with St. Joseph’s Centre for Diabetes Endocrinology and Metabolism, which was designed to bring together care and research and an interdisciplinary team focused on innovation.

The trial is a collaboration between JDRF (formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), the University of Glasgow, and 17 sites across Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Denmark, and the Netherlands that will collectively enroll 500 patients. In Canada, 50 patients will be enrolled at St. Joseph’s and 50 at The Ottawa Hospital Riverside Campus.

“With 100 of the 500 patients in the study, Canada is playing an important role in the trial,” says Dr. Hramiak, who attributes long-standing expertise in Canadian diabetes research to the dedication of patients like Rev. McKay. “Participating in clinical research gives patients an opportunity to contribute to new knowledge and innovation that will change their health."

Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death associated with diabetes. While current treatments for the disease reduce the risk of developing the complication, risk remains elevated even with the best management of type 1 diabetes. If REMOVAL results are positive, metformin could be introduced as an adjunct therapy with insulin.

JDRF, the leading charitable funder of type 1 diabetes research worldwide, is supporting the REMOVAL study as part of its efforts to discover and develop treatments for the devastating complications that can arise from type 1diabetes, which effects more than 300,000 Canadians. The REMOVAL study is one of the largest trials ever funded by JDRF targeted at reducing the complications.

“JDRF is extremely proud to be working with Dr. Hramiak on research that is helping us work towards our goal of improving the lives of every person affected by type 1 diabetes by accelerating progress on the most promising opportunities for curing, better treating and preventing the disease,” says Andrew McKee, President and CEO of JDRF Canada.

Among others at the Canadian launch was Joe Preston, MP, Elgin-Middlesex-London, who is also a diabetes patient of St. Joseph’s. Praising St. Joseph’s as a world class hospital with top specialists and scientists, the MP said the Canadian government is committed to supporting projects that bring new technologies and treatments to patients.

The REMOVAL trial is part of Canadian Clinical Trial Network, a partnership of JDRF and the Government of Canada.

View photos from the REMOVAL trail:

Rev. Brian McKay, Andrew McKee, Dr. Irene Hramiak, Dr. Gillian Kernaghan and MP Joe Preston at the REMOVAL trial launch

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