Mount Sinai steps up battle against digestive diseases


Canada has the highest percentage of people diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in the world. One in 3,800 Canadians develop IBD every year; One in 1,800 develop colon cancer, and one in 16 Canadians have a lifetime risk of developing both IBD and colon cancer.

Clearly, there is a need for a concentrated centre to examine the causes and treatment for those who suffer from these diseases, and Mount Sinai Hospital is at the helm, making digestive disease research a priority.

Accelerating the progress of gastrointestinal research at Mount Sinai is the goal of two well-established programs, that were recently celebrated with the opening of the Dr. Zane Cohen Digestive Diseases Clinical Research Centre. Previously, components of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Gastrointestinal (GI) Oncology programs were scattered throughout the Hospital, but the new centre brings all the components together to create a more collaborative working environment where scientists and clinicians work side-by-side. This centre is among the first to bring all of these aspects to one area for a common goal – research that results in improved therapies, treatments and outcomes for patients.

“Our main focus is research and, with the combined expertise of a 24-member, multidisciplinary team of physicians, researchers and staff, we’ve created an integrated centre that seamlessly combines patient care with clinical investigation,” says Dr. Zane Cohen, staff surgeon and leader of the Centre. “This allows us to share ideas, equipment and knowledge, leading to a better understanding of these diseases and improved treatments for patients.”

The research explores interventions for chronic IBD sufferers that will delay and one day, ultimately, prevent further disease progression, which will reduce and possibly even eliminate the need for major surgical intervention.

Researchers are currently examining colorectal cancer screening, the identification of genes for IBD, the treatment of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and the susceptibility, co-morbidity (the simultaneous presence of more than one adverse health condition in a patient), and disease characterization of IBD.

“Most people diagnosed with IBD are quite young and are between the ages of 15 and 35,” says Dr. Hillary Steinhart, chief of gastroenterology at Mount Sinai Hospital and author of Crohn’s & Colitis: Understanding and Managing IBD. “If not properly treated, symptoms may worsen, which is why we have created a space specifically for research so we can better understand the disease.”

Mount Sinai Hospital has become a recognized leader in the study and treatment of digestive diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease as well as GI oncology illnesses such as colorectal cancer.

With some six per cent of Canadians being diagnosed with colon cancer, Mount Sinai Hospital’s digestive diseases clinical research centre is responding to a clear and present need in the community.