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Scleroderma Research Chair

In 2005 Scleroderma Quebec, in partnership with the Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM) and the Université de Montréal, established the Scleroderma Research Chair.  The Chair conducts its work at the CHUM and Dr. Jean-Luc Senécal, MD, is its holder. The Chair is a major initiative that has already made a significant impact on the quality of life and life expectancy of patients with scleroderma. The funding provided by this endowed chair is essential to the CHUM Scleroderma Research Group (CHUM-SRG), and allows health professionals to act directly on the disease. Researchers are currently developing new treatments to alleviate the suffering of patients. They are seeking to find ways to delay or stop the progression of the disease and promote early diagnosis. 

The Scleroderma Research Chair is the only one of its kind in Canada. The prestige conferred by the Chair and the quality of the work being done under its auspices has position the Rheumatology Department of the CHUM and the Faculty of Medicine of the Université de Montréal as a pole of excellence in research in scleroderma. This promotes sharing of research results and the development of inter-university research projects both in Quebec and Canada as well as internationally. Finally, they also share their findings with other research teams at the international level.

As for medical care, the impact of the Chair has already been felt in an increased demand for consultations among health practitioners eager to see patients with this autoimmune disease from all regions of Quebec. Interestingly, this eagerness for consultations also comes from teams of rheumatologists and medical specialists from other faculties of medicine throughout Quebec, in accordance with the role of the CHUM as a tertiary and quaternary healthcare provider.

The work conducted by the Chair, the diversity of patients treated, the quality of the teaching and care provided, contribute to encourage young doctors to specialize in rheumatology. It also boosted applications for internships with the medical team of the GRS-CHUM by young doctors from other universities or by medical specialist-practitioners. In addition, since its inception the Chair has promoted the development of the GRS-CHUM, a multidisciplinary team highly skilled in basic and clinical research, and in the care of scleroderma patients. Thus, the Chair ensures that scleroderma is and remains a priority for the CHUM.

One of the highlights of the year was the recent reappointment of Dr. Jean-Luc Senécal as chair for a five-year term. The decision to renew the chairholder mandate was taken by the Faculty of Medicine of the Université de Montréal based on the excellence of the work accomplished during the first mandate. The recent work carried out by the Chair includes:

  • Research on the mechanisms by which anti-centromere autoantibodies (anti-CENP-B), characteristic of limited scleroderma, contribute to vascular lesions in scleroderma, especially in pulmonary arteries; one of this research findings was published in the best international journal in the field;
  • Research on the pathogenic role of anti-topoisomerase I autoantibodies (Scl-70) in SSc fibrosis, particularly in the skin and lungs; this work has made significant progress and raised hope for the development of a new treatment for SSc fibrosis;
  • Peer-reviewed publications in leading international journals, thus ensuring the highest level of scientific excellence;
  • Participation in national research projects for which the expertise of the GRS-CHUM was put to profit;
  • Participation in the book “Sclérodermie”, the first book on scleroderma to be published in the French-speaking world (Med-Line Éditions, Paris, 2011).


The innovative and leading-edge research conducted by the Chair during the past six years has led to the discovery of new biomarkers allowing for early diagnosis, improved classification of scleroderma and other related connective-tissue diseases, thus allowing for the development of more early and specific treatment programs.

The Chair is a source of hope for patients because it provides them with the latest and up to date information on scleroderma research, diagnosis and treatment.

Funding for the Scleroderma Research Chair depends entirely on the financial support from Scleroderma Quebec. Thanks to donations and fundraising activities, Scleroderma Quebec also contributes financially to other research initiatives. For a list of major research projects funded by Scleroderma Quebec click here.

Thanks to advances in research, in the last few years there has been a steady increase in the success rate of treatment and improvement in life expectancy. Notwithstanding this progress, a cure has yet to be found and it is still impossible to eradicate scleroderma. That is why financial support is so crucial for the continuation of research in scleroderma.