Launch of Largest Canadian study on Dementia

To mark World Alzheimer’s Day (September 21, 2016), the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA) is launching its signature clinical study, the Comprehensive Assessment of Neurodegeneration and Dementia (COMPASS-ND). Over the next two years, the study will enroll 1600 participants, between the ages of 50 and 90 with memory problems from 30 sites across Canada.The goal will be to learn about who is at risk of developing dementia, how early it can be detected and what tests are most effective at detecting it.


“Congratulations to the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging on the launch of this pivotal study,” says Jane Philpott, Canada’s Minister of Health. “By guiding new strategies for early detection and intervention, this research will ultimately improve the lives of Canadians living with dementia and their families.”


The $8.4 million study funded by the $31.5 million grant awarded for the creation of the CCNA in 2014 by the Government of Canada through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and 14 partner organizations from the public and private sectors (full list of partners provided below).


Up to now, most studies of age-related cognitive decline have focused on specific types of dementia in isolation. The goal of COMPASS-ND is to study dementia in all its forms, including cases where there are multiple pathologies involved, such as Alzheimer’s disease and cerebrovascular disease, referred to as “mixed” dementia.  This broad approach is being taken in order to investigate what these dementias have in common, as well as what differentiates them. Doing so will help in diagnosing, understanding, and working to prevent the onset of dementia in all its forms. In the case of mixed dementia, study results will help CCNA researchers examine the impacts of different pathologies alone and in combination, and their implications for disease course and treatment.


The Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging is already a unique nation-wide collaborative research effort that facilitates Canada’s ability to face the challenge of dementia, while setting  new inspiring world standards,” said Drs. Yves Joanette and Anthony Phillips, co-leads of the CIHR Dementia Research Strategy. “The launch of the COMPASS-ND study will allow this Canadian consortium to untangle the complexity of the brain diseases that cause dementia using an innovative ‘real-world’ approach. This ‘made-in-Canada’ perspective makes the COMPASS-ND uniquely positioned to allow major discoveries for the prevention and treatment of the intertwined brain diseases responsible for dementia. COMPASS-ND represents another Canadian première that will be closely followed globally.”


“Our aim is to capture a detailed picture of Canadians living with or at risk for dementia by ‘phenotyping’ individuals, or collecting information across different dementias and focus areas, such as genetics and brain imaging.  We believe this approach will help us to better understand the similarities and differences across all forms of dementia, which will lead to improvements in diagnosis and treatment,” says Dr. Howard Chertkow, Scientific Director of the CCNA, professor at McGill University and neurologist at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal.


According to Dr. Michael Borrie, who is the COMPASS-ND study director and geriatrician at St. Joseph’s Health Care London, “This study is unique compared to other initiatives around the world because it will include people with all forms of dementia, not just Alzheimer’s disease, and will give them the opportunity to participate in interventions that may slow or halt the development of symptoms. The benefit of this is that participants do not have to choose between doing something to help themselves and something to help research; they can do both.”


Another aim of this study is to further understanding of how dementia impacts women and men differently. It has been shown that women are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than men, while men are more likely to develop vascular dementia than women. What accounts for these discrepancies is little understood and will be a focus of the COMPASS-ND. “Women are twice as likely as men to have Alzheimer’s and dementia and twice as likely to care for a loved one with the disease” notes Lynn Posluns, President of the Women’s Brain Health Initiative. “This important study can advance our understanding of why women experience dementia differently and lead to effective treatments that meet women’s needs and halt the process.”


Dr. Larry Chambers, Scientific Advisor to the Alzheimer Society of Canada says “The Alzheimer Society is anticipating important new insights about early diagnosis and intervention from this study. It has the potential to advance our knowledge about the causes of dementia and has implications for disease prevention. The study results will help us create more effective tools to diagnose and treat dementia and improve the day-to-day care and quality of life for Canadians with dementia and their families.”


Participants will be recruited in large urban centers, such as Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver, as well as in smaller communities, such as Saint John, NB and Prince George, BC. If you would like to learn more about this study, please contact Mr. Victor Whitehead to learn more at (514) 340-8222 ext. 5267.



People to contact for further comment on this study:

Person CCNA Role Locale Contact number
Dr. Howard Chertkow Scientific Director Montreal QC (514) 340-8260
Dr. Michael Borrie COMPASS-ND Study Director London, ON (519) 685-4021 xt. 42372
Dr. Louis Verret Site Principal Investigator Quebec, QC (418) 649-5980
Dr. Serge Gauthier Research Executive Member; Site Principal Investigator Montreal QC (514) 766-2010
Dr. Stephanie Yamin Site Principal Investigator Ottawa, ON (613) 236-1393 xt.2380
Dr. Mario Masellis Research Executive Member; Site Principal Investigator Toronto, ON (416) 480-6100, ext. 89351
Dr. Richard Camicioli Lewy Body Dementia research team leader; Site Principal Investigator Edmonton, AB (780) 248-1774
Dr. Ging-Yuek Robin Hsiung Frontotemporal Dementia research team leader; Site Principal Investigator Vancouver, BC (604) 822.3610
Dr. Jacqueline Pettersen Site Principal Investigator Prince George, BC (250) 960-5414




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