UBC’s Dr. Catrina Loucks is among the recipients of new funding from the B.C. government for her research aimed at improving pain management for vulnerable B.C. children, including those with cancer and other conditions.
Dr. Loucks, assistant professor in the Faculty of Medicine’s department of pediatrics and department of anesthesiology, pharmacology and therapeutics, is the principal investigator at the Loucks Pain Management Pharmacogenomics Lab at BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute. The lab aims to help guide clinical decision-making for pain management, improve patient outcomes at the BC Children’s Hospital and lessen the burden of pain for children in B.C.
To do this, Dr. Loucks is studying genes related to how children experience pain. She’s developing ways, from genetic discoveries to predictive genetic testing strategies, to select the safest and most effective medications for children based on their unique genetic signatures.
The B.C. government is providing Dr. Loucks with $125,000 for research infrastructure to supports this work through the B.C. Knowledge Development Fund (BCKDF).
“Providing adequate pain treatment for vulnerable B.C. children, such as those with cancer, is critical,” said Dr. Loucks. “To do this, we need to understand why some children are unable to get pain relief while others are dangerously sensitive to painkillers. By investigating each child’s genetics, our work can empower children and families to help choose the best pain medications for them, which is especially important for young children who cannot articulate their level of pain.”
Dr. Loucks is leveraging the new funding to identify genetic factors that influence variability in pain and medication responses in children. Her lab will validate newly discovered genetic factors with a pain management model (using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans) and contribute to precision medicine initiatives through the development of predictive genetic-testing strategies.
“Providing adequate pain treatment for vulnerable B.C. children, such as those with cancer, is critical.”
Dr. Catrina Loucks
“The BCKDF empowers UBC faculty and researchers to push the boundaries of research and find solutions to some of the most pressing challenges of our time,” said Dr. Deborah Buszard, interim president and vice-chancellor, UBC. “Today’s investment in research infrastructure is a testament to the wide-ranging research potential across UBC campuses. Be it advancements in pediatric pain management or unveiling the mysteries of our cosmos, UBC’s dedication to research continues to enhance the lives of British Columbians. We’re deeply appreciative of the B.C. government’s support in fostering an environment where knowledge thrives.”
Through the latest round of BCKDF funding, the B.C. government is providing a total of $2.5 million to support infrastructure at 16 research projects at five universities across the province. Seven projects at UBC Vancouver and UBC Okanagan received funding from BCKDF, which supports innovative projects, including Dr. Loucks’ work.
“B.C.’s public universities are responsible for life-changing research that has improved the quality of life for people here and around the world,” said Brenda Bailey, Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation. “Through our continued support of the B.C. Knowledge Development Fund, we are investing in research ensuring our province continues to be at the forefront of the innovation needed to keep improving the lives of British Columbians.”