OHTN Research Chair in HIV Clinical Care and Aging
Sharon Walmsley’s research aims to better understand the needs of people aging with HIV, and to optimize that care. Comorbidities such as heart, brain, kidney, bone and liver disease are common as people age, but occur earlier and more frequently in people with HIV. Ultimately, this research aims to better understand why these conditions affect people living with HIV differently, and to develop treatment approaches that reduce their impact on their health and quality of life. Her research also looks at the systems of care currently serving people living with HIV in Ontario and to improve care coordination, such as the transition to long-term care.
Key Research Findings
Sharon Walmsley has made a profound difference in the care of people living with HIV and has a long history of OHTN support. She has been part of more than 200 HIV clinical trials. Her work has shaped care in Ontario and beyond, identifying new drugs, influencing treatment guidelines and changing HIV management. She has:
- Spearheaded the evaluation and introduction of new antiretroviral therapies for people living with HIV including kaletra and dolutegravir
- Helped shape national and international treatment guidelines for the earlier initiation of HIV antiretroviral therapy
- Led in establishing treatment standards and protocols for women living with HIV
Sharon Walmsley begins her role as OHTN Research Chair in the fall of 2016. Planned projects include:
- Optimizing Antiretroviral Therapy to Reduce Comorbidities – Grant applications to study comorbidities potentially associated with antiretroviral drugs (ARV) have already been submitted to CIHR and other funders. One proposed study looks at the impact on the bone health of women aging with HIV by switch drug regimens from a current tenofovir (TDF)-containing therapy to the new drug, tenofovir alafenamide fumarate (TAF). Preliminary findings from men who have sex with men suggest that the newer drug may have a less effect on bone health. A second study will look at the impact of therapies on a measure of cardiac health (QT interval) in particular the combined impact of antiretroviral therapies and antidepressants.
- Identifying measures of inflammation and testing the use of these biomarkers in predicting comorbidities – The Walmsley team is working to identify markers of inflammation, a kind of damage to the immune system that appears to put a person at greater risk of age-related comorbidities. One ultimate objective of this work is to create clinical tools that can help identify people at risk of developing comorbid illnesses and prompt preventative therapy.
- Supporting Long Term Care Facilities in Ontario in HIV Care – As the population of people living with HIV in Ontario ages, care and support from long term care institutions will inevitably be needed. Dr. Walmsley and her mentee Rosie Clarke are conducting a needs assessment exploring the current barriers to long term care for people living with HIV and the knowledge needs to improve this system of care.
Work Environment and Collaborations:
Sharon Walmsley is the Assistant Director of the Immmunodeficiency Clinic at the University Health Network, and the Director of the clinical research program at the clinic. As a clinician at UHN, she is involved in the health care of over 1300 people living with HIV. At UHN, she has a well established community advisory board engaging people living with HIV in research decision-making.
Sharon Walmsley is a widely recognized clinical researcher, a senior scientist at the Toronto General Research Institute and co-Director of the Canadian HIV Trials Network (CTN). She works with clinical investigators from across Canada and around the world. She has established research collaborations with other OHTN researchers including Janet Raboud, Darrell Tan, Rupert Kaul, Curtis Cooper and Sean Rourke. She has mentored a broad network of HIV clinical scientists, and continues to be actively involved in the training of emerging clinical investigators.
Sharon Walmsley holds an OHTN Applied HIV Research Chair ($500,000; 2016-2021). First funded as a principal investigator by OHTN in 1998.