Trials – CanStroke Recovery Trials

CanStroke Recovery Trials is a multi-site national clinical trials platform in stroke recovery, funded by Brain Canada and CPSR. It brings together the leading clinicians and researchers across Canada to test new approaches, therapies, therapeutics and technologies to improve recovery from stroke.

"It's amazing what's happening. This is a new world and we all need to work together. With CanStroke Recovery Trials, we can partner, align technologies and advance this field a lot faster -- from a snail’s pace to a cheetah’s pace.”
Dr. Michelle Ploughman
Memorial University of Newfoundland

Meet our research leaders

Executive Leadership:
Dr. Mark Bayley, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute 
Dr. Sean Dukelow, University of Calgary, Hotchkiss Brain Institute 
Dr. Janice Eng, University of British Columbia 
Farrell Leibovitch, CPSR 

Site leaders:

Dr. Marilyn Mackay-Lyons, Dalhousie University
Dr. Robert Teasell, Western University 
Dr. Michelle Ploughman, Memorial University of Newfoundland 
Dr. Sandra Black, Sunnybrook Health Sciences, 
Dr. Bradley MacIntosh, Sunnybrook Health Sciences 
Dr. Courtney Pollock, University of British Columbia 
Dr. Sepideh Pooyania, Riverview Health Centre, Manitoba 
Dr. Ada Tang, McMaster University  
Dr. Brodie Sakakibara, UBC-Okanagan 

Project Manager: Olga Yaroslavtseva

What is CanStroke Recovery Trials

The CanStroke Recovery Trials platform, which operates at sites across Canada, is the launching pad to test and evaluate innovative new stroke recovery research.

Since its establishment, CanStroke has gained attention worldwide. For example, physicians in California approached the Canadian trials group to test a new combination therapy because they knew the well-managed network and collaborative approach would get the job done. Other international research teams are also knocking at the door.

Thanks to CanStroke, Canadian researchers can speed the pace of discovery and deliver new treatments, therapies and technologies to restore lives affected by stroke.

Because of our health-care system, Canada is ideally suited to conduct stroke recovery trials, and we have the capacity and coordination to be able to do this.

By 2023, CPSR and Brain Canada will have collectively invested $5M in developing a multi-site clinical trial platform in stroke recovery, supported by a strong pre-clinical pipeline. Our two connected platforms (CanStim and CanStroke) have the capacity to rapidly ramp-up large scale trials initiated both by industry and academia.

For full details on who is involved in CanStroke Recovery Trials and how to get involved, contact project manager

Meet three of our CanStroke Recovery Trials coordinators

Some of CanStroke Recovery Trials’s amazing coordinators: From left, Evan Foster in Toronto, Mitch Longval in London, and Maria Williams in St. John’s.

CanStroke Recovery Trials Coordinators focus on individuals, target the greater good

CanStroke Recovery Trials is a platform to test, scale up and fast-track new ideas. Research leaders bring their expertise to advance the field and, at each of the eight sites, coordinators pull the pieces together to get the trials underway.

What does the job of a CanStroke Recovery Trials coordinator entail? They follow a rigorous approval process for safety and ethics at their sites. They stickhandle subsite and legal agreements. They help identify people to participate in trials (sometimes cold-calling patients to ask them to get involved). Coordinators ensure people get the necessary screening and assessments – bloodwork to measure electrolytes and platelet counts for safety; genetic tests to identify biomarkers; brain scans to characterize the location of the stroke and the size of the lesion; as well as heart monitoring, and cognitive and fitness testing. These days, coordinators also have to screen participants for Covid-19.

After the workup, each of the coordinators meet with supervising clinicians to determine an individual’s eligibility for trial participation. Through it all, there is constant communication between the coordinator and the participant. From the participant’s perspective, involvement in CanStroke Recovery Trials means special attention, extended access to post-stroke therapy, and the knowledge that their participation in research will improve recovery for others.

Evan Foster is the CanStroke Recovery Trials coordinator at Toronto Rehab/University Health Network. Foster, who is doing a Master’s degree at the University of Toronto in translational research, has been involved in CanStroke since the beginning – and even co-authored a poster for the 2019 Canadian Stroke Congress on the ‘trials and tribulations’ of setting up a clinical trials network in stroke recovery in Canada.

These days he is wrapping up the FLOW trial, which tests a combination of exercise and drug therapy to reopen the recovery window after stroke. He is also ramping up TRAIL, which delivers in-home virtual therapy to people with lower-limb impairment. And, he is working on Arm Boot Camp (ABC), a trial that focuses on delivering therapy to stroke-affected arms.

Foster says the best part about being a CanStroke Recovery Trials coordinator is building relationships, “being able to help somebody and being able to see their improvement after stroke.” After participating in one trial, many participants take a strong interest in research and subsequently enroll in other trials. The hardest part of the job of a coordinator is telling someone they don’t meet the criteria to take part in a trial.

Mitch Longval, CanStroke Recovery coordinator at Lawson Research Institute and St. Joseph’s Health Care in London, says he, too, enjoys “interacting with the participants and hearing about their experiences and how we can help them.” The job’s biggest challenge? “Trying to keep on top of all the moving parts of all the different trials.”

He sees a huge value in being part of a trials platform, where he can get support, advice and guidance from other coordinators and site leaders in the network. “The platform has been helpful in so many ways,” Longval says. “You always have help at your fingertips. Being able to run multi-centre studies would be such a huge task without a platform like this.”

Maria Williams, a physiotherapist with a research background, is CanStroke Recovery Trials coordinator at LA Miller Centre in St. John’s, NL. She disseminates information about the CanStroke studies, attends rounds on the stroke unit once a week to help identify people who could be candidates for trials, hands out information and answers questions. After developing an initial list of participants, Williams follows up in person or on the phone before starting the consent process and getting paperwork in place.

Because she’s a clinician, a typical day might involve doing a baseline assessment of a potential participant, conducting an exercise session with a study participant, dispensing and tracking medication, setting up follow-up sessions, and ordering assessments and bloodwork. “I like the variety. I have a lot of things coming at me every day and I like the challenge,” she says.

“People are quite pleased and excited to have CanStroke Recovery Trials available here in Newfoundland,” Williams explains. “I have one gentleman who moved from the other side of the island to participate in a trial.” Like the other coordinators, she feels grateful to be part of a platform that provides so much support to all sites across the country – from answering questions to data management to site monitoring. “You don’t feel like you’re on your own trying to figure things out.”

But her favourite part of the job is meeting the participants. “Every single individual and stroke is different.”

Meet a CanStroke Recovery Trials participant

Debbie Tompkins, Halifax

A camping trip to New Brunswick with her six grandchildren seemed like the perfect way to mark a new phase of life last summer for recently retired nurse Debbie Tompkins.

Until, days before the planned departure, a stroke changed everything.

Signs of stroke began slowly. Her right leg felt unhinged. The 63-year-old Halifax woman went to the hospital and, although she felt no pain, received a diagnosis of sciatica, or nerve pain.

The next day, a Monday, she could barely walk. By Tuesday, she was back at the emergency department. Again, she returned home – no CT scan, no MRI, but with a plan to consult a neurologist.

The week dragged on. Sometimes she could put weight on her leg and sometimes she couldn’t. When she awoke on Sunday morning – a week to the day after her first hospital visit – she was nauseated and perspiring. She called 9-1-1.

“It was too late to get a clot-busting drug” to reverse the stroke symptoms at the hospital, but she was put on blood thinners. “Women are underdiagnosed, not listened to, and present differently,” she says.

Debbie moved from acute care to an inpatient stroke rehabilitation unit and stayed there until the end of October.

While in the inpatient rehab unit, Debbie was recruited to participate in CPSR’s FLOW trial  — the first national trial on the CanStroke Recovery Trials platform. It combines intensive rehabilitation therapy with the drug fluoxetine in an effort to enhance post-stroke recovery.

For Debbie, her participation meant an additional 12 weeks of therapy she would not have had otherwise.

“I’ve really enjoyed the FLOW,” Debbie says. “It’s hard and I’m exhausted when I’m done, but it’s good.”

For her, there is no question that extra therapy provided from her involvement in CanStroke Recovery Trials put her back on the road to recovery – and rekindling her camping plans.

Our Trials

Click on a trial for: description, contact information, to meet a participant, to meet a trial coordinator. Read about our trials here: