At the beginning of his career, Dr. Ed Keystone originally set his sights on studying immunology and allergy. Lucky for us, he worked with the “fathers of rheumatology” in a lab when his interest in rheumatology began to sparkle. He was selected for a fellowship in rheumatology but still thought of himself as an immunologist with an interest in rheumatology. This all changed when he started caring for patients in a rheumatology clinic. He saw patients suffering and he couldn’t offer them much help or support. This was in the 1970’s when people with inflammatory arthritis (IA) were treated with Gold injections and treatment options were limited.

He set his sights on enhancing and expanding access to medications in Canada and felt that “Canadians can do it better”. He worked to bring clinical trials for new arthritis medications to Canada – no easy undertaking in today’s highly competitive global clinical trial market. He founded and chairs the Canadian Rheumatology Research Consortium (CRRC), a not-for-profit corporation of academic and community rheumatologists devoted to conducting clinical trials in Canada.

Dr. Keystone is recognized as a global key opinion leader, someone who works with the best of the best, and is sought for his expertise. “I’m a communicator,” notes Keystone when reflecting on his career spanning five decades.  Yet still, when he thinks of his accomplishments, he feels proud that he has trained the next generation of rheumatologists. He also supports patients who don’t respond to available medications, an unfortunate reality for many living with IA.

Looking to the future, Dr. Keystone feels that we can do better to predict how patients living with inflammatory arthritis will respond to treatments. “It’s like a tossing a coin” he says and notes that current therapies lose effectiveness over time.  He thinks the future lies in personalized medicine and the need to understand genetics and gene expression to personalize therapies for people. “Basic science and translational research is important” he notes, which means that we need to understand the natural or underlying mechanisms of arthritis in a scientific lab and enable rheumatologist and patients to use this knowledge in treatment.

I’m so pleased that I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Ed Keystone in person. Not only is he blazing new paths to help people living with arthritis, he is also a kind and compassionate person.


Laurie Proulx