March 5, 2021

Connecting pieces in the lupus puzzle

New McCaig Institute member Dr. May Choi is tracking biomarker clues in the diagnosis and development of lupus disease
Dr. May Choi
New McCaig Institute member, Dr. May Choi

Inspired by her late father's lasting impact on his patients in his rheumatology clinic, May Choi, MD, FRCPC, decided to carve her path as a rheumatologist. “I feel lucky that I can follow in his footsteps and carry on his legacy," says Choi.

Choi's interest in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) biomarkers sparked during her residency under the mentorship of University of Calgary researchers and McCaig Institute members, Dr. Ann Clarke, MD, and Dr. Marvin Fritzler, MD, PhD.

Her research journey in the MitogenDx Lab began with a study looking at a novel biomarker called anti-dense fine speckled 70 antibody to help rule out a diagnosis of lupus. This study led to further research looking at other antibodies that could help make a lupus diagnosis and predict disease symptoms and outcomes.

“Lupus is a difficult disease to diagnose because patients can present in many ways. It is important to make an early and accurate diagnosis to provide patients with appropriate and timely treatment,” explains Choi, a rheumatologist and assistant professor in the Cumming School of Medicine and a new McCaig Institute member.

Today, Choi is working with a large international group of lupus patients, analyzing patterns and factors that could influence the result of an antinuclear antibody (ANA) test, a screening test for autoimmune diseases that shows what antibodies are present in a patient’s blood. “From our studies, we will gain a better understanding of the immune system of lupus patients that will hopefully lead to the discovery of new drug targets for treatment.”

Another research project Choi is involved in is investigating the increased risk of cardiovascular disease in lupus patients. She is designing a lupus specific calculator tool that will accurately predict the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and stroke in lupus patients to help identify high-risk patients and hopefully prevent the disease outcome.

“The goal of my research projects is to evaluate biomarkers that will help with the diagnosis and prognosis of lupus with the hope of improving overall disease outcome so patients can live longer with fewer complications.”

For more information about the McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health, click here.

Dr. May Choi, MD, FRCPC is a rheumatologist and an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the Cumming School of Medicine. She is the associate director of MitogenDx and the associate director of the University of Calgary Lupus Centre of Excellence and a member of the McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health.