MS Society of Canada MS Society of Canada
Research in Action - December 2020
Research in Action Newsletter
December 2020
Latest research news and updates from the MS Society of Canada

Camille Alam

This year, the research team at the MS Society of Canada welcomes Dr. Camille Alam in the role of Research Specialist. Camille graduated from Queen’s University with an Honours BSc in Biochemistry. She most recently obtained a PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Toronto, where she studied the mechanisms of folic acid delivery to the brain in order to develop treatment strategies for early childhood neurological disorders.

Camille brings with her diverse experience and knowledge in the areas of neuroscience and health sciences. She is thrilled to be part of the MS Society of Canada and looking forward to supporting the advancement of scientific research in the field of MS.
News & Events

Priority Setting in Multiple Sclerosis: International Survey

The Cochrane Multiple Sclerosis Group is running a survey collecting your views and ideas about research priorities for systematic reviews on multiple sclerosis. They are using the survey to identify and prioritize which questions in MS they should focus on in the coming years.

This is a unique opportunity for the MS community to influence their work and get answers to questions that are most important to them.

The short questionnaire (10-20 min) is now open and available until December 20, 2020 in 11 different languages to help people directly express their views:

Additional information is available in this link:

COVID-19 & MS: A Global Data Sharing Initiative to Understand the Impact of COVID-19 on People Living with MS

A global effort is underway to understand the impact of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, on people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) and other CNS demyelinating diseases (Neuromyelitis Optica, or MOG antibody disease). Through a COVID-19 & MS global data sharing initiative, participating countries are capturing and sharing data to understand the effect of COVID-19 on people with MS and other demyelinating diseases. COViMS (COVID-19 Infections in MS & Related Diseases) is the North American effort to capture clinical information from health professionals on outcomes of people with MS who have developed COVID-19.

Additionally, people living with MS, whether they have experienced any symptoms of COVID-19 or not, can directly contribute to this global data collection effort by completing a survey on the platform most appropriate to them.
Treatment Updates

Health Canada Approves Enspryng (satralizumab) for Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorder

Health Canada has approved Enspryng (satralizumab), the second disease modifying therapy available for adults and young people from 12 years of age, living with neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD) who are aquaporin-4 antibody (AQP4-IgG) seropositive. Health Canada’s approval of Enspryng, marketed by Hoffman-La Roche, is based on results from two pivotal phase three studies, SAkuraSky and SAkuraStar.

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Health Canada Approves Oral Zeposia (ozanimod) for Relapsing-remitting MS

Zeposia (ozanimod) is a sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) receptor modulator, taken orally once daily and is indicated for relapsing-remitting MS. Ozanimod works by entering the central nervous system (CNS) and binds to specific subtypes of the sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) receptor, S1P1R and S1P5R. The S1P receptor is found on the surface of specific immune cells called T cells and B cells that play a role in causing damage to the CNS in MS. By binding to the S1P receptor, ozanimod prevents these harmful immune cells from being activated and released from the lymph nodes and thymus gland into the blood circulation and, hence, the brain and spinal cord.

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Research Updates

Dietary interventions may delay MS onset and progression

Diet, obesity, and related comorbidities are risk factors for MS as they can contribute to the activation of immune cells. Scientific evidence shows that intake of methionine, an essential amino acid found in high levels in meat-based diets, is associated with T cell activation. In a collaborative study led by Dr. Russell Jones and Dr. Catherine Larochelle, they found that methionine fuels the immune response by allowing T cells to replicate and differentiate so they can respond better and more quickly. These reprogrammed T cells can then cause inflammation by releasing harmful inflammatory molecules called cytokines. When dietary consumption of methionine was restricted in a mouse model of MS, there was a slower disease onset and progression.

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Understanding the emotional impact of COVID-19 on individuals with progressive MS

Dr. Anthony Feinstein’s CogEx research team, which comprise of site investigators from Canada, United States, Italy, UK, Denmark and Belgium, examined the impact of the pandemic on people living with progressive MS by administering a COVID Impact Survey. Survey responses were then compared to pre-COVID data to determine the effects of the pandemic on the participants’ emotional well-being and overall quality of life.

The results indicate that people with progressive MS in this study coped well with the pandemic and that the lockdown did not seem to have a negative impact on their emotional well-being and quality of life. Focusing on healthy lifestyle activities, such as physical and cognitive exercises, may have helped these individuals adapt more effectively to the situation and mediated the negative effects of the pandemic on their well-being.

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Update: COVID-19 in People with Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

A global data sharing initiative (COViMS) was established in response to the new coronavirus and a need for evidence to guide clinical management of MS during the pandemic. The initiative seeks to understand the risks of COVID-19 in people with MS and whether disease modifying therapies (DMTs) affect COVID-19 disease course or outcomes.

From an initial analysis of the global data, older age, progressive MS, higher disability (non-ambulatory status), chronic renal disease, and cardiovascular disease were risk factors for poorer outcomes. There was no clear association found between a specific therapy and death when you adjust for the variables: age, sex, ambulatory status and comorbidities.

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Stay Updated!

endMS Personnel Award Competition Announced:

The MS Society of Canada's 2021-2022 Personnel and Fellowship Research Grants and Awards Competition is now open. Submission deadline for applications is December 15, 2020 at 16:00 Eastern Time. The MS Society is dedicated to supporting research that will lead to major advances in our understanding of multiple sclerosis (MS). We ask researchers and Principal Investigators to encourage trainees to apply for the endMS Personnel Awards.

Please direct all inquiries regarding the funding opportunities to
Get Involved in a Research Study
The MS Research Portal is a resource provided by the MS Society of Canada that aims to connect Canadian researchers seeking participants for studies with people affected by MS who want to get involved in research. Each month, this section will highlight a select study hosted on the Portal. This month’s feature study is:

Cannabis Use in People with Multiple Sclerosis

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the prevalence of cannabis use in people with MS, as well as its perceived efficacy in treating a variety of symptoms and attitudes toward its use. There has yet to be a study like this performed in Canada since recreational cannabis has been legalized. Given that cannabis likely has therapeutic promise in managing MS symptoms, it is important to learn what patient experiences have been up until now to determine an appropriate starting point for further research. The results of this study will provide a snapshot of the current usage patterns and perspectives on cannabis use in people with MS within a legal context, providing direction for further clinical research and development of therapeutic regimens with the potential to improve quality of life in MS patients by providing effective alternatives to traditional methods of symptom management.

This study consists of a single cross-sectional questionnaire that will be made available to participants online and should take no longer than 15-20 minutes to complete. Subsequent statistical analyses will be conducted to characterize the sample population and evaluate the prevalence, perceived efficacy and negative effects, dosage, and commonly used forms of cannabis used by study participants. These parameters, as well as attitudes of different sub-populations of participants toward medical cannabis use, will also be analyzed to determine whether there are any significant differences between groups of participants.

For additional information and details to participate in the study, please visit the study page on the MS Research Portal.

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