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Research in Action - April 2019
Research in Action Newsletter
April 2019
Latest research news and updates from the MS Society of Canada
Research Profile

The MS Society welcomes Dr. Pamela Kanellis, Assistant Vice President, Research. Over the last 10 years, she has been working with cross-sector stakeholders to support research and innovation. Most recently, she was a Senior Director, Research at the CIFAR, a Canadian-based organization that brings together interdisciplinary research networks to address questions of global importance. In addition to working with international research networks, she also led the CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars program that aims to develop the next generation of research leaders. “The most rewarding part of my work is bringing together the best minds, supporting the most promising research and then identifying opportunities to accelerate impact,” says Pamela.

Pamela previously worked at Grand Challenges Canada where she pioneered a program that sought innovative research solutions to improve treatments and expand access to mental health care in low resource settings. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a PhD in molecular genetics in the area of DNA repair and damage. She has worked in diverse areas of research and with researchers from different disciplines and says she enjoys the challenge and opportunity to bridge this knowledge.

“I am honoured to be a part of the MS Society of Canada - research is critical to furthering our understanding of multiple sclerosis and has the potential to improve the lives of those affected,” says Pamela. “We need to continue to make progress through research and I am driven to make a difference.”

You can follow Pamela on twitter @Pamela_Kanellis
Research Events and Funding Opportunities

MS Walk and MS Bike gear up for another season!

The MS Society’s MS Walk and Bike season are upon us. Every spring thousands of Canadians come together in their communities to fundraise for and participate in MS Walk and MS Bike. They take a stand against MS and support those who are affected by multiple sclerosis. Take the next step and join us as we work to build a more hopeful future for Canadians living with MS. Visit the MS Walk and MS Bike pages for more information.

MS Society partners with CIHR to fund research on cannabis

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada announced a partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to provide $1.5 million in funding for cannabis and MS research. The funding will go towards research into the use of cannabis to manage symptoms associated with MS and its effect on the disease. The $1.5 million investment will span over five years to help accelerate cannabis health research in MS. Applications involving basic science, clinical, health services, and policy research approaches will be considered. The deadline for letters of intent is May 15, 2019. Please visit the MS Society Funding Opportunities webpage for more information.
Research Spotlight

FDA approves siponimod for treatment in adults with active secondary progressive MS

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the approval of Mayzent« (siponimod) as a first-line treatment in adults with active secondary progressive MS, relapsing-remitting MS and clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), or an initial neurological event. The drug is marketed by pharmaceutical company Novartis International AG. The FDA approval of siponimod was based on the EXPAND study. Novartis has submitted a drug marketing application for siponimod to Health Canada and it is currently under review. The MS Society will continue to provide updates on Health Canada approval and drug access as they become available. For more information see here.

Roche Canada invests $2+ million in Canadian Prospective Cohort Study to Understand Progression in Multiple Sclerosis (CanProCo)

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, Brain Canada Foundation, and Biogen Canada are pleased to announce the addition of Hoffmann-La Roche Limited (Roche Canada) and its contribution of $2.125 million to the Canadian Prospective Cohort Study to Understand Progression in MS (CanProCo). This brings the total amount awarded for the project to over $9 million, which will be used to help people living with and affected by MS in Canada. For more information see here.

Development of an automated system guided by artificial intelligence that may accelerate discovery of drugs to repair damaged nerve cells

MS Society funded researcher, Dr. Timothy Kennedy, McGill University, developed an automated self-guided system to better understand specialized cells in the central nervous system, called oligodendrocytes. Oligodendrocytes are critical because they produce a protective layer, myelin, around nerve fibers. In multiple sclerosis (MS), myelin becomes damaged and is inadequately repaired. Without myelin the communication between nerve cells is disrupted, and the body does not adequately transmit the instructions necessary to perform basic functions. For more information see here.

Disability and disease progression in multiple sclerosis is linked to income and education

Dr. Helen Tremlett at the University of British Columbia and team found that people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) who live in neighbourhoods with lower levels of income and education were associated with a higher risk of disability progression. In this study, they looked at health and clinical data from over 3,000 people with MS in Canada and the United Kingdom and found that those with lower socioeconomic status (less education and lower income) were associated with a higher risk of disability progression and poorer prognosis. More research is needed to further understand this link. For more information see here.
Spotlight: MS Society Funded Researcher

Dr. Lara Pilutti, Assistant Professor, Health Sciences, University of Ottawa

Dr. Lara Pilutti is an Assistant Professor in the Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences. She obtained her doctorate degree from McMaster University (Kinesiology) where she examined the role of adapted exercise interventions for persons with progressive multiple sclerosis. Dr. Pilutti completed a post-doctoral fellowship in the Exercise Neuroscience Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). She went on to become an Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health at UIUC before joining the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Ottawa.

Dr. Pilutti’s research focuses on the role of exercise in the management and treatment of disability arising from neurological disorders, particularly multiple sclerosis. Dr. Pilutti is currently funded by the MS Society to test an innovative exercise training approach that has been effective at improving mobility in people with MS and applying it to benefit those with MS that have a walking impairment. She is using functional electrical stimulation (FES) cycling based therapy which provides mild electrical stimulation to affected muscle groups in order to enhance the capacity for exercising, improve walking, symptoms and participation in everyday life. If successful, this has the potential to advance the management of disability progression and improve the lives of people with severe MS. Learn more about Dr. Pilutti.

Did you know?

Socioeconomic status (SES) is a measure of the social standing or class of an individual or group. It is often measured by researchers as a combination of education, income and occupation. SES has been shown to be a powerful determinant of health. Generally, those with higher status are in better health than those with poorer status. SES has been linked to several diseases and conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Understanding the link and relationship between SES and MS is complex and requires more research to understand the risks associated with developing MS and how it affects disease progression so that we can advocate for changes in policies and programs to improve how we deliver care.
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:

Canadian Prospective Cohort Study to Understand Progression in Multiple Sclerosis (CanProCo)

CanProCo is an observational study of different factors thought to play a role in MS disease progression. Bringing together several fields of study is a powerful way to assess different aspects of progression in MS leading to: a better understanding of the biological mechanisms of progression, identification of risk factors for progression, development of biomarkers to monitor progression and predict treatment response, and inform strategies to improve the lives of people living with MS. All these insights have the potential to improve clinical practice, and on a larger scale, affect health policy.

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

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