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

Marie Vaillant is a volunteer with the MS Society of Canada. She began volunteering at the Society in 1996 at a MS Bike event and her involvement grew from there, taking on more responsibilities and a number of leadership roles within the Ottawa chapter and Ontario division. In 2018, she co-chaired the MS Society of Canada’s Listening 2.0 Task Force that surveyed over 6000 Canadians affected by MS and she is currently a member of the Strategic Planning Committee that is helping to define the Society’s strategy moving forward. Marie also donates her time to serve as an ambassador, advocating for people affected by MS to government at both the provincial and federal levels.

Marie has always volunteered for organizations that make a difference in her community, so once she was diagnosed with progressive MS, Marie decided to turn it into a positive. “Volunteering gave me the opportunity to use the skills acquired during a 25-year career in the telecom industry and put them to use in leadership roles at the MS Society of Canada,” says Marie. She is inspired by the commitment of others that live with MS, who volunteer, fundraise and advocate to improve the quality of life of others living with MS. Her commitment to make a positive difference for people living with MS was recognized in 2011 when she received the Sir David Flavelle Award. This award is given to a volunteer that inspires hope and courage through their positive attitude while living with MS.

As a person living with progressive MS, Marie is most excited about the research being undertaken by the MS Society of Canada as a partner in the International Progressive MS Alliance. The development of new therapies capable of halting progressive MS and managing the symptoms are critically needed for progressive MS. Over the last year, Marie has also participated in three research projects funded by the Society related to fatigue and diet for example and feels like this is her way of contributing to the research effort. “I view the research funded by the MS Society as critical to uncovering the cause, repair and treatment options for those with MS. In addition, research can also identify effective interventions to enhance wellness, improve quality of life and manage symptoms,” says Marie.
Research Events and Funding Opportunities

MS Bike gears up!

Canadians come together in their communities to fundraise for MS and participate in the MS Bike. Take the next step and join us as we work to build a more hopeful future for Canadians living with MS. Visit the MS Bike page for more information.

endMS Conference 2019 December 8-11, 2019 (Calgary, Alberta)

The endMS Conference is the largest scientific meeting focused on multiple sclerosis (MS) in Canada. The conference aims to highlight the latest MS research that is providing a better understanding of the mechanisms of disease and new treatments and will explore how research can be translated in to programs and policy.

This event brings together researchers, trainees, and other key MS stakeholders to exchange knowledge and will feature scientific lectures, multi-stakeholder panel discussions, scientific poster sessions, trainee workshop, and networking opportunities. The conference is focused on four key themes: advance treatment and care, understand and halt disease progression, enhance well-being and prevent MS.

Registration is now open - deadline for abstract submission is August 15; registration deadline is October 25. For more information visit our website.

MS Society will provide travel awards to trainees attending the ISN satellite meeting on myelin biology

The 14th Satellite Meeting on Myelin Biology will be held from August 1-4, 2019 at Le Baluchon Eco-Resort in Saint-Paulin, Quebec. This meeting will bring together investigators and trainees and will include topics such as myelin stability and plasticity, demyelination, immune trafficking and demyelinating disease. The MS Society of Canada will provide up to five (5) travel awards in the amount of $1,000 each to trainees who work on MS and whose abstracts are accepted for poster or oral presentations.

For more information about the conference and to register, visit the meeting site.

Global Agreement on Standards for Clinical Trials Involving Children and Adolescents with MS

While multiple sclerosis (MS) is typically diagnosed in young adults aged 20-49, MS also affects children and adolescents. Typically, disease modifying treatments for MS are only tested in adults, providing little information on the safety and efficacy of new treatments in children and adolescents. Regulations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Medicines Agency (EMA) aim to ensure that medicines for use in children are of high quality, ethically researched and authorized appropriately with evidence on use of medicines in children. As a result, there is a need to better understand when and how to involve children and adolescents in clinical trials by exploring the complex feasibility and ethical issues related to pediatric clinical trials for the development of standardized practices globally.

In January 2018, the International Pediatric multiple sclerosis (MS) Study Group (IPMSSG) —a group of 165 care providers, representing 44 countries, dedicated to optimizing worldwide care, education and research in pediatric MS —convened a meeting with the steering committee and key stakeholders to review and reach consensus on updated recommendations for clinical trials involving children and adolescents with MS. This meeting was sponsored by MS Society of Canada and the National MS Society (U.S.). The updated recommendations from the IPMSSG will help to address the need for high-quality evidence on the effectiveness of new disease modifying therapies for the optimal treatment of children and adolescents with MS.

The IPMSSG published their consensus recommendations in the journal Neurology.

MS Society of Canada announces $1 million in support of a collaborative project that promises to unravel the factors involved in disease progression in multiple sclerosis

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada announces $1M for a collaborative team grant led by Dr. Jennifer Gommerman at the University of Toronto to study the molecular factors that govern multiple sclerosis (MS) progression. This project aims to shed light on how most people with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) (RRMS) transition to a secondary progressive phase of MS (SPMS) and will help explain why many of the current MS drugs are unable to effectively treat SPMS. Dr. Gommerman and team believe that the immune system and CNS are linked and that the interaction between the two systems is what drives progression in MS. This research study aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the factors activating microglia throughout the transition from RRMS to SPMS. Furthering our understanding of immune cells and their by-products can be used to identify new potential therapeutic drug targets to treat progressive forms of MS.

For more information refer to this link.

MS Society supports clinical trial on lipoic acid for the treatment of progressive MS

There is a need for treatment options in progressive MS. Currently, there is only one approved disease-modifying therapy for progressive MS which is limited to early primary-progressive MS. Lipoic acid (LA) is an inexpensive, natural, antioxidant with multiple biological effects that have shown benefit in the disease processes associated with progressive MS in both animal models of MS and in small human trials. LA had a beneficial effect as seen on brain MRIs and maintaining walking speed in a pilot trial of LA in secondary progressive MS.

The MS Society of Canada is partnering with the National MS Society (U.S.) to fund a clinical trial to determine if the oral supplement, LA, is an effective and safe treatment for progressive forms of multiple sclerosis. The research team, led by Dr. Rebecca Spain, a U.S. based researcher and clinician, at Oregon Health & Science University will enroll 118 participants with progressive forms of MS across multiple sites in North America. In Canada, Dr. Mark Freedman, from the Ottawa Hospital and University of Ottawa, will be recruiting participants for the clinical trial. If results are positive, LA may become an inexpensive, safe and easily accessible treatment for progressive forms of MS.

Additional information can be found here and in the FAQ.
Research Spotlight

Supporting the next generation of MS researchers, featuring Asanga Weliwitigoda

The MS Society supports the next generation of MS researchers. In our blog series, Faces Behind the Science, we provide an opportunity to learn more about the people working behind the scenes to make breakthroughs in MS research. Subscribe to the blog for more information.

This month we feature Asanga Weliwitigoda, a postdoctoral fellow at the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason. Asanga Weliwitigoda’s research goal is to understand how a protein (DOCK8) that is in immune cells can alter neuroinflammation. DOCK9 may be a potential therapeutic target to treat MS.

To learn more about the researcher and her project, visit our blog here.
Spotlight: MS Society Funded Researcher

Dr. Anthony (Tony) Traboulsee, Professor, Medicine (Neurology), University of British Columbia

Dr. Tony Traboulsee is a Professor of Neurology and Research Chair of the MS Society of Canada at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He is the Head of the multiple sclerosis and NMO Program at UBC Hospital.

His research focus is on establishing new imaging tools for monitoring remyelination in Multiple Sclerosis. He was the lead author on Consortium of MS Centers international Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) guidelines for diagnosis and treatment of MS and co-author on the International Panel Diagnostic Criteria for Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorder and the International Panel Diagnostic Criteria for Multiple Sclerosis.

Dr. Traboulsee is also an investigator on Canadian Prospective Cohort Study to Understand Progression in MS (CanProCo). CanProCo aims to recruit 1,000 participants from across Canada to collect data from neuroimmunology, epidemiology, and imaging to gain insights into the various factors that contribute to progression in MS.

Did you know?

The underlying cause of MS is not well understood. Researchers are investigating risk factors that may be involved in the MS, such as infectious agents, environmental factors, and genetics. In combination, these risk factors are thought to play a role in the onset of MS. Refer here for more information on risk and prognostic factors.
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:

Cognitive Impairment Experienced During Multiple Sclerosis Relapses

MS relapses typically are characterized by new symptoms, lasting for at least 24 hours, due to inflammation in a new area of the brain. This study wants to determine how cognition, which is your ability to learn, think and remember things, is affected when individuals experience an MS relapse. Cognitive impairment due to a relapse may not be as readily identified as physical effects of a relapse, but can be identified by cognitive testing measures. Cognitive testing involves the use of simple tasks to assess a wide range of mental abilities, including attention, memory, problem solving, language skills, etc. and provides a way to measure the cognitive changes that occur during a relapse by comparing the scores gathered before a relapse to the scores gathered during a relapse.

Location: University of Western Ontario, London, ON

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

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