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Research in Action - March 2018
Research in Action Newsletter
March 2018
Latest research news and updates from the MS Society of Canada
Research Profile

Maheen Ceizar first discovered her passion for science while studying towards her Master’s degree in Neuroscience at the University of Ottawa. Her final project focused on the survival and death processes that regulate stem cells in the adult brain. “During my Masters, I discovered my passion for science and the excitement that surrounds new discoveries. Particularly, about how discoveries fit into the field like a missing piece of the puzzle a puzzle that takes years, if not decades to put together,” she says. Her passion then led her to pursue her Ph.D. degree in Cellular and Molecular Medicine again, at the University of Ottawa.

Maheen’s journey then brought her to the MS Society of Canada where she is able to continue facilitate her passion for science and new discoveries as a Research Specialist. This was a great fit for her as her main role is to communicate the latest findings and discoveries in the MS field to the MS Community. Having the neuroscience background as well as coming from a lab setting where she regularly had to translate what she was trying to discover to those without a scientific background made this fit a no brainer!

When asked what motivates her about her work she answers, “Each individual has a different set of motivations but what I’ve constantly hear from people is that you need to be happy with the work you have to do on a daily basis.” And working with likeminded individuals is definitely a bonus for her. “The team of co-workers I work with are amazing which is an added motivation to continue contributing to such a great organization with an amazing mission.”
Research Events and Funding Opportunities

MS Society research team will be reporting live at the 2018 American Academy of Neurology (AAN) Annual Meeting

The 70th AAN Annual Meeting will be held in sunny Los Angeles, California from April 21-27. The AAN Annual Meeting is the world's largest gathering of neurologists, bringing together more than 10,000 neurology professionals across the globe to network, discuss cutting-edge research, and take part in top-rated education programming across a wide variety of topics, including multiple sclerosis. There was a high demand for information on MS and diseases relating to brain inflammation. To highlight this need, sessions will be focused on pediatric MS, manifestations of the disease, clinical advances, disease-modifying treatment and symptom management.The MS Society research team will be on-site to attend the presentations and poster sessions and share the latest MS research updates from the conference on Twitter (@Dr_KarenLee), and the research blog (www.drkarenlee.ca). Visit the AAN website for more information on the meeting.

MS Walk and MS Bike gear up for another season!

The MS Society’s MS Walk and Bike season are upon us. Every spring more 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 page for more information.

Attend the MS Society of Canada hosted webinar on Coping with the uncertainty of MS

The MS Society of Canada has an upcoming webinar on April 12, 2018 11:00-12:00 PM PDT as part of the National Education Webinar Series on “Successfully riding the waves of emotion: Coping with the uncertainty of MS.” Dr. Donna Paproski, a psychologist in British Columbia, and Ms. Gabrielle Veto, an individual living with MS for over two decades, will present on exploring ways of adapting with MS just when stress and uncertainty of the chronic conditions starts to take a toll on your life. Visit the webinar website for more information and to register.
Research Spotlight

Study in mice identifies antidepressant, Clomipramine, as a promising new therapeutic for progressive MS

The drivers or mechanisms that lead to damage in progressive MS are unlike those in relapsing-remitting MS—hence different approaches are needed to identify novel therapeutics. Progressive MS causes damage to mitochondria (powerhouses of the cell), accumulation of iron-mediated neurotoxicity which leads to oxidative stress or damage in the brain along with immune cell overactivity while maintaining an intact blood brain barrier. This means it is essential for progressive MS drugs to be able to permeate the barrier to enter the brain. An effective treatment for progressive MS will need to address all these factors. A recently published study in Nature Communications screened generic drugs to identify potential therapies that could target the damage caused in progressive MS. Read what the researchers found here.

ZINBRYTA (daclizumab) voluntarily withdrawn from market worldwide

On Friday March 2, 2018, Biogen Canada and AbbVie announced the voluntary withdrawal of ZINBRYTA® (daclizumab) from the market worldwide due to safety concerns. Eight reports of brain inflammation (encephalitis and meningoencephalitis) were reported in Europe in individuals being treated with daclizumab. According to Biogen, given the nature and complexity of adverse events being reported, further assessment of the benefit/risk profile of ZINBRYTA® will not be possible going forward given the limited number of patients being treated. Biogen is working closely with regulatory authorities, such as Health Canada, and healthcare providers to support people treated with ZINBRYTA®. For more information, check out the news update.

MS Society supports two new translational projects on progressive MS in collaboration with Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD)

Translational research is a high-risk, iterative phase of the drug development pipeline that involves a lot of trial and error to assess if the drug will be safe and produce a beneficial effect in animal models of the disease. Key questions are answered about a potential drug in translational research: How quickly is it absorbed? How is it distributed to different tissues? How is it metabolized and excreted? At what dose is the drug toxic? These are all crucial questions researchers must answer to ensure that their compound will be both effective and safe in humans. We announce the support of two translational research projects that were recently funded in collaboration with Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) that could lead to the development of disease-modifying therapies for people living with progressive MS. Read about the projects here.

Celebrating International Women’s Day and Brain Awareness Week

To recognize International Women’s Day on March 8th, Dr. Karen Lee highlights the research projects conducted by a couple of the female researchers we support that are working tirelessly to find ways to improve the quality of life of all people living with MS. Brain Awareness Week also happens in March. In recognition of this week, we posted a blog that discusses brain health in multiple sclerosis with a focus on the MS Brain Health Report. Check out both posts on drkarenlee.ca.
MS Society Funded Research

This month we are featuring a project led by Dr. James Mariott, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine (Neurology) at the University of Manitoba. Dr. Mariott obtained his MD from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario and completed a Master’s in Clinical Epidemiology from University of Toronto. Dr. Mariott then went on to post-doctorate training in a Multiple Sclerosis. Dr. Marriott’s research interests revolve around clinical trials that test disease-modifying therapies in MS, specifically focused on treating symptoms such as fatigue.

Dr. Mariott was awarded nearly $70,000 in the 2015-2016 Annual Competition to carry out a project that examines the impact of DMTs on relapse rates and health care utilization. To maximize a drug’s potential, we need not only to understand its immediate effect, but also its effect in the long-term. Dr. James Marriott and his team will study the long-term benefits of various MS drugs, such as interferons and glatiramer acetate. For each drug, the research team will address a number of questions: how often does a person with MS visit their doctor while on the drug? Is the person hospitalized more or less frequently as a consequence of taking the drug? And, how well does the drug protect against relapses long-term? The research team is developing computer programs that will allow them to input all data from administrative sources to quickly assesses how often people on a MS drug had a relapse or used health care system in any way compared to people not on an MS drug. This project will help persons with MS and their doctors to make more informed decisions about current MS treatments.

Dr. Marriott is also one of the co-investigators on the MESCAMS clinical trial which is, in part, supported by the MS Society of Canada. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are an area of intense research focus due to their remarkable ability to reduce harmful inflammation and promote healing of injured tissue. However, it is not currently known whether MSC can benefit people affected by MS. This unresolved question has culminated in the launch of a phase II clinical trial that aims to determine if treatment with autologous (originating from the same person receiving treatment) MSCs in people with MS is safe, can reduce harmful inflammation in the brain, and possibly contribute to repair of the central nervous system. Interested in participating? Check out our Get Involved in a Research Study below.

Did you know?

The MS Society of Canada announced the funding decisions for the 2018 - 2019 research grants and awards competitions. The Society congratulates the applicants who have been awarded funding and acknowledges the hard work and dedication to MS research of the many applicants. Check out the recipients of the operating grants and personnel awars on the funding announcements webpage.
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:

MEsenchymal Stem cell therapy for CAnadian MS patients MESCAMS.

MESCAMS is a part of a multi-national clinical trial which will involve at least 160 persons with MS in 9 countries, including Canada. Each study participant will receive intravenous treatment of their own bone marrow extracted mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) either at the start of the study or at 24 weeks. Those who do not receive MSC will instead receive a placebo (mock) solution. Comparing those that receive MSC versus placebo will distinguish the actual effects of the stem cells. Unlike previous studies involving transplantation of hematopoietic stem cells to re-boot the immune system, there is no requirement for chemotherapy in MESCAMS. There is also no concerns regarding rejection of the cells as they are harvested from the individuals receiving the treatment (i.e. they are autologous stem cells). The trial began in early 2015 and is expected to complete recruitment by mid 2018. For more information please visit the study page on the MS Research Portal.
In Other MS News...
Interested in a research topic or event that was not covered? Submit your feedback to msresearchgrants@mssociety.ca.
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