The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada recently published a report documenting and summarizing the most important developments in multiple sclerosis (MS) research during 2015.
In early 2015, a Society-funded clinical trial was initiated to study the potential abilities of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to treat MS. The MEsenchymal Stem cell therapy for CAnadian MS patients (MESCAMS) trial, led by Dr. Mark S. Freedman and Dr. James J. Marriott, is currently in the screening and recruitment phase. The trial is being conducted at two sites, The Ottawa Hospital and Health Sciences Centre (HSC) Winnipeg, and is based on observations that the administration of MSCs could safely suppress inflammation and repair nerve tissue. More information on the trial and patient participation is available through this link.
Research on progressive MS saw an increase in international investment. Data from a Phase 3 clinical study supported ocrelizumab as a promising first treatment candidate for primary progressive MS, reducing overall disability in patients when compared to placebo.
Other trials, including another MS Society-funded study, revealed that B cells play an important role in the mechanisms of MS disease. Namely, one specific kind of pro-inflammatory B cell that was found to be increased in MS patients; treatment with the B cell-depleting agent rituximab successfully decreased the harmful inflammatory response.
Vitamin D deficiency, a long-suspected MS risk factor, was shown in a study from McGill University to indeed be an MS trigger. This study further contributed to the growing certainty among scientists of the disease-causing effects of low vitamin D levels.
The area of wellness, which covers diet, exercise, and emotional health, also offered revealing results in studies evaluating lifestyle and the quality of life in MS patients. A specific study, from the Hospital of Sick Children in Toronto, showed that vigorous physical activity correlates with fewer relapses in teenagers.
Dr. Karen Lee, vice president of research at the MS Society of Canada, said in a Society news release, “Innovation in MS research and treatment over the last two decades has led to faster diagnoses, better disease management — 2015 marked 20 years since the approval of the first disease-modifying therapy for relapsing-remitting MS in Canada — and real hope that ending MS within our lifetime is achievable. In particular, last year we saw tangible advancement in the areas of progressive MS, wellness and lifestyle, discovering more about the possible triggers of MS and new treatment opportunities with the use of stem cells.”
The MS Society, along with the affiliated Multiple Sclerosis Scientific Research Foundation (MSSRF), provides support to multiple sclerosis patients and their families, and funds research into the disease and its potential treatments.