Canada, World’s Multiple Sclerosis Capital, Launches 3-Way Collaboration to Research MS Progression

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by Patricia Silva, PhD |

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Canadian flag flies proudly in front of the Notre Dame Basilica in Montréal, Québec. (Photo credit: Larry Luxner)

Three Canadian entities — Toronto-based Biogen Canada and the MS Society of Canada, and Montreal-based Brain Canada — have jointly invited researchers to establish a multiple sclerosis (MS) progression cohort in Canada.

The $7 million nationwide MS Progression Cohort offers a timely opportunity to investigate some of the biggest challenges in curing progressive MS, such as why some patients develop progressive MS and why some don’t. The cohort will also study the actual triggers of progression, how to detect them and how they affect individuals as well as Canada’s healthcare system.

Progression mechanisms in MS are not fully known yet. The Canadian MS Progression Cohort aims to study these mechanisms from the biological, physical and socioeconomic perspectives, including  individual experiences of those living with MS. Ultimately, the objective is to connect biological, real-world and clinical findings to paint a realistic picture of progressive MS and what it’s like to live with the disease in Canada, which has the world’s highest incidence of the disease, by far.

According to the 2013 MS atlas, produced by the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation, Canada ranked first with 291 cases per 100,000 people, followed by Denmark (227), Sweden (189), Hungary (176), Cyprus (175) and the United Kingdom (164).

“This MS progression study is the first of its kind in Canada, and will be carried out across the country under the leadership of a multidisciplinary team of scientific experts and health professionals in the MS field,” Yves Savoie, president and CEO of the MS Society of Canada, said in a press release. “The results of this study could impact how we treat and diagnose MS — and ultimately answer so many of the questions people living with MS have about their disease and its progression.”

The collaboration will award a $250,000 planning grant to the team or teams reaching the final application stage. Interested applicants should submit a letter of intent. More about the application guidelines can be found here.

“Brain Canada is proud to partner on this innovative grant that not only supports the development of a shared data platform, but also guides its use to address specific research questions,” said Inez Jabalpurwala, president and CEO of Brain Canada. “This will strengthen the capacity of Canadian researchers who are working in the area of MS, and serve as a resource and model for research on other neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS and Huntington’s, which have some common underlying mechanisms.”

Chantal Milne, a Canadian who was diagnosed with MS in 2012, said the disease is debilitating.

“Symptoms are inconsistent and finding ways to manage the disease can be tricky. A study like this could mean an end to the guessing game,” she said. “I want to be the mom who is able to play with my daughter on the floor, for years to come. It brings me comfort to know that time and energy is being spent on research that will not only benefit me, but also future generations including my daughter’s.”


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