MS Society of Canada Backs Study of Exercise and Rehabilitation in Aiding Cognition in Progressive Patients

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by Mary Chapman |

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With a $5 million grant, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada (MSSC) will support an 12-week international study to determine the effects of cognitive rehabilitation and aerobic exercise on those with progressive multiple sclerosis (MS), it was announced in a news release.

The investigation is being touted as the first clinical trial of this scale to combine these two interventions with the goal of improving cognition in affected patients.

Recruitment has not yet started for the study, to be led by Anthony Feinstein a neuropsychiatrist with the University of Toronto and Sunnybrook Research Institute whose research and clinical work focuses on MS.  A question-and-asnwer session concerning the trial is set for Thursday, Sept. 20, at 1:30 ET on MSSC’s Facebook page. Information on this study can also can be found here.

Considered an “invisible” symptom, cognitive dysfunction can affect up to 70 percent of those with progressive Ms. Such impairment can have a major impact on employment, relationships, and everyday living.

To pinpoint a prospective treatment for cognitive difficulties that  often affect memory, attention spans, and thought processing speeds, investigators will test whether cognitive rehabilitation or exercise, or a combination of the two, looking for improvements in cognitive ability.

Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) is the only therapy available in Canada for primary progressive MS patients, approved for those with early stage disease in February. Among this study’s goals is the potential to induce a new treatment option for the disease’s progressive form. Globally, Canada has one of the highest rates of the disease.

“Collectively, across six countries, we hope to improve the quality of life for those living with this unpredictable disease,” said Pamela Valentine, president and chief executive officer of the MSSC.

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“The MS research community understands the need to further develop options for all stages of MS but there’s a large group of individuals with progressive MS who often feel they’re being left behind” Feinstein added. “This clinical trial addresses their needs in a substantial way. We’re looking at combined interventions and results that will be applicable across countries and cultures.”

The trial’s 15-member team investigators from the United States, Denmark, Italy, Belgium and England, in addition to Canada.

It will enroll 360 progressive MS patients from 11 medical centers across countries represented. Participants will be divided into groups and given either cognitive rehabilitation, aerobic exercise, or both for 12 weeks. A subgroup of 120 patients will undergo magnetic resonance brain imaging to see whether cognitive improvement is also linked to changes in lesions and brain atrophy, as well as improved regional brain activation during cognitive tasks.

“We’re all desperately seeking a cure, the reality is, there is time before then,” said Beverley MacAdam, a relapsing-remitting MS patient who volunteers as a community member of the MSSC’s research review panel. “Research like this is crucial. It will allow people living with MS a better quality of life and to make MS the subtext to how they live each day.”

Thursday’s Facebook Live Q&A will feature Feinstein, MacAdam, and the society’s research team. The $5 million grant is supported by an anonymous donor, the release states.

MSSC provides programs and services for those living with the disease and their families, and funds research to help improve the quality of life for multiple sclerosis patients.

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