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

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

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.


  1. Terri says:

    You’ve got to be kidding me!!

    Why don’t you take the 5 million dollar grant and focus on finding the cause and cure!
    This study is ridiculous. How many more times do we have to prove that exercise helps?
    Maybe when your family member gets Ms you’ll start focusing on studies that matter!!

  2. Senator says:

    I`m sorry, but this is a weak response to the Primary Progressive MS disease for Canadian patients.I have been living with PPMS since 2011. How long does a person now have to wait until possibly some help can come their way ? I recently completed my first full year on Ocrevus and it has helped me tremendously. Their is not an age or amount of time restrictions in the US for Ocrevus. When Ocrevus became available, my Neurologist quickly got me approved and I started the treatment. In the short period I have been on Ocrevus, I have experienced the following. Alleviated pain in feet and calves, that if untreated can cause terrible pain, that on a scale of 1 – 10, with ten being worst, I could hit an 8, which would interrupt sleep at night. Solumedrol used to handle the pain, but being a strong steroid, it was good getting off of it. Calming my shaky hands so I can write legibly again. Renewed my ability to sweat again. I am able to tolerate heat better, and do chores around house without getting so fatigued. I can only fathom what it would be like with this disease, and having a drug readily available but told I can`t have it because of cost effectiveness. Instead we will do a study on exercise to see if that will help people with PPMS, so stay tuned to see what transpires on that in a couple of years.

  3. Senator says:

    Why is the donor anonymous ? Strange that the person making this donation would not want their name or foundation name attached to it. And why with this amount of money, wasn`t it applied to the cost Of Ocrevus, so that the Canadian Govt does not have to pay the full amount of treatment ?

  4. Jaded but Hopeful says:

    I am 72 years old and was diagnosed with Chronic Progressive MS in 1987, at the age of 41. This was the beginning of the use of the MRI to confirm an MS diagnosis with the finding of “white spots” on the brain. During these last 31 years I have seen many hopeful “cures” and treatments come and go; I have donated money to our Dallas MS Clinic for RESEARCH, but still there is slight, if any, new information or meds for this type of MS. I agree wholeheartedly with Terri’s comments on 9/17/18! I personally suspicion that this anonymous $5,000,000 has come from a type of rehab equipment company who plans to market a new device that will “cure or reverse”, worldwide, all Chronic Progressive MS side-effects…, not.
    BUT, hope remains. There is an International PROGRESSIVE MS Alliance, established in 2012 between six founding members (the MS societies of CANADA, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK, the USA, and the MS International Federation). There are currently in 2018, seventeen PROGRESSIVE MS Alliance members. There are also 16 Trust and Foundation members, including our own Dallas, Yellow Rose Gala Foundation, where 100% of the net proceeds raised go directly to the National MS Society and this collaborative network of PROGRESSIVE MS Research:

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