With a renowned researcher and her team chosen to lead it, work can now begin on the first project of its kind in Canada designed to shed more light on multiple sclerosis progression, and better ways of diagnosing and treating it.
Leading the pioneering $7 million project — the Canadian Proactive Cohort Study for People Living with MS (CanProCo) — will be Jiwon Oh, MD, PhD, a neurologist with St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Ontario. Oh will direct a team of nearly 50 multi-disciplinary MS researchers from across Canada, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and Brain Canada announced.
A neurologist and researcher, Oh’s work is focused on the development of advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques in MS. She has medical and doctorate degrees, and has completed a clinical fellowship at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Oh also helped establish the North American Imaging in Multiple Sclerosis Cooperative, which joins together academic centers that use MRI in their MS studies.
“We are thrilled to have Dr. Jiwon Oh and her research team spearhead this unique project, which focuses on answering some of the perplexing questions around MS,” Pamela Valentine, the MS Society’s president and chief executive officer, said in a press release.
“As a leader in MS research, Dr. Oh has dedicated her career to studying this disease and finding a cure. The team collaborating on this project brings a wealth of knowledge to the table,” Valentine added.
Besides seeking more information about how MS progresses, researchers will also try to figure out why, in some patients, the disease doesn’t progress. They also hope to identify progression triggers, and learn more about the management of such triggers. Additionally, the team will assess the overall effect of MS on individuals and Canada’s healthcare system.
To gain a better understanding of each patient’s unique MS journey, researchers will study patient data, taking into account socioeconomic, biological, and physical factors. Their hope is that data will lead to improved diagnosis and treatment, and prevent the development of disease symptoms.
According to the team, study results could have a positive impact on patients’ day-to-day lives, and reframe discussions around disease progression. A centralized and open patient databank could also help researchers investigate other neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Huntington’s.
Despite significant advances in MS research, disease progression is not fully understood. The CanProCo project ultimately seeks to link biological discoveries to real-world and clinical findings to generate a comprehensive picture of MS progression, with the hope of learning more about this unpredictable disease and finding a cure.
“By gaining a better understanding of MS progression, we can make a significant impact on how people manage their disease, and improve the quality of life for many Canadians,” Oh said.
According to the Society, Canada has one of the world’s highest rates of MS. Every day, 11 Canadian residents are diagnosed with MS.