The Government of Alberta is investing CA$1 million into a research project that will follow for years a group of people with multiple sclerosis — with varying disease types and at differing stages — to better understand progression in MS.
The province’s contribution brings to more than CA$10 million (about $7.6 million) the total raised for the initiative, officially called the Canadian Prospective Cohort Study to Understand Progression in Multiple Sclerosis, or more simply, CanProCo. Two of its five research sites are in Alberta.
One of the biggest challenges faced by MS patients is disease progression, which is associated with significant disability. While considerable progress has been made in MS research, mechanisms that drive progression occurs are still not fully understood.
Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world, with more than 93,500 people estimated to now be living with the disease in that country.
CanProCo hopes to shed light on why some people with MS progress while others don’t, and to identify factors associated with disease progression and establish strategies that help to manage it. Researchers also want to assess the impact of MS on patients and the Canadian healthcare system.
Researchers intend to carefully select a group of MS patients with differing disease subtypes and stages, and follow them for at least five years, collecting data “to gain insight into various factors that contribute to progression in MS, starting from the underlying biology of the disease extending all the way to evaluating how patient, treatment, disease subtype, environmental, and health systems factors interact to impact progression in MS,” CanProCo states.
The initiative brings together almost 50 leading MS researchers across Canada, and is centered at five sites: the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary, both in Alberta; St. Michael’s Hospital, part of the University of Toronto; the University of British Columbia; and Centre de Recherche du CHUM.
Alberta is the first province to coordinate and collaborate in this program. Its investment, which was both supported and organized by Campus Alberta Neuroscience (CAN), will leverage research expertise in the province.
Scott Patten, MD, at the University of Calgary, is the project’s co-principal investigator. Penny Smyth, MD, with the University of Alberta and Luanne Metz, MD, from the University of Calgary are principal investigators for these two Alberta sites.
“I’m very pleased to welcome the Government of Alberta as a partner of CanProCo,” Pamela Valentine, PhD, president and CEO of Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, said in a press release.
“Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world and we need to have partnerships like these, which bring together different sectors like government, industry and non-profit organizations, to combat this disease. As an Albertan myself, it gives me great pleasure to see the province of Alberta join us in our mission to have a world free of MS,” Valentine added.
CanProCo is led by an MS researcher and neurologist, Jiwon Oh, MD, PhD, at St. Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto. In addition to Patten, other co-prinicipal investigators are Shannon Kolind, PhD, Roger Tam, PhD, Anthony Traboulsee, MD, and Larry Lynd, PhD, all with the University of British Columbia; and Alexandre Prat, MD, PhD, with CHUM.
Over the course of at least five years, Oh and her team will gather patient data, and analyze it to gain a better understanding of each patient’s MS experience. Through the results generated, researchers hope to improve diagnostic testing, treatment, long-term monitoring, and possibly to prevent MS.
CanProCo will be an open access data resource, available to both the MS research community and to researchers working in other neurodegenerative disorders.