MS Society of Canada Grant to Support AI in Predicting Disease Course

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by Forest Ray PhD |

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The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada has awarded CA$1 million to a project helping doctors who treat multiple sclerosis (MS) patients make more personalized treatment decisions through the use of artificial intelligence (AI).

The society awarded the five-year grant (worth about $814,800) to Douglas Arnold, MD, a neurologist with Neuro (the Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital) at McGill University, with expertise in using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to assess MS and Alzheimer’s disease.

“We are entering a new era in which ‘Big Data’ and increasing computer power are making it possible to develop artificial intelligence methods capable of predicting how individual MS patients will do in the future and how they will respond to specific treatments,” Arnold said in a press release.

“Clinicians cannot make such predictions at present,” he added. “Integrating AI into the clinic will allow clinicians to adapt treatments to each individual patient’s unique circumstances, to help ensure a better outcome.”

AI describes the use of computer algorithms to identify patterns within large amounts of data, and develop hypotheses based on the analyses of those patterns.

Arnold’s project will use a particular AI approach called “deep learning,” in which inputs — such as clinical and MRI data — undergo successive layers of analysis. Arnold and his group plan to use clinical and imaging data, covering more than 10,000 MS clinical trial participants over the past 20 years, to develop an evidence-based tool to predict likely patient outcomes.

Outcomes include likely future brain lesion formation, increases in disability, relapses, and response to various disease-modifying treatments, along with how certain one can feel about each prediction.

Understanding these likelihoods can help clinicians make better-informed decisions, earlier in the disease’s course, regarding effective treatments.

The MS Society of Canada launched the AI & MS Discovery Grant program in 2019, with financial support from TD Bank. The program seeks “transformative ideas” aimed at using AI to improve the treatment and prognosis of MS by leveraging existing clinical and patient data.

“This is an exciting project that focuses on harnessing state of the art technology in AI to support evidence-based decisions for both the clinician and the person living with MS,” said Pamela Valentine, PhD, president and CEO of MS Society of Canada.

“This technology has the potential to empower both MS physicians and people with MS in shared decision making about the best treatment choices earlier in the course of the disease in the hopes of achieving better health outcomes for the person living with MS,” she continued.

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