Happy New Year! It’s the time of year many of us make that list of New Year’s resolutions whether it’s being healthier, getting organized, being happier or something else. For many of you affected by MS, one hope you have is to stay well through your very personal journey.
Happily, 2018 seems promising for another year of discoveries. The MS Society continues to fund some of the world’s most groundbreaking MS research—research that has improved quality of life for people affected by MS. So here’s to another year of life-changing scientific advances like those we saw in 2017:
- The publication of the results of the minocycline clinical was one of the biggest highlights of 2017. This MS Society-funded clinical trial showed that minocycline reduces the risk of developing clinically definite MS in individuals with early signs of MS. Since treating a first clinical demyelinating event as early as possible is a key step in reducing the likelihood of developing MS, the possibility of access to an effective and low-cost treatment like minocycline is extremely exciting. This unique Canadian research study was designed and conducted by Canadian researchers and involved Canadian patients. The MS Society of Canada and MS Society Scientific Research Foundation have been behind this work from start to end-from funding the initial basic biomedical science study published by Dr. V. Wee Yong and his team in 2002 to the most recent success of Dr. Metz and her team in the final phase III clinical trial. See the news update for details.
- Health Canada approved two disease modifying therapies (DMTs) for the treatment of relapsing-remitting MS. In August, Roche’s Ocrevus™ which targets white blood cells called B cells -known to be involved in the abnormal immune response in MS- was approved based on the results from two pivotal phase III clinical trials called OPERA I and OPERA II. Health Canada also approved EMD Serono’s disease modifying therapy, Mavenclad™ (oral cladribine) which selectively targets and accumulates in certain types of white blood cells (lymphocytes), such as disease-causing T cells. Approval of Mavenclad™ by Health Canada is based on results from the phase III clinical trial called CLARITY. With the approval of these two DMTs, there are now 15 disease-modifying therapies available for Canadians diagnosed with RRMS.
- Going from the bench-to-bedside is no swift or easy feat as the minocycline story above shows. Promising results from the bench or discovery phase rarely make it to the translational phase as it requires careful research to assess if the drug will be safe and effective. Funding of translational research has declined, resulting in a critical gap that has caused the translation of new research discoveries into treatments to fall behind. The MS Society of Canada is addressing this gap by supporting research in the translational phase. In 2017, we continued our collaboration with Fast Forward (a non-profit subsidiary of the National MS Society- U.S) and Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) to fund two more promising projects. With Fast Forward, the MS Society funded Fang Liu from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, Ontario for the top-ranked proposal testing drug-like compounds that could be used to halt the neurodegenerative process in MS. Dr. Phillipe Séguéla will work with CDRD to identify compounds that could limit neurodengeration in progressive MS by targeting the way that cells in the brain communicate with each other. By collaborating these two organizations are leveraging their expertise in drug development; funding from the MS Society will enable the advancement of their research through a critical stage of preclinical development towards a transformative treatment option.
With these exciting discoveries and developments in 2017, I can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store for us in research and innovation in MS.
Wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2018!