Recruitment of 1,000 people with multiple sclerosis, and development of a holistic picture of the factors and interactions that lead to progression in MS – these are just a couple of the tasks that the research team leading the Canadian Proactive Cohort Study for People Living with MS (CanProCo) are ready to take on. So, let’s meet the internationally known researchers committed to establishing a Canadian cohort of people with MS.
The CanProCo is divided into three key pillars: neuroimaging, neuroimmunology and epidemiology/health outcomes. The researchers leading these pillars differ depending on their area of expertise.
Dr.Jiwon Oh is Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Neurology at the University of Toronto, staff neurologist at St. Michael’s Hospital and scientist at the Keenan Research Centre of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute. Dr. Oh is dedicated to leading the charge against MS through her continued ground-breaking research efforts and is the lead investigator for CanProCo. “I was drawn to the fact that MS is a rapidly changing and developing field, and the change that has taken place in the past decade has resulted in tangible benefits for patients,” said Dr. Oh. In addition to leading the cohort, Dr. Oh is one of three lead investigators working on the neuroimaging pillar. The goal of the imaging will be to identify microstructural changes in the brain and spinal cord that are associated with the onset and rate of progression in MS.
Co-leading the imaging pillar are Drs. Shannon Kolind and Roger Tam. Dr. Kolind is Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of British Columbia. Her first introduction to MS was when her grandfather was diagnosed, which was before magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was available.
Dr. Tam is Associate Professor in the Department of Radiology at the University of British Columbia. “I have been interested in medical imaging for many years, and imaging is an important tool in MS research and clinical care,” said Dr. Tam. “Improvements in imaging, promising therapies, and recent advances in machine learning are all exciting developments that inspire me.”
Dr. Alexandre Prat will lead the neuroimmunology pillar. Dr. Prat is Associate professor and Neurologist at Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM) and Professor of Neurosciences at Université de Montréal. The neuroimmunology pillar will focus on identifying biological factors or biomarkers potentially associated with the onset and rate of progression in MS. Why should patients participate in the cohort? “To help us understand what leads to progressive disease in MS,” answered Dr. Prat. “We can only do that by evaluating all aspects of MS disease, from environmental factors, demography, biology, radiology and response to therapy, he added. “It is undeniable that my patients and my desire to improve their lives are my greatest sources of inspiration to continue advancing MS research.”
The research team for the neuroepidemiology/health outcomes pillar is co-led by Drs. Larry Lynd, Scott Patten, and Anthony Traboulsee. Researchers in the neuroepidemiology/health outcomes pillar aim to identify environmental factors, comorbidities, patient characteristics and health system factors that are linked to the onset and rate of progression. This team will also look at the health economic impact of disease progression and how the degree of burden differs by various patient characteristics. Dr. Lynd, Professor and Director of the Collaboration for Outcomes Research and Evaluation at the University of British Columbia (UBC) Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences said, “The ability for us to link epidemiologic, clinical, imaging, and neuroimmunology data within a predictive modeling process is unprecedented. Thus, the relationship and collaborations between epidemiologists, biostatisticians, clinicians, imaging experts, and neuroimmunologists will provide the best evidence possible to support the prediction, and ideally prevention, of MS progression.”
When asked about the importance of patient participation, Dr. Patten, Professor at the Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, stated, “None of the scientific goals could be accomplished without the participation of patients and the results of the study may have the ability to influence policy and practice in ways that can benefit patients in the near term.” Dr. Traboulsee, Professor in the Department of Medicine (Neurology) at the University of British Columbia believes, “seeing the positive impact research and care has on MS patients in the clinic is incredibly rewarding.” The information discovered from the cohort will be important to “advocate for resources for people with MS,” said Dr. Traboulsee.
These world-renowned researchers and their many collaborators have taken on the CanProCo initiative with the purpose of making a difference in the lives of people living with MS. “These insights will allow us to understand how progression occurs, which will enable the development of better treatments, and management strategies to slow and prevent disease progression in MS. All of these efforts will ultimately allow an improvement in the quality of life of people living with MS in Canada, and across the world,” said Dr. Oh.
To read more about the study and learn more about these researchers, visit the study page.