It’s time for our annual Fall Progress Report, highlighting some of our many accomplishments in 2019 and sharing with you, the many acts of greatness performed by the MS community. We’ve made tremendous strides towards our vision of a world free of MS, funding ground-breaking research and helping improve the lives of people affected by MS.
The facts about MS and children
Dr. Brenda Banwell’s study, Canadian Pediatric Demyelinating Disease, launched in 2004 led to a greater understanding of MS in children. Dr. Banwell’s team has spent the last 15 years monitoring 585 children and collecting information about their symptoms, family history, physical and cognitive health, and taking blood samples and brain MRIs to support research.
Through this research, Dr. Banwell’s team discovered that around 1 in 100,000 Canadian children experience a first demyelinating attack of what might be MS each year. While 90% of children recover from this attack, around 20% of those children will go on to be diagnosed with MS. An important goal for the study is to uncover why some children develop MS while others only experience a single attack.
The study also demonstrated that the children who were diagnosed with MS were more likely to have contracted the Epstein Barr virus (EBV) and have lower vitamin D levels. They also had an imbalance between “good” immune cells, which fight off infections or other foreign bodies and “aggressive” immune cells which attack the person’s own body (autoimmune).
Read more about the study here.
Awards and grants
With our Annual Research Competition, the MS Society of Canada is dedicated to investing in transformative research with the potential to benefit people living with MS. This year, we’ve awarded over $4.5 million in grants to 15 research projects.
- Dr. Ruth Ann Marrie’s study, Comorbid cancer in multiple sclerosis (CCIMS): Diagnosis and outcomes, will investigate if people with MS have a higher risk of cancer and the likelihood of having their cancer detected through screening. Through this three-year study, Dr. Marrie’s team hopes to change the way cancer screening, prevention and care are managed in people living with MS.
- Dr. Michelle Ploughman’s study, Intensive training to improve walking and enhance remyelination and neuroplasticity in MS, combines aerobic exercise with walking to see whether the combination boosts the brain’s ability to repair itself. This study hopes to discover which aspects of brain repair are connected to walking recovery and provide a new therapy option for people with MS.
- Dr. Wee Yong’s study, Hierarchy of inhibitors in the lesion microenvironment for remyelination: combining a novel CNS-targeting therapeutic with exercise to promote repair, examines different factors that may hinder myelin repair and tests whether certain factors are stronger than others. Dr. Yong’s findings will be crucial to finding new remyelination strategies and ways to overcome obstacles to myelin regeneration.
Connecting the MS community: Heidi’s story
Heidi Pylypjuk was diagnosed with MS when she was 12 years old. Overcoming years of challenges, Heidi now thrives as an avid member of the MS community, leading a support group and becoming a Community Representative with the MS Society of Canada. Through her efforts, Heidi lends a helping hand to others living with MS by reviewing research applications, with the hope that she can offer a patient’s perspective to the research supported by the Society.
“When research is more relatable and easy to understand, it increases the likelihood for patients to implement new findings into their day-to-day lives,” says Heidi. “The value of the research will ultimately become stronger because of this patient-engagement component.”
Read more about Heidi’s story here.
Dr. Jennifer Gommerman takes on progression in MS
The MS Society is pleased to have invested $1 million towards Dr. Gommerman’s study focusing on secondary-progressive MS (SPMS). Dr. Gommerman’s team will compare brain tissue samples of people who had SPMS with those with other types of inflammation to examine how the immune system and central nervous system interact on a molecular level to ultimately drive progression in MS.
Read more about Dr. Gommerman’s study here.
Update: The Canadian Prospective Cohort Study to Understand Progression in MS (CanProCo)
Hoffmann-La Roche Limited (Roche Canada) invested over $2 million to the CanProCo study! The first study of its kind, the CanProCo team is comprised of renowned MS researchers from across Canada, will follow thousands of Canadians living with MS to learn more about disease progression.
Read more about the CanProCo here.
To learn more about everything we’ve done this year, read the full Fall Progress Report.