Finding a new therapy for MS

A thousand new cases of multiple sclerosis are diagnosed every year in Canada, and the national MS Society estimates that 55,000-75,000 Canadians are living with this disabling disease of the central nervous system.

Assistant professor of neurology Anthony Traboulsee is working towards finding a new therapy based on the theory that MS patients have a blockage of veins in the head and neck that prevents the proper drainage of blood from the brain. It is thought that the iron-rich blood that pools as a result of the blockage damages brain tissues.

The validity of the theory – known as Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency (CCSVI) – will be tested in a clinical trial led by Dr. Traboulsee, who is medical director of the UBC Hospital MS Clinic, and president of the Canadian Network of MS Clinics. As well as neurologists, the multi-disciplinary team includes vascular radiologists, MRI specialists, cardiologists and ethicists.

The team will enroll 100 subjects for the trial and patients will be randomized to receive venoplasty treatment (using a balloon to open the narrowed veins) or a sham treatment (the equivalent of a placebo). Each group will “cross over” to the other treatment after a year, so all patients will eventually receive the venoplasty.

“This pan-Canadian controlled study will allow us to monitor MS patients over a two-year period and obtain scientific evidence on the safety and efficacy of the CCSVI procedure in the long term,” says Traboulsee.

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