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Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Dr. Mark Freedman

Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Ottawa. Senior Scientist, the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

Dr. Freedman has devoted his career spanning 35 years to the study of immunological mechanisms that contribute to the disease MS and ways in which to successfully treat the condition.He has published over 300 papers and book chapters and has lectured extensively both nationally and internationally.His neuroimmunological work investigated ways in which the innate immune response might be playing a role in causing or extenuating the disease.His pioneering work in stem cells helped to prove the benefits of a full bone marrow transplantation in the treatment of more aggressive forms of MS.His current work involves transplanting mesenchymal stem cells to see if they will repair damage caused by MS.He also serves as the principal investigator of numerous clinical studies, most currently, the sole Canadian researcher taking part in the Lipoic Acid study for progressive forms of MS.He is currently the Director of the MS Research Unit at the Ottawa Hospital General Campus, Treasurer of ACTRIMS and co-leader of the International Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation Study.

Learn more about Dr. Freedman

How did you become interested in MS research? What inspires you to continue advancing research in this field?

I have always been interested in research stemming from my graduate work in molecular neurochemistry before entering medical school.While completing my neurology residency and working as a senior resident at the MS unit in Toronto I came across an old colleague from my graduate school days who was being admitted for a late stage treatment of his progressive MS.He challenged me to find some answers and a successful treatment and I took up that challenge.Now that we have therapies to treat the early forms of MS we desperately need ways of repairing the damage that accumulates.The fields of neuroscience, immunology and stem cell biology are advancing so quickly that I am convinced there will be an answer very soon. Until there is, I will persevere.

What do you enjoy most about doing research and what are some of the challenges you face?

The opportunity to look at my patients who so desperately call for effective treatments and say "I am trying". Current hurdles are first and foremost the lack of adequate funds followed by the increasingly complex bureaucracy imposed on researchers by institutions.

Describe the importance and level of collaboration in your research?

Single centres will never be able to prove the benefit of a given therapy so it is key to be a part of multi-centre trials to validate therapies.

How important is the support from the MS Society in enabling you to conduct research?

Extremely important as without it, few other agencies would not be able to contribute adequately to allow some of our research or trials to occur.

Why should a donor support your research, even if it’s not taking place in their backyard (town, city, province)?

The results of our clinical trials will benefit all patients, regardless of where they live in the world. Despite Canada being a big place, our centre has accepted patients from all over the country.

What is so important about this kind of research, and what would happen if there

were no funds available to support it?

Clinical trials are extremely complex and require large teams and supportive funding for those teams. Single researchers would never be able to obtain the kinds of credible answers that could only come from properly conducted multi-centre studies. In the case of this Lipoic Acid study, when there is no pharmaceutical or industry incentive to potentially earn off the results, there is also little to no support available. This medication is currently generic and relatively inexpensive, but unproven.To perform the type of study that will generate the evidence to support a claim of efficacy requires funding and this can only come from agencies such as the MS Society of Canada.

Dr. Freedman’s MS Society supported project:

Mesenchymal stem cell transplantation (MSCT): a potential cell based treatment for inflammatory forms of multiple sclerosis

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