Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada


MS Society of Canada Awards $1 Million to Support Research on Progression in Multiple Sclerosis

  • National News Release

New study aims to get a deeper understanding of the factors involved in progression in MS

Toronto, ON – June 11, 2019 – The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada announced today a $1 million grant in support of research to enhance our understanding of the factors involved in disease progression in multiple sclerosis. The study, Unraveling Immune cell – Microglial Interactions in Progressive MS, is being led by Dr. Jennifer Gommerman (University of Toronto) and could potentially lead to finding new treatment options for progressive MS.

By examining the molecular factors involved in MS progression, the study hopes to identify why most people living with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) transition to secondary-progressive MS (SPMS) and explain why current disease-modifying therapies (DMT) are unable to effectively treat SPMS.

RRMS is characterized by unpredictable attacks during which new or existing symptoms appear. These symptoms disappear, often entirely, in between attacks. SPMS is the second phase of the disease where symptoms get progressively worse.

“This study is an important step towards understanding the molecular factors involved in the progression of MS and ways of managing and potentially halting the disease,” says Dr. Pamela Valentine, president and CEO, MS Society of Canada. “Given the unknowns surrounding progression in MS and the limited treatment options available to manage SPMS, the results from this study could represent a turning point for people living with MS.”

Although there are currently 14 DMTs available for RRMS, few have shown limited efficacy as a treatment for SPMS because the factors involved in MS progression remain unclear. According to Dr. Gommerman and her team, there is a link between the immune system and the central nervous system (CNS) that drives progression. Building on this belief, the study will identify immune cells in the CNS and observe their interaction with other cells in the CNS. Using brain tissue samples, researchers will compare differences between the brain tissue of people with SPMS and those with other forms of inflammation to pinpoint characteristics unique to SPMS.

“Progression in MS is not very well understood within the scientific community,” says Dr. Gommerman. “Through this grant, my team and I hope to further our understanding of brain-resident immune cells and their by-products. There is an unmet need to identify factors involved in progression so that people with SPMS have treatment options that would allow them to slow or halt their disease.”

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About multiple sclerosis and the MS Society of Canada

Canada has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world with 11 Canadians diagnosed with MS every day. MS is a chronic, often disabling disease of the central nervous system comprising the brain, spinal cord and optic nerve. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 49 and the unpredictable effects of the disease last for the rest of their lives. The MS Society provides programs and services for people with MS and their families, advocates for those living with MS, and funds research to help improve the quality of life for people living with MS and to ultimately find a cure for this disease. Please visit or call 1-800-268-7582 to make a donation or for more information. Join the conversation and connect with the MS community online. Find the MS Society on Twitter, Instagram or like our page on Facebook.


Jennifer Asselin
MS Society of Canada
1-800-268-7582 ext. 3144

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