Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada


MS Society of Canada Supports International, Multicenter Clinical Trial to Improve Cognition in Progressive Multiple Sclerosis

  • National News Release

$5 million grant will support global study examining cognitive rehabilitation and aerobic exercise in improving cognition in progressive MS

Toronto, ON – September 12, 2018 – The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada announced today a $5 million grant in support of the first, international, multicenter clinical trial to investigate cognitive rehabilitation and aerobic exercise in improving cognition in people with progressive multiple sclerosis. The study, led by Dr. Anthony Feinstein (University of Toronto and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre) and a group of international MS rehabilitation specialists has the potential to provide a treatment option for people living with progressive MS who are affected by cognitive difficulties.

Cognitive dysfunction is considered an “invisible” symptom that can affect up to 70 per cent of people with progressive MS. This can have a serious impact on employment, relationships, and day-to-day activities. Currently, there are no effective disease-modifying therapies for people with secondary progressive MS who no longer experience relapses. There is only one therapy that is conditionally approved in Canada for early primary progressive MS.

“Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world, and we are leading this global effort to develop a new treatment option for the progressive form of the disease. Collectively, across six countries, we hope to improve the quality of life for those living with this unpredictable disease,” says Dr. Pamela Valentine, president and CEO, MS Society of Canada. “Rehabilitation strategies that help people with MS manage their symptoms are essential. With the generous support of our donors, the MS Society of Canada is proud to be investing in the first clinical trial of this international scale to combine these two interventions – cognitive rehabilitation and exercise – to improve cognition in people living with progressive MS.”

To identify a potential treatment for cognitive difficulties (attention, processing speed, memory, etc.) experienced by people living with progressive MS, Dr. Feinstein and his team of investigators are testing if cognitive rehabilitation, or exercise, or a combined approach of the two will improve cognitive function.

“Cognition is central to improving the quality of life for people living with MS,” says Dr. Feinstein. “The MS research community understands the need to further develop options for all stages of MS but there’s a large group of individuals with progressive MS who often feel they’re being left behind. This clinical trial addresses their needs in a substantial way. We’re looking at combined interventions and results that will be applicable across countries and cultures.”

“While we’re all desperately seeking a cure, the reality is, there is time before then,” says Beverley MacAdam, who lives with relapsing-remitting MS and volunteers as a community member of the MS Society’s research review panel. “Research like this is crucial. It will allow people living with MS a better quality of life and to make MS the subtext to how they live each day.”

The team of investigators for the study includes: Dr. Nancy Chiaravalloti, Dr. John DeLuca (Kessler Foundation, USA); Dr. Jiwon Oh (University of Toronto, Canada); Dr. Ulrik Dalgas (Aarhus University, Denmark); Dr. Massimo Filippi, Dr. Mara Rocca (Ospedale San Raffaele, Italy); Dr. Gary Cutter, Dr. Rob Motl, Dr. Brian Sandroff (University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA); Dr. Giampaolo Brichetto, Dr. Matilde Inglese (University of Genoa, Italy); Dr. Peter Feys (University of Hasselt, Belgium); Dr. Jennifer Freeman (University of Plymouth, England); Dr. Maria Pia Amato (University of Florence, Italy); and Dr. Jeremy Chataway (University College London, England).

The research team will enroll 360 people with progressive MS from 11 centres across six countries. Participants will be given treatment over the course of 12 weeks. Brain imaging using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) will be conducted in a subgroup of 120 participants to see whether cognitive improvement is also linked to changes in lesions and brain atrophy and improved regional brain activation during the performance of a cognitive task.

The grant announced by the MS Society of Canada and the Multiple Sclerosis Scientific Research Foundation is supported by an anonymous donor.

Join us Thursday, September 20 at 1:30pm ET on Facebook for a Facebook Live Q&A with Dr. Anthony Feinstein, Beverley MacAdam, and the MS Society’s research team. This will be an opportunity for discussion about the Team Grant and what this clinical trial means for MS research and people living with and affected by MS.

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 15 and 40 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.

About Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre is inventing the future of health care for the 1.2 million patients the hospital cares for each year through the dedication of its more than 10,000 staff and volunteers. An internationally recognized leader in research and education and a full affiliation with the University of Toronto distinguishes Sunnybrook as one of Canada’s premier academic health sciences centres. Sunnybrook specializes in caring for high-risk pregnancies, critically-ill newborns and adults, offering specialized rehabilitation and treating and preventing cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurological and psychiatric disorders, orthopaedic and arthritic conditions and traumatic injuries. The Hospital also has a unique and national leading program for the care of Canada’s war veterans.


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

Jennifer Palisoc
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

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