Agency aims to fund research into angioplasty for MS
Published Tuesday, June 15, 2010 4:45PM EDT
The Canadian Institute for Health Research wants scientists to submit grant proposals to study whether treating vein abnormalities in multiple sclerosis patients helps relieve their symptoms.
CIHR President Dr. Alain Beaudet told the parliamentary Subcommittee on Neurological Disease in Ottawa Tuesday that his agency, which is the major federal agency responsible for funding health research in Canada, wants scientists to submit proposals for such research.
"What I'm asking is for Canadian researchers to propose a protocol for a proper randomized, blinded clinical trial on the effect of this therapeutic approach," he said.
The study would look at whether balloon angioplasty to open up blocked neck and chest veins relieves MS symptoms any better than patients given a sham treatment or no treatment.
"I urge researchers interested in better understanding the linkages between MS and CCSVI to apply to CIHR," Beaudet said, noting the deadline for grant proposals is August.
"Research into clinical treatment of MS has to be accelerated."
The U.S. and Canadian MS Societies announced last week the awarding of $2.4 million in research grants to study a vein condition dubbed CCSVI, or chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency. Those studies will focus on the prevalence of CCSVI in MS patients, not on treatment.
Four Canadian universities and three American centres will begin that research later this year.
Beaudet also told the subcommittee that a special committee of experts has been formed, in collaboration with the MS Society of Canada, to analyze the data available on the theory that venous problems may be linked to some MS symptoms.
"We are asking the committee of experts to analyze what is out there... (including) contradictions in the literature (and tell us) what is needed in further studies," he said.
He noted as well a meeting of top international researchers in the field will be held in August to focus on accelerating research into MS, including research on CCSVI.
The subcommittee also heard video testimony Tuesday from Dr. Marian Simka from Poland.
Simka said he had diagnosed and treated some 347 MS patients for CCSVI, all of whom paid for their diagnosis with ultrasound and MRV and treatment at his hospital in Katowice.
He reported the procedure "was safe and well tolerated" with "few complications, no deaths, no hemorrhages, no cerebral strokes, no stent migration" in the patients he is tracking.
Simka has been using metal stents in some patients to keep veins open. The practice is controversial. One case in the U.S saw the stent fall into the patient's heart, prompting open heart surgery to remove it.
Simka also reported that 80 to 90 per cent of patients treated -- including those with progressive MS for whom there are no drug treatments -- reported improvements in one to two-month follow-up studies. He expects to publish data on his work this fall.
Also testifying before the committee was Dr. Paolo Zamboni, the Italian doctor pioneering the treatment for CCSVI. He told MPs the procedure has so far shown promising results.
The developments come on the heels of a recent study in the Annals of Neurology which found no cases of blood flow problems in the veins of patients with MS tested with ultrasound.