MS Society calls for research into experimental therapy
Yves Savoie, the president and CEO of the MS Society of Canada, speaks with CTV News on Monday, Nov. 23, 2009.
Published Monday, November 23, 2009 10:01PM EST
The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada is calling on researchers to submit proposals for funding into research on a new theory about the cause of MS, following a report from CTV's W5.
The revolutionary treatment was devised by Italy's Dr. Paolo Zamboni, who theorizes that multiple sclerosis is actually a vascular disease that can be treated with a simple surgical procedure to open up blocked veins, called "the liberation treatment."
He believes that vein disorder that he's called Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency (CCSVI) is what set in motion the neurological symptoms of MS.
On Saturday, CTV's W5 aired a full report on Zamboni's theories, which caught the attention of MS sufferers across the country and elsewhere.
While the MS societies in both Canada and the U.S. were initially reticent to support Zamboni's theory, the head of the MS Society of Canada said Monday his groups finds the research "exciting" and is planning on thoroughly funding more studies.
"We are launching a request for a proposal for operating grant applications that will look at CCSVI in MS," Yves Savoie, the president and CEO of the MS Society of Canada, told CTV News.
Last year the charitable organization donated about $10 million to research into treatments for MS.
Zamboni, a professor of medicine at the University of Ferrara in Italy, has conducted research and found that nearly 90 per cent of MS patients in his study groups had a narrowing, twisting or outright blockage of the veins that are supposed to flush blood from the brain.
He also found that blood of his MS patients was "refluxing" and flowing back upwards to the brain, which he theorizes sets off a number of reactions, including possibly the symptoms that characterize MS.
With the "liberation" procedure, Zamboni inserts a tiny balloon into these blocked veins to "liberated" the flow of blood out of the brain.
In his small study of 65 patients who underwent the "liberation" procedure, to be released tomorrow in the Journal of Vascular Surgery, Zamboni says that 50 per cent of patients with the most common form of MS were relapse-free for at least 18 months.
In a control group of MS patients who did not undergo the procedure, only 27 per cent went 18 months without an MS attack.
Additionally, only 12 per cent of patients in the surgery group had brain lesions -- a sign of active disease -- compared to 50 per cent in the control group.
The MS Society of Canada still stands by earlier statements that CCSVI has not been proven to be the underlying cause of MS, but it says that due to the overwhelming public interest following the W5 story, it wants to fund research to either support or refute the theory.
However, Savoie says "it doesn't mean we're taking away money from other promising avenues" such as stem cell research.
Doctors treating patients with MS are also expressing concern that some patients have called to ask if they should stop their current treatment.
"To people with MS we say: don't abandon the course of treatment that you have started," Savoie said. "Those treatments have been proven in large trials to be effective in reducing the burden of disability that comes with MS."
Fifteen years ago there were no treatments for MS, while today there are six approved drug therapies.
Many people contacted CTV looking for information on how to join a study looking at the prevalence of CCSVI at the Buffalo Neuroimaging Analysis Center, which is looking for U.S. and Canadian patients.
The MS Society says it is up to the patient, in conjunction with the advice of their doctor, whether to investigate experimental tests and procedures.
With a report from CTV's medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip