Over $2.4 million has been committed by the National MS Society (USA) and the MS Society of Canada to support 7 new research projects focusing on the role of CCSVI (chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency) in MS.
Initial seven funded studies
The work of the researchers in these initial studies will not involve the actual treatment of CCSVI, but rather the investigation and determination of its prevalence in different circumstances
The funded teams, which include an integration of MS and vascular experts, are:
Studying vein abnormalities in children and teenagers who have MS, and healthy controls of the same age
Dr. Brenda Banwell, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario: the team is seeking to determine whether the veins are abnormal at an early age among pediatric MS patients. These findings will add additional depth to studies of CCSVI in adult MS.
Examining a cross-section of people with MS compared to other neurological diseases and healthy volunteers
Dr. Fiona Costello, Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta: the team is seeking linkages between vein abnormalities and different aspects of MS activity and tissue damage to gain insight into the significance of differences in vein drainage and their implications for the future treatment of MS.
Using magnetic resonance (MRI) scans to generate detailed images of the head and neck veins in people with early and later MS, healthy volunteers, and controls with other neurological conditions
Dr. Aaron Field, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison: this team is also using the ultrasound techniques originally used by Dr. Zamboni. If they obtain similar results as those published by Dr. Zamboni, it would represent a powerful confirmation of the CCSVI hypothesis and help lead the way toward trials of appropriate treatment.
Studying people with MS or who are at risk for MS (CIS) and comparison groups including healthy volunteers and people with brain atrophy (shrinkage) from Alzheimer’s disease
Dr. Robert Fox Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland: this team is using the ultrasound techniques originally used by Dr. Zamboni, as well as magnetic resonance studies of the veins (MR venography), MRI scans of the brain, and clinical measures to determine MS activity and atrophy. They are also examining neck and spinal cord tissue from MS patients at autopsy to provide a tissue-based evaluation of CCSVI and its possible relationship to MS.
Employing powerful MRI technology to explore vein anatomy and assessing for iron deposits in the brains of people with MS and in age-matched healthy volunteers
Dr. Carlos Torres, The Ottawa Hospital, University of Ottawa, Ontario: these studies work towards mapping out normal variations in brain vein anatomy and providing insight into CCSVI in MS.
Studying the prevalence of CCSVI in people with MS and controls without MS, using catheter venography, ultrasound, and magnetic resonance venography
Dr. Anthony Traboulsee, UBC Hospital MS Clinic, UBC Faculty of Medicine and Dr. Katherine Knox, Saskatoon MS Clinic, University of Saskatchewan: unique to this study is the inclusion of family members, such as identical twins of MS patients who have not developed MS, in control groups. They also hope to verify the usefulness of techniques that would make it easier to screen for CCSVI.
Replicating the ultrasound methods used by Dr. Zamboni to investigate the association of CCSVI with major clinical types of MS and in non-MS control groups
Dr. Jerry Wolinsky, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston: the team is also testing whether other imaging methods can confirm the ultrasound findings, while identifying the most reliable technique to screen for CCSVI.
All research applications underwent a rigorous expedited review process by an international review panel that included experts drawn from all key relevant disciplines including radiology, vascular surgery and neurology. The U.S. National MS Society and the MS Society of Canada worked collaboratively to assemble the reviewers who considered scientific merit, responsiveness to the Request for Applications, experimental design, likelihood of producing definitive data, and the experience of the applicant teams in making their recommendations.
These studies are necessary because we don’t yet know whether, or if so how, CCSVI contributes to MS disease activity. They will achieve several important goals. First, the studies are carrying out significant steps needed to confirm the phenomenon originally described by Dr. Paolo Zamboni who reported abnormalities in the veins draining the brain and spinal cord in people with MS and resolve the questions raised by him and others as to whether CCSVI is a cause of MS or related to MS in some other manner. Second, these studies will determine how frequently CCSVI occurs in MS, and how often it occurs in people who do not have MS. Third, if blockages are found, the findings will speed the way to determining whether therapeutic trials to correct them will be helpful in improving or altering MS disease process. Although there were a number of promising submissions, for this initial round of grants, the international review panel recommended studies they agreed combined the strongest science with the research goals necessary to most quickly determine the scope and meaning of reported abnormalities in blood drainage from the brain and spinal cord in MS. It is hoped these findings will provide clarity regarding the need for next-step therapeutic trials to correct such blockages as Societies around the world pursue. The two-year grants began on July 1, 2010.
As part of our commitment to keeping people with MS and the public informed of progress, researchers have been providing 6-month interim updates to the National MS Society on their grant progress, and we have been posting information as it becomes available.
The U.S. and Canadian MS Societies are working with the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation and other MS Societies from around the world to ensure coordination of information and to share research data from ongoing work that is underway around the world – further speeding progress.
Additional research opportunities
New CCSVI grants are only one of many exciting research avenues that address ways to stop MS progression, restore function and end MS forever. To support MS research, including CCSVI research, please have individuals email their full name and contact information to email@example.com.