Sunnybrook Magazine – Fall 2018

$5-million grant for MS research awarded


(Photography by Kevin Van Paassen)

For many people living with progressive multiple sclerosis (MS), treatment options can be limited or non-existent.

Dr. Anthony Feinstein, director of Sunnybrook’s neuropsychiatry program, has been awarded a $5-million research grant to help change that.

The grant, awarded by the MS Society of Canada, will allow Dr. Feinstein to bring together a dozen leading experts from six countries – including Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Italy, Denmark and Belgium – to study treatment options for patients with progressive MS who are experiencing cognitive decline, a common symptom of the disease. Up to 70 per cent of people living with progressive MS report some degree of cognitive dysfunction, making it a challenge to hold a steady job, maintain relationships or go about daily activities. A chronic disease that affects the central nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves, MS can cause problems with vision, balance, muscle control and other basic body functions.

“By looking at the impact [that] cognitive rehabilitation and exercise has on patients, we hope to show that a combination of these two therapies results in better outcomes than either one on its own,” says Dr. Feinstein,
who is spearheading the research.

The study will enroll 360 people with progressive MS from 11 medical centres, and a select number of patients will also receive an MRI before and after treatment to see whether cognitive improvement is linked to positive brain changes.

Noting that the research is the first of its kind to include such a large number of patients and centres, Dr. Feinstein says, “This study has the potential to define the most effective treatment for cognitive dysfunction in people with MS, positively impacting many lives.”