Province to fund ‘observational’ study on MS treatment

The province is set to provide $1 million for an ‘observational study’ on venous procedures including the ‘Zamboni Treatment’ for people with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Local officials are pleased to see the province moving forward with the study as it will bring the entire course of the controversial treatment into sharper focus.

“We feel that it’s important to get everyone’s story and experiences,” said Lorraine Evans-Cross, executive director of the MS Society Canada – Central Alberta chapter. She said with MS affecting people so differently, the treatment outcomes tend to vary in the short, medium and long-term.

“If this opens up an avenue for more information, then that’s great.”

Paolo Zamboni, a Italian vascular surgeon, introduced the procedure last year. He believes MS is not an autoimmune condition but a vascular disease he calls ‘chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency’ that can be corrected by surgery.

Zamboni believes MS is caused by clogged veins, and he first performed surgery on his wife. Her MS symptoms disappeared. He later tested it on 65 patients, and 73% of them had no symptoms two years after surgery.

Provincial funds for further clinical trials will also be handed down if and when it is safe and ethical to proceed, states a release.

“In my discussions with MS patients and advocates, researchers, neurologists and other medical experts, we agreed that an observational study would be very helpful,” said Gene Zwozdesky, health and wellness minister.

The three-year study will begin next spring.

“Our government is committed to help build the body of evidence that will provide a clear indication, one way or the other, about the safety and effectiveness of this new treatment. This study is an important step in that process.”

According to the MS Society of Canada, Canadians have one of the highest rates of MS in the world and it’s the most common neurological disease affecting young adults in Canada.

Every day, three more people in Canada are diagnosed. Women are also more than three times as likely to develop MS as men.

Also, MS is unpredictable, affecting vision, hearing, memory, balance and mobility. Its effects are physical, emotional, financial, and last a lifetime. There is no cure.

Meanwhile, researchers from the University of Calgary, the University of Alberta, and other experts will conduct the study.

“This study is a response to the remarkable interest amongst MS patients in the new MS treatment proposed by Dr. Zamboni,” said Dr. Tom Feasby, dean of the University of Calgary’s faculty of medicine.

“It will help us understand the experiences of MS patients having this intervention, including any complications.”

The goal of the study is to determine the safety and patient-reported impact of chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI) treatment procedures.

To date, the venous procedures are not approved for use in Canada. Patients have flown to other countries, including Poland and India, to undergo the operation. Albertans who have received treatment for CCSVI in another country, those who are scheduled to receive it and others with MS will be eligible to participate in the study.

An MS research website and database will also be developed where Albertans can volunteer and consent to participate in the study as well as report on treatment they have received.