Solving a complex disease requires a comprehensive strategy

I just visited, the online community of the Society, and I was struck by something that I also hear as I meet people with MS around the country. This is a complex disease. More than 80 online discussions are posted about symptoms – and they’re all different topics: “Arm pain,” “Shaky,” “Numbness in fingers,” “Restless leg syndrome”…the list goes on.  

This is why a comprehensive approach to research is so essential – we need to find lots of different therapies that can stop the disease, but we also need to find other intervention options that can improve the symptoms that affect people with MS. That’s why we’re supporting 50 studies addressing symptoms, exercise and rehabilitation, with the goal to improve mobility, fatigue, strength, walking, spasticity, cardio fitness, cognition, and preventing falls. And to enhance research in this area, we have a special training program for rehabilitation research.

Here are just a few examples of how the scientists funded by our research programs are addressing the complex set of symptoms that goes along with the experience of having MS:
  • Using hypnosis and biofeedback to see if people achieve better control of their pain (University of Wisconsin)
  • Determining whether aerobic exercise can improve cognition and brain health (UCLA)
  • Testing whether cycling can actually reduce muscle spasms (University of Chicago)
  • Exploring whether improvement in balance control can reduce the fatigue that many people with MS experience (University of Colorado)
  • Investigating the potential of molecules found on nerve fibers as possible therapies for treating cognitive problems in MS (Johns Hopkins)
  • Examining the effects of an inexpensive stimulant medication on balance and walking (VA Medical Center, Portland)
  • Testing a possible treatment for lung function and cough abnormalities that can occur in people with MS (University of Ottawa) 
We have also supported and spearheaded this research through our therapy development subsidiary, Fast Forward, LLC, providing seed funding to get companies through the early stages of advancing treatments that can restore function. Here are a few examples:
  • We are partnering with Accera, Inc., and the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine in a clinical trial to determine potential benefits of Accera’s medical food, Axona® (caprylic triglyceride), on cognitive impairment in people with MS. I’m very excited by this project because we haven’t seen a “medical food” studied before – read more about it here.
  • We are collaborating with Concert Pharmaceuticals Inc. to fund the preclinical advancement of C-21191, a neurotransmitter-modulator with potential to improve both spasticity and pain in people with MS. Fast Forward is providing the support to get this treatment ready for clinical trials in people with MS. Read more here.
  • Fast Forward’s investment in the preclinical development of a spasticity treatment by Canbex Therapeutics Ltd., has led to the company’s ability to recently leverage this funding to complete a $3.2 million-fundraising round that will now enable it to finish early development of this therapy.
I believe that our research funding programs have to take on the same complexity as the disease itself, and continue to be striking in their diversity and willingness to ensure that no opportunity is wasted in taking any approach necessary to restore function to people with MS.
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Timothy Coetzee, PhD

Dr. Timothy Coetzee, National MS Society Chief Advocacy, Services and Research Officer, has been a leader in the pursuit of innovative ways to move us closer to a world free of MS since receiving his PhD in microbiology and immunology in 1993. 

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  • johan   Jul 2, 2013 2:58 PM
    Since being diagnosed April 2012 (but having serious MS problems since November 2011) I use the word nebulous to describe the disease. My dream is to understand why and where this thing came from. Once we know why it occurs in us humans then maybe we can combat it. But thank you Dr. Coetzee and everyone who has gotten us to this point of understanding and treatment. Thank you.
  • Bob N   Jul 2, 2013 3:45 PM
    How about just REAL food? I am just shocked how I never see anything about truly proper diet and the work of people like Dr. Terry Wahls. I have been Paleo for more than a year and all of my symptoms have virtually disappeared. I know when I eat the junk most people think is healthy but really are "food-like substances" because I feel the numbness and vibrations come right back.
  • Karen Phillips   Jul 2, 2013 4:25 PM
    More research on PP MS!! My balance is bad along with my voice and intentional trimmers of my hands!! HELP!!
  • Dolores Czeszel   Jul 2, 2013 5:09 PM
    Let's try the Sativex from Canada!!! Better than a brain virus that can kill you don't ya think?
  • Dolores Czeszel   Jul 2, 2013 5:12 PM
    Oh... and cutting out the milk REALLY helped my husband! The protein in milk mimics the protein in the mutated immune cells and "feeds" them!
  • Margaret Geisler   Jul 2, 2013 5:49 PM
    Is there anything on the horizon to help people with secondary progressive MS? My beautiful daughter is wheelchair bound and I so want to help her get
    some of her body use back. Oh please answer me please.
  • Margaret Geisler   Jul 2, 2013 5:49 PM
    Is there anything on the horizon to help people with secondary progressive MS? My beautiful daughter is wheelchair bound and I so want to help her get
    some of her body use back. Oh please answer me please.
  • Vivian   Jul 3, 2013 7:48 AM
    What about living with Rheumitoid Arthritis and Multiple Sclerosis?!! Cause the pain is real intense and heat from the sun is bad but heat for pain is good?! =.\ double whammy
  • Avatar
    april-bowman  Jul 3, 2013 9:47 PM
    I would like to know more about MS and mother passed in 1988 from complications, I was diagnosed in 1997 and I also have a cousin who has the disease. This worries me what lies ahead for my two young children.
  • Debra Schlueter   Jul 5, 2013 12:58 PM
    This disease is fighting to over take me, I will win! " Se`to don `tet."
    It's all in my head! I am in control, maybe a step or two slower, but in control. I began with Avonex Dec. 2001, Now I use auto injectable pen Avonex. It's great to know research is on the move...I am looking for a neurologist, one that won't treat me like a blond step child. Once a race horse, now I only think about it... Lake County,IL THE LORD GAVE us this house, 3 blocks from a beautiful lake & 3 blocks from the METRA train line. M.S. is a physical draw back, not a spiritual one. Slow & steady works for me and Jesus keeps me from stumbling over ruff spots that jump out of the shadows. My husband is my Hero and he takes wonderful care of me. I am so thankful for all that the Lord Jesus Christ has given me. M.S. is only for a short time, Jesus Christ is for eternity.
  • kelleyb   Jul 6, 2013 11:52 PM
    I found out I had ms 3 yrs ago and my pain keeps getting more intense and I do everything my doc tells me now they think I may have ra also please tell me what u recommend to do for this pain please I can't take it anymore .
  • Patt LaPorte   Jul 11, 2013 8:38 PM
    for my daughter, age 27 who was diagnosed with RRMS 17 months ago. She was prescribed COPAXONE. Her co-pay WAS $35.
    JULY 1st, EMBLEM HEALTH transitioned into PRE-EXISTING CONDITION INSURANCE PLAN. NOW, her COPAY WILL BE $600 this month, plus $403 monthly for the policy. She will have to GO OFF the RX because she MAKES TOO MUCH MONEY...but can't AFFORD the medication.! ... please advise .
  • pam b   Aug 29, 2013 7:33 PM
    Contact shared solutions about the copaxone directly. They helped me get the copaxone for the last yr when I had no insurance.