Ottawa leads first Canadian clinical trial of mesenchymal stem cell therapy for multiple sclerosis

Posted on Thursday, January 29, 2015

Today, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and the Multiple Sclerosis Scientific Research Foundation announced a $4.2 million grant to support the first Canadian clinical trial of mesenchymal stem cell therapy for multiple sclerosis (MS), led by Dr. Mark S. Freedman of the University of Ottawa and The Ottawa Hospital.

Mesenchymal stem cells, or MSCs, can be found in adult bone marrow, fat and skin tissue, as well as umbilical cord blood. Like other kinds of stem cells, MSCs can become more specialized types of cells, however they show greater therapeutic potential in their ability to modify the immune system, reduce inflammation and release factors that help prevent and repair tissue damage.

The trial, called MESCAMS (for MEsenchymalStem cell therapy for CAnadian MS patients), will evaluate the safety and potential benefits of MSCs that have been extracted from the participant's own bone marrow, expanded in a specialized laboratory and then infused back into the same participant.

“Previous clinical trials have shown that mesenchymal stem cell therapy is well-tolerated in humans, and there are some preliminary signs of effectiveness in other diseases,” said Dr. Freedman, director of the Multiple Sclerosis Research Unit at The Ottawa Hospital, professor of neurology at the University of Ottawa, and senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. “I'm very excited to be leading this study, which will provide more definitive answers for people living with multiple sclerosis.”

In addition to its clinical trials at The Ottawa Hospital, MESCAMS will be conducted at Health Sciences Centre (HSC) Winnipeg under the leadership of Dr. James J. Marriott of the University of Manitoba. Moreover, MESCAMS is also part of a larger, international research effort to study MSCs led by Dr. Freedman and Dr. A. Uccelli of Genoa, Italy. The international effort will pool together scientific resources and expertise from nine countries worldwide, and will also help develop an international consensus on safe protocols for MSC therapy. MESCAMS aims to recruit 40 patients (20 at each Canadian site), which represents one quarter of all international participants. The Ottawa site has received ethics and regulatory approval, and is currently screening patients for recruitment.

For more information, please see the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI) press release.

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