For anyone suffering from multiple sclerosis, no doubt last week’s announcement of pending clinical trials for the so-called liberation therapy treatment in four Canadian cities was not only welcome, but long overdue.
As reported by the Winnipeg Free Press, Winnipeg will be one of four cities to participate in the national clinical trials that will test the safety and effectiveness of the controversial therapy.
Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced the launch of the new MS study on Friday. The first trials will begin on Nov. 1 in Vancouver and Montreal, with ethics approval from the research team expected for Winnipeg and Quebec City in the next several weeks.
The study will determine whether improving blood flow in neck veins is an effective treatment for MS.
At first, only a small group of perhaps 100 patients will take part in the initial phase of the national study. National media report that some patients will receive the actual treatment, while others will receive a “sham” treatment. No one will know which treatment they are receiving.
Medical science has taken great strides over the last hundred years by using tried and true scientific research to find both cures and treatments for various diseases and ailments that plague the human race.
The liberation treatment was pioneered by Italian researcher Dr. Paolo Zamboni in 2008, though his methods were conducted outside of accepted scientific practices.
That Canada’s medical establishment was reluctant to proceed with an unproven treatment that did not appear to have followed those strict guidelines, should not surprise anyone. It is, in fact, very important that the medical community is guided by proper research, not visceral emotion.
However, it’s also true that governments that control research funding and drug approvals can often be slow to act.
And to us it seems quite cruel to ask a person suffering from this terrible disease to be patient and to wait for the scientific process — and the necessary funding to pay for it — to either corroborate or debunk the hype, especially when anecdotal evidence suggests liberation therapy has miraculously improved the day-to-day lives of patients who have undergone the treatment.
Yet even the harshest critics of the government’s “failure” to introduce clinical trials at a brisk, if not hasty, rate, admit that the CCSVI treatment is not a cure. And in far too many cases, the expensive treatment hasn’t been effective.
As noted by The Canadian Press last week, though some patients have reported relief, others have said there has been no change in their symptoms or that results are temporary. And at least one Ontario resident has died after undergoing the treatment in Costa Rica in 2010.
So where does that leave scientific progress? Still methodically working in the background, as usual.
While it may not have lit a fire on the Internet or in newsrooms across the country, Canadian scientists are at the forefront of research into using stem cells to combat the disease. And according to the Stem Cell Network website, the preliminary results are highly encouraging.
“Phase I/II stem cell clinical trials for MS are progressing at a pace around the world — in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Israel, Germany, Australia and Japan. For the most part, these early trials are testing the safety and efficacy of stem cells …” the site states. “Capitalizing on the newly recognized attributes of stem cells while pursuing the grail of regenerative therapies will hopefully lead to the translation of novel therapies to treat MS and other neurodegenerative diseases.”
We are hopeful that the liberation treatment will prove effective at slowing or halting the debilitating effects of MS for Canadian patients. But further scientific research is required into more promising and lasting treatments that could become an effective cure for the disease.
In our opinion, it is here where government dollars should be concentrated.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 1, 2012