New Research Study Investigates Earliest Predictors of MS Across Diverse Groups to Identify People At-Risk of Worse Disability Outcomes

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MS Society of Canada partners with National MS Society to support a Canadian-led study investigating the MS prodrome

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada (MS Society) is proud to announce a partnership with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) to support a study that aims to understand the “MS prodromal” period -- an early set of signs and symptoms indicating onset of a disease before more typical symptoms or signs appear. Prodromal stages are well-recognized in other neurodegenerative and immune-mediated diseases and emerging evidence supports the presence of a prodromal period in MS.

The partnership was launched early this year with a call for proposals focused on the early detection of MS prior to the accumulation of neurological deficits. Following a rigorous review progress, a Canadian-led study conducted by Dr. Helen Tremlett at the University of British Columbia was one of the 13 proposals selected.

Dr. Tremlett and her team will examine the prodromal period by identifying predictors of MS across different groups of people in the years before MS onset in a cohort of more than 250,000 people in Canada (in British Columbia and Ontario) and Sweden. They will use health administrative databases, workplace data and patient registries to understand the features of the prodrome and how they differ in relation to key sociodemographic factors, including biological sex, socioeconomic status, birth country and disease course, such as those living with primary progressive MS versus relapsing-remitting MS. They will also examine how these features impact disease progression. The researchers will use advanced machine learning techniques to help identify predictors and patterns from the data.

“Through this partnership with NMSS, we are focusing on identifying those at greatest risk for this chronic disease,” says Pam Valentine, President and CEO, MS Society of Canada. “A better understanding of the prodrome means potentially delaying the onset of MS through earlier treatment, creating more targeted therapies or even preventing it from developing in the first place.”

“We’re pleased to partner with MS Society of Canada to learn more about early detection of MS,” says Cyndi Zagieboylo, President and CEO of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. “We will do whatever it takes to identify MS before it takes hold so people can get on a treatment as early as possible to minimize disability caused by MS. The MS Society of Canada is providing wonderful leadership around this important work.”

In prior studies, Dr. Tremlett and team have shown evidence of a prodromal period for at least five years prior to the onset of MS symptoms. Their findings indicated higher rates of hospital and physician visits, and an increase in prescription drug use in the five years leading up to MS onset, relative to the general population. These included higher rates of common health issues, such as pain, sleep disorders, anemia, fatigue, mood and anxiety disorders, and migraine headaches.

“Our team is very excited about being able to further our understanding of the prodromal period in people living with MS in different populations in Canada and Sweden,” says Dr. Tremlett. “We hope to discover clusters of signs and symptoms that could help identify someone in the MS prodromal phase.”

To learn more about this research study, click here.


About multiple sclerosis and the MS Society of Canada

Canada has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world. On average, 12 Canadians are diagnosed every day. MS is a chronic autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord). It is considered an episodic disability meaning that the severity and duration of illness and disability can vary and are often followed by periods of wellness. It can also be progressive. Most people are diagnosed with MS between the ages of 20 and 49 and the unpredictable effects of the disease will last for the rest of their lives. The MS Society provides information, support and advocacy to people affected by MS, and funds research to find the cause and cure for the disease, bringing us closer to a world free of MS. Please visit or call 1-800-268-7582 for more information, to get involved, or to support Canadians affected by MS by making a donation.

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Kristin Harold

MS Society of Canada