ALS Canada Research: On The Cusp of a New Frontier

TORONTO, May 2, 2013 /CNW/ - Years of steadfast Canadian commitment to advancing high-risk, high-potential research pays new dividends in the fight against ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Canadian scientists are major players on the international scene in terms of discoveries, productivity, collaborations in clinical trials and contributions to science. Based on peer-reviewed publications per capita, Canadian scientists are leaders in the G8.

From May 4-6, international researchers and members of the Canadian ALS research community will share new findings at the ALS Canada Research Forum. The research ranges from gene discovery to clinical trials. By expanding the scientific community and taking advantage of new technologies, the pace of discovery has increased exponentially. Recent advancements include:

Gene Discovery and Therapy

"Our discovery of a new gene responsible for hereditary ALS will impact the way the disease is studied worldwide," said Dr. Michael Strong, Dean and distinguished university professor, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario. "It will help us understand why motor neurons die in people with ALS."

During the forum, Dr. Cristian Droppelmann, of Dr. Strong's laboratory, will present how the gene's impact on motor neurons is now a target for potential therapies and changing clinical practices.

Dr. Charles Krieger, an ALS clinician at Vancouver Coastal Health and associate professor at Simon Fraser University, is examining a novel method for ALS gene therapy. By replacing bone marrow cells with new cells containing potentially protective genes, he hopes the natural response of the body to transport these cells to the site of disease will lead to protective effects. Dr. Kyle Peake, a postdoctoral researcher in the Krieger lab, will present a poster at the forum. He has recently received a fellowship from ALS Canada to continue this work.

Clinical Trials

"The Canadian ALS Research Network, an alliance of ALS clinics across Canada known as CALS, has recently expanded both the number and scope of clinical trials for our clients," said Dr. Angela Genge, ALS Clinic Director, Montréal Neurological Institute. "For the first time ever, CALS will be conducting at least three multi-centre trials of experimental treatments. Two of these are high-profile multi-national studies."

Dr. Lorne Zinman of the Sunnybrook Research Institute is the CALS director. Through the growth of of clinical trials in Canada, the network is hopeful they will uncover additional pathways and novel therapies to treat ALS.

Dr. Lawrence Korngut of the Canadian Neuromuscular Disease Registry is mediating a session on best clinical practices. He coins CALS an international model for collaboration in research, and a tool for expanding ALS clinical studies.

Last year, ALS Canada flowed approximately $1.6 million to support multiple research projects in Canada. "Through the support of thousands of Canadians we have continued our commitment to find better treatments and ultimately a cure for those living with ALS," said Lindee David, CEO, ALS Canada.

About ALS Canada

ALS Canada, founded in 1977, is the only national voluntary health organization dedicated solely to the fight against ALS and support for those with ALS. It is the leading not-for-profit organization working nationwide to fund ALS research and, with the Provincial ALS Societies, is working to improve the quality of life for Canadians affected by ALS. ALS is a rapidly progressing terminal disease that can affect any person at any age. To learn more about ALS, please visit


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Nic Canning

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