Yukon joins MS treatment trials

Yukoners with multiple sclerosis have a chance to enter a clinical trial for the controversial Liberation Treatment in Albany, New York.

Yukoners with multiple sclerosis have a chance to enter a clinical trial for the controversial Liberation Treatment in Albany, New York.

The territory aims to send six residents afflicted with the neurological disorder to participate in the study this fall.

Last year, the Yukon government partnered with Saskatchewan, which planned to conduct its own clinical trial.

But after that province failed to find a suitable researcher, both Saskatchewan and the territory connected with the Albany study.

Liberation Treatment, pioneered by Italian researcher Paolo Zamboni, upends the long-standing medical belief that MS is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s defences begin to attack nerve endings.

Instead, Zamboni believes the disease is a result of poor blood drainage from the brain.

Backed up blood in the brain results in iron deposits, which produce the disease’s symptoms, according to this theory.

The problem is fixed with a wire and balloon inserted into the patient’s neck. The technique, called an angioplasty, is routinely used to unplug veins and arteries during heart surgeries in Canada.

Many medical practitioners remain skeptical about the treatment, which has yet to be replicated on a large scale. With the treatment banned in Canada, Yukoners, such as Tim Cant, have travelled as far as Bangalore, India, to receive the procedure.

The Albany study, led by Dr. Gary Saskin, may help change this.

The two-year study will be randomized and blinded. That means participants will be randomly divided into two groups: those who receive the actual treatment and those who receive a sham procedure.

None of the patients or their referring neurologists will know who belongs to which group until the study is complete. That helps control for positive expectations, otherwise known as the placebo effect.

That’s a particular concern for patients with MS. The disease’s symptoms tend to come in waves, making progress notoriously difficult to measure.

Selected Yukoners will have their travel costs paid by the territory. Eligible participants must be between 18 to 60 years old, possess a Canadian passport and not have received any past Liberation Treatment.

They must have the right type of MS – something that will be determined during one of several screenings held in Regina during the leadup to the trial.

The deadline for submissions is April 30.

For more information, visit the website of Yukon’s Department of Health and Social Services at www.hss.gov.yk.ca.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com

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