Highlights from the March 7, 2017 CIHR Scientific Expert Working Group on Multiple Sclerosis and Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency Meeting

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society of Canada reconvened the Scientific Expert Working Group on Multiple Sclerosis and Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency (MS/CCSVI) in Ottawa on March 7, 2017 (meeting agenda).

The Working Group received an update and discussed recent research findings regarding CCSVI, including the preliminary results of the multisite Phase I/II double blinded Interventional Clinical Trial of Balloon Venoplasty for CCSVI in MS patients. This clinical trial was led by Dr. Anthony Traboulsee, and was launched in 2012 following a recommendation by the Working Group, with funding from CIHR, the MS Society and the Provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec.

Dr. Traboulsee informed the Working Group that the preliminary results of his study do not show any statistically significant difference in MS symptoms, either as reported by the patients themselves or as determined by brain imaging and standard clinical assessments by physicians, between patients who received balloon vein dilation, and a control group who received a mock procedure. These results, presented ahead of publication in a peer-reviewed journal, do not support the use of vein dilation therapy in the management of patients with MS.

The Scientific Expert Working Group also discussed the lessons learned, including ethical considerations, regarding the government position to support research on unproven medical procedures such as the CCSVI procedure.

Meeting Outcomes

  • The Working Group thanked Dr. Traboulsee and his collaborators for sharing the preliminary results of his exceptionally rigorous randomized clinical trial, which represents the gold standard of evidence.
  • The Working Group recommended that the MS Society and CIHR ensure that the provincial medical colleges receive information on the research findings so that physicians and patients are in a position to make informed decisions about the use of balloon vein dilation in the management of patients with MS.
  • The Scientific Expert Working Group recommended that a case study be conducted to discuss the lessons learned, and determine strategies to address similar unproven medical procedures or health research issues that may arise in the future.
  • It was agreed that the Working Group had fulfilled its mandate and, as such, is officially disbanded.
  • The MS Society of Canada and CIHR thanked the people with MS involved in the research, provincial partners (British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec) for their financial support, and the members of the Scientific Expert Working Group for their independent scientific guidance and oversight.
Date modified: