The ALS Society of Canada is proud to announce the first research project on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) to receive funding raised from the viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The Society also thanks the generous support of national non-profit organization, Brain Canada, and the Canadian Government. The Arthur J. Hudson Translational Team Grant will be used to study the clinical response of ALS patients to a new drug therapy.
The funding will be granted to Lawrence Korngut at the University of Calgary, and Lorne Zinman at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, who are both leading a trial dedicated to understanding the effects of the drug pimozide in ALS patients. In addition, the scientists will analyze a potential new biomarker test to better understand how pimozide works, and understand what treatment adjustments patients are more likely to respond better to.
“We learned that pimozide has the potential to slow down ALS from landmark studies performed in animal models by Canadian basic scientists led by Dr. Pierre Drapeau at the Université de Montréal. This clinical trial funded by ALS Canada and Brain Canada represents a tremendous opportunity to apply those learnings in a large number of ALS patients across Canada,” said Lawrence Korngut.
“This is a nationwide effort to develop a meaningful treatment for ALS is made possible by generous donors from across Canada and we are very grateful for the support and generosity of everyone who has donated and our sponsors ALS Canada and Brain Canada,” Korngut added. Zinman and colleagues are going to evaluate the safety and efficacy of this potential treatment, with high hopes that it may be able to slow disease progression in ALS.
Pimozide was originally approved by Health Canada to treat schizophrenia and Tourette’s syndrome, given its capacity to stabilize neuromuscular function and fortify the connection between motor neurons and muscles. In order to understand the drug’s effects on ALS, the trial will include 100 patients diagnosed with the disease, in eight ALS clinics across Canada. The researchers plan to continue the study and enlarge the trial if the drug performs as expected.
“Brain Canada is proud to partner with the ALS Society of Canada in this transformative new research endeavor. Through the Canada Brain Research Fund, Brain Canada and the Government of Canada are matching the funds raised from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge directed to research, bringing the total investment to $20 million,” stated the president and CEO of Brain Canada Foundation, Inez Jabalpurwala.
The Arthur J. Hudson Translational Team Grant commemorates Dr. J. Arthur Hudson, who died in 2013. He established the ALS Society of Canada, and in addition to being a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Clinical Neurological Sciences, he dedicated his career to reducing the burden of patients suffering from ALS.
The Society’s mission is to strive toward making ALS a treatable disease by 2024. “Studies like this show the power of Canadian collaboration and give us the best chance of meeting that goal,” said the director of research of the Society, David Taylor.
Jabalpurwala explained, “This is the first in a series of funding announcements to come. Our combined efforts will without question accelerate the progress of finding a treatment and eventual cure for this terminal disease, and for other neurodegenerative diseases which have similar underlying mechanisms.”