Top Canadian researchers at the helm of pioneering Canadian Proactive Cohort Study for People Living with MS (CanProCo)

Team of world-leading MS researchers, led by Dr. Jiwon Oh, selected to begin work on the first Canadian cohort to study the progression of multiple sclerosis

Toronto, ON – December 6, 2018 – The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and Brain Canada Foundation announced today the selected team to lead the Canadian cohort to study the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS). Dr. Jiwon Oh, based at St. Michael’s Hospital, and her team of nearly 50 leading MS researchers in multiple disciplines from across the country, have been chosen to lead the $7+ million Canadian Proactive Cohort Study for People Living with MS (CanProCo). Funding partner Brain Canada receives financial support from Health Canada through the Canada Brain Research Fund. Biogen Canada is also a founding and funding partner of the project, providing support since inception.

Dr. Oh, neurologist and researcher, is conducting research on the development of advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques in MS. With an MD from Queen’s University followed by a PhD and clinical fellowship at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Dr. Oh is dedicated to leading the charge against MS through her continued ground-breaking research efforts. She helped start the North American Imaging in Multiple Sclerosis Cooperative, which brings together academic centres that use MRI for MS research.

“We are thrilled to have Dr. Jiwon Oh and her research team spearhead this unique project, which focuses on answering some of the perplexing questions around MS,” said Dr. Pamela Valentine, president and CEO, MS Society of Canada. “As a leader in MS research, Dr. Oh has dedicated her career to studying this disease and finding a cure. The team collaborating on this project brings a wealth of knowledge to the table. With their expertise, and support from our funding partners, Biogen and Brain Canada, this group has the potential to help the tens of thousands of Canadians living with MS.”

“Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world, so it is imperative that we learn more about this disease and how it progresses,” said Dr. Oh. “By gaining a better understanding of MS progression, we can make a significant impact on how people manage their disease and improve the quality of life for many Canadians.”

The CanProCo is the first project of its kind in Canada aiming to gain a better understanding of the unpredictable nature of disease progression. In addition to understanding why some people progress in their disease and some people do not, researchers will also try to pinpoint triggers leading to progression and establish methods of managing those triggers while also measuring the impact of MS on individuals as well as the Canadian healthcare system.

In addition to Dr. Oh, the leading researchers in the team include: Dr. Shannon Kolind (University of British Columbia), Dr. Larry Lynd (University of British Columbia), Dr. Scott Patten (University of Calgary), Dr. Alexandre Prat (Centre de Recherche du CHUM), Dr. Roger Tam (University of British Columbia), and Dr. Anthony Traboulsee (University of British Columbia).

The CanProCo will provide Dr. Oh and her team the opportunity to collect and analyze data from Canadians living with MS, while accounting for biological, physical and socioeconomic factors, in a bid to better understand each individual’s unique experiences with MS and gain insight on progression. Using the data collected from the cohort, researchers hope to improve diagnosis, treatment, and potentially prevent manifestation of the disease. The results of this study have the potential to impact how people live with MS and how we talk about MS progression in general.

Long-term monitoring of MS progression will help build a centralized and open source of data that has the potential to assist not only MS researchers but can also be relevant to researchers studying other neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, and Huntington’s, because of the potential for common disease mechanisms.

Recruitment for people living with MS to take part in this study will begin early 2019. Click here for more information about the Canadian MS Progression Cohort.

Background on the Canadian Proactive Cohort Study for People Living with MS (CanProCo)

Progression – or the steady worsening of disease and increase in disability – is a challenging reality faced by people affected by MS, and despite major advances in MS research, the mechanism of progression and the ways in which researchers and clinicians can track progression are still not fully understood. The CanProCo can have significant implications on how those living with MS manage and understand their illness from diagnoses and throughout the various stages of the disease. This study will look at progression from the biological, physical, and socioeconomic perspectives, and will meaningfully engage people living with MS so that their individual experiences are captured. Ultimately, the goal of the cohort is to connect biological findings with real world and clinical findings to create a comprehensive picture of progression in MS, with the hope that researchers will better understand the unpredictable nature of MS and find a cure.

This $7+ million investment in Canadian research is being generously supported by the founding partners. The MS Society is grateful to lead donors, PCL Construction and Bennett Jones LLP for their generous support at $1.25 million and $1 million, respectively, as well as to several individuals who made significant contributions. 

About multiple sclerosis and the MS Society of Canada

Canada has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world with 11 Canadians diagnosed with MS every day. MS is a chronic, often disabling disease of the central nervous system comprising the brain, spinal cord and optic nerve. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40 and the unpredictable effects of the disease last for the rest of their lives. The MS Society provides programs and services for people with MS and their families, advocates for those living with MS, and funds research to help improve the quality of life for people living with MS and to ultimately find a cure for this disease. Please visit or call 1-800-268-7582 to make a donation or for more information. Join the conversation and connect with the MS community online. Find the MS Society on Twitter, Instagram or like our page on Facebook.

About Brain Canada and the Canada Brain Research Fund

Brain Canada is a national registered charity headquartered in Montreal, that enables and supports excellent, innovative, paradigm-changing brain research in Canada. Since 1998, Brain Canada has made the case for the brain as a single, complex system with commonalities across the range of neurological disorders, mental illnesses and addictions, brain and spinal cord injuries. Looking at the brain as one system has underscored the need for increased collaboration across disciplines and institutions, and a smarter way to invest in brain research that is focused on outcomes that will benefit patients and families. Brain Canada’s vision is to understand the brain, in health and illness, to improve lives and achieve societal impact. 

The Canada Brain Research Fund is a public-private partnership between the Government of Canada and Brain Canada, designed to encourage Canadians to increase their support of brain research, and maximize the impact and efficiency of those investments. Brain Canada has committed $115 million from private donors and non-federal partners—now numbering more than 100—which Health Canada has matched with $120 million. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.