Experimental treatment hot topic at Scarborough MS Walk

A breakthrough treatment was the hot topic at the Multiple Sclerosis Society Scarborough Chapter’s 15th annual MS Walk on April 18.

The treatment, discovered by Dr. Paolo Zamboni of Italy, attempts to cure chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI), which is a disfiguration of veins in the brain and neck that disables them to efficiently return blood back to the heart. A balloon is inserted and expanded in the twisted veins to bring them back to normal. Zamboni believes this treatment can reverse the effects of multiple sclerosis.

Betty McKendrick, director of client services for the MS Society Scarborough Chapter, said Zamboni’s treatment is an important discovery.

“It’s a possibility that [CCSVI] may not be the cause of MS, it could be only its symptoms,” McKendrick said. “It’s hard to say right now because it’s so new, but in the 15 years that I’ve been involved with the MS Society, there has been nothing.”

McKendrick, 56, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 15 years ago. Although she believes the CCSVI treatment is important, she has not considered it for herself.
Barbara Dickson said the treatment is “the liberation treatment for MS.”

Dickson, 48, who was diagnosed with MS 18 years ago, has applied for the waiting list to be screened for CCSVI at the Buffalo Neuroimaging Analysis Center in Buffalo, N.Y.  If Dickson does make the list, it will likely be years before she is screened.

Buffalo is the nearest location to Toronto to perform the screens; the treatment is not yet available in Canada.Dr. Zamboni was in Toronto from April 14 to 20 for a neurology convention. His being in the city during the annual MS walk was a coincidence and provided a symbol of hope, Dickson said.

“We need hope. We need something to cling to and to hope for because the treatments that are available right now are too basic,” Dickson said. “MS is a devastating disease. It’s progressive, it only gets worse. It’s debilitating — you can’t function. We need a cure fast.”

More than 300 walkers and volunteers, including McKendrick and Dickson, attended the fundraising walk in Scarborough. It began at Cedarbrae Collegiate Institute at Markham Road and Lawrence Avenue. Walkers had the option of taking on a 2-kilometre, 5-km or 10-km trek around Scarborough.

The event, organized by the MS Society, was to raise money and awareness for MS research.

McKendrick said the annual event is important for the MS community, in order to promote finding a cure and to ensure her family won’t have to suffer the same fate she has.
“I don’t want to see my daughter raise her children with MS,” said McKendrick. “I don’t want to see my granddaughter diagnosed with MS at the age of 30.”