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South Okanagan & Similkameen Chapter [lnkPrinterFriendly]
3373 Skaha Lake Road
Penticton, BC V2A 6G6
Telephone : +1 (250) 493-6564
Fax : +1 (250) 493-6584

MS and Chapter News


Exercise Program Subsidy

Start the new year off right by getting involved in exercise! Research has shown that maintaining a regular exercise program is one of the best things you can do if you have MS. It can help keep weight down, increase strength and boost energy. It can also be fun!

The South Okanagan & Similkameen Chapter is pleased to be able to provide up to $300 per year to members  to take part in exercise, or to purchase exercise equipment.

Approval needs to be obtained in advance; for more information please call Sherry at 250-493-6564 or e-mail

South Okanagan & Similkameen Chapter of the MS Society | 3373 Skaha Lake Road | Penticton | BC | V2A 6G6 | Canada


Learning Events: National Education Session

Women and Wellness education seriesWorking it out: MS & employment

Multiple sclerosis can have a profound impact on the ability to earn a living. The unpredictable and episodic nature of the disease leaves people affected by MS with many overwhelming questions and decisions. This session will help participants navigate the landscape of employment issues as they relate to MS. A lawyer will highlight rights and obligations of employees and employers, a specialist on episodic disabilities will discuss general considerations when looking for work as well as provide an overview of income replacement programs, and an employment counselor - who also lives with MS – will discuss issues of disclosure, communication tips to employers, and thoughts on making future career decisions.

To view the segments of the Working it out: MS & employment webinar hosted on Nov 16, 2013 by the Toronto chapter of the MS Society, please click on the following links.

1.  Disability in the Workplace – Legal Perspective

2.  Different but Equal: Episodic Disabilities and the World of Work

3.  Navigating the MS Highway to Employment

4.  Panel Q&A

A&W's Cruisin' for a Cause Raises $5 Million
Over 5 Years

A&W Canada and the Multiple Sclerosis
Society of Canada thank Canadians for their
outstanding support

August 29, 2013


VANCOUVER, BC – A&W Food Services of Canada Inc. is proud to announce its 5th annual Cruisin’ for a Cause, held last week on August 22, raised more than $1.45 million in support of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and its programs that benefit Canadians touched by the disease.  In total, Cruisin’ for a Cause has raised more than $5 million over the past five years to help those living with MS in communities across the country.

Cruisin’ for a Cause
5th annual Cruisin' for a Cause Day: On Thursday, August 22, A&W's Cruisin' for a Cause raised over $1.45 million for the MS Society of Canada – totaling $5 million over 5 years. On this day, $1 from every Teen Burger® sold across the country was donated to help end MS. Names in photo (listed left to right): During a Cruisin' for a Cause celebration in Calgary, Yves Savoie, President and CEO, MS Society of Canada, and Paul Hollands, President and CEO, A&W Food Services of Canada, were joined by the Great A&W Root Bear®, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Tyson Lefebvre, Forest Lawn A&W franchisee, and Hon. Deepak Obhrai, MP for Calgary East.

Credit: A&W Food Services of Canada Inc.

“This is a dream come true for all of us at A&W who hoped to reach this milestone in our fifth year. The ongoing enthusiasm and commitment to this very important cause has grown each and every year,” said Paul Hollands, President and CEO, A&W Food Services of Canada. “On behalf of A&W, I would like to thank and congratulate all of our customers, employees, franchisees, car clubs, the MS Society and other supporters across Canada who helped us reach this significant goal.”

During this year’s Cruisin’ for a Cause, the top three fundraising restaurants, each raising more than $20,000, are located in Alberta. Leading the pack is an A&W in Grande Prairie, which raised $24,636, followed by two locations in Fort McMurray, raising $23,074 and $22,359.

“Thank you to the A&W family for their continued commitment towards ending MS. Each year we are astonished at the support we receive through this community-driven event. It reminds us that MS affects all Canadians, and that support for people impacted by this disease is thriving across our country,” said Yves Savoie, President and CEO of the MS Society of Canada. “We are proud of our partnership with the A&W family and their tradition of giving back to the community.”

A&W restaurants across Canada helped raise funds through the sale of cut-outs, customer contributions, and donations of $1 from every Teen Burger® sold on August 22.  Cruisin’ for a Cause (or le Rendez-vous A&W pour stopper la SP as it is known in Quebec) raised both funds and awareness of multiple sclerosis through a variety of events including classic car gatherings, retro music, A&W Root Beer® chugging contests, car hop service and car hop relay races, car washes, and Great A&W Root Bear® visits.

Canada has one of the highest incidence rates of multiple sclerosis in the world, making research and support for people with MS and their families critical. Multiple sclerosis is the most common neurological disease of young adults in Canada and affects more than 100,000 Canadians – with women three times more likely to develop MS than men.

Cruisin’ for a Cause creates an opportunity for the many Canadians who grew up enjoying warm summer evenings at the drive-in—often with the radio blaring and trays of Teen Burgers®, fresh-made onion rings and icy cold A&W Root Beer® delivered to their car by car hops—to revisit those fond memories while supporting the MS Society of Canada.

A&W Food Services of Canada Inc. is 100 per cent Canadian owned and is one of the strongest brand names in the Canadian foodservice industry. A&W is the nation's second largest hamburger restaurant company with over 780 locations coast-to-coast.  A&W Restaurants feature famous trade-marked menu items such as The Burger Family®, Chubby Chicken®, and A&W Root Beer®. For more information, please visit

About multiple sclerosis and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, often disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord. It is the most common neurological disease of young adults in Canada. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40, and the unpredictable effects of MS last for the rest of their lives. The MS Society provides services to people with MS and their families and funds research to find the cause and cure for this disease. Please visit or call 1-800-268-7582 to make a donation or for more information.

MS Society-funded research aims at helping repair nerves damaged by MS

MS Update

September 4, 2013

Background: What do we know about repair in MS?

The majority of therapies for MS specifically target components of the immune system that are believed to cause damage to tissues in the brain and spinal cord. Although these ‘immunomodulatory’ treatments are successful in reducing myelin injury, they are unable to repair or regrow myelin that has already been stripped away from nerve cells. The absence of myelin repair can lead to further deterioration of the exposed nerve cells, which is often the first step towards progressive MS.

Two new publications add to understanding remyelination

Research into how myelin can be repaired following an attack in MS, a process termed remyelination, is gaining momentum. Two recently published MS Society-funded studies show headway in the effort to understand remyelination and the key cellular players involved.

One study comes from the Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. First author Dr. Veronique Miron is a MS Society Postdoctoral Fellowship awardee whose research is focused on myelin repair. The study, published in Nature Neuroscience, reveals an association between MS and a group of cells called macrophages. Important members of the immune system, macrophages have the ability to recognize foreign invaders and signal the white blood cells to find and kill the invaders. Recent evidence suggests that macrophages may play a role in promoting inflammation which exacerbates MS disease. Interestingly, other studies demonstrate that macrophages are also capable of boosting regrowth of myelin. Dr. Miron and colleagues are trying to better understand the two-sided role of macrophages in MS.

The second study looks at remyelination from a different angle. Doctoral Studentship recipients Ryan O’Meara and John-Paul Michalski, who work under MS Society-funded senior research Dr. Rashmi Kothary at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, published an article in The Journal of Neuroscience which breaks down the mechanism of oligodendrocyte development. This information is critical to understanding the capacity for myelin repair in MS as oligodendrocytes are the cells which produce myelin. In the article, researchers identify the unique role of integrin-linked kinase (ILK), which is a protein essential for oligodendrocyte development and hence myelin production.  

Study methods and results:

The study by Dr. Miron and colleagues incorporated a series of advanced animal and cell experiments allowing the researchers to observe, in detail, how macrophages influence MS disease. They discovered that macrophages can transform into a specific macrophage subtype which promotes repair of myelin. They also discovered that following loss of or damage to myelin, macrophages release a compound called activin-A, which activates production of more myelin.

Also using animal and cell experiments, O’Meara and colleagues tested the role of ILK in oligodendrocyte development and ability to produce myelin. Data revealed that loss of ILK disrupts the formation of oligodendrocytes and their capacity to produce myelin around nerves. The researchers took the study one step further by determining the mechanisms that are affected by loss of ILK, thus identifying important pathways by which oligodendrocytes produce myelin.


Studies in basic science at the most detailed biological level are imperative in understanding MS. Information from such studies paves the way for the development of treatments that will stop MS in its tracks and lead to improved health. Much work has been done to date to understand the autoimmune nature of MS, but treatments that are designed to curb the effects of immune cells are only partially effective.

“Approved therapies for multiple sclerosis work by reducing the initial myelin injury – they do not promote myelin regeneration. This study could help find new drug targets to enhance myelin regeneration and help to restore lost function in patients with multiple sclerosis.” – Dr. Miron

Decoding the complex process of myelin repair can result in significant changes in the way we treat MS. First, it will help in the development of a new class of therapies designed to enhance the repair process. Such therapies would result in less disruption of communication between neurons in the brain and improved function in the body Second, therapies focused on repair will slow down or halt progression of disability, preventing individuals with MS from entering the progressive stage of the disease. Overall, these two recently published MS Society-funded studies reveal new biological components that, when targeted therapeutically, could potentially rebuild the myelin that has been lost in MS.

“In order to address the goal of remyelination, we must understand how myelination occurs in the first place. Our study has identified ILK as a mediator of myelination, and this knowledge will be useful when considering therapeutic avenues aimed at promoting remyelination.”
– Ryan O’Meara


Miron, VE et al. M2 microglia and macrophages drive oligodendrocyte differentiation during CNS remyelination. Nature Neuroscience 2013 July 21 [Epub ahead of print]

O’Meara, RW et al. Integrin-linked kinase regulates process extension in oligodendrocytes via control of actin cytoskeletal dynamics. The Journal of Neuroscience 2013; 33(23):9781-93

Copaxone only three times a week is effective for MS

MS Update

August 15, 2013

Background: Copaxone

Glatiramer acetate (GA), marketed as Copaxone by pharmaceutical company Teva Pharmaceuticals, is one of the most commonly prescribed drugs to treat relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) in Canada. Copaxone has ‘immunomodulatory’ effects, meaning it has the ability to alter the immune system which is thought to mistakenly attack myelin – the protective insulation found wrapped around nerve fibers in the central nervous system– in people with MS.

Glatiramer acetate is taken to reduce the frequency of relapses, and is also prescribed for patients who have experienced a single clinical episode and have MRI features consistent with MS (Read more about glatiramer acetate on our website).

Individuals on glatiramer acetate typically undergo once-a-day under the skin injections at a dose of 20mg per injection. Earlier this month, Teva Pharmaceuticals announced results of a study which showed that twice the standard dose of glatiramer acetate administered less frequently throughout the week is safe and can lead to beneficial outcomes in people with MS. 

The GALA Study:

The Glatiramer Acetate Low-frequency Administration (GALA) study was a phase III clinical trial that assessed the efficacy (ability to produce a beneficial effect) and safety of glatiramer acetate at a dose of 40mg, administered three times per week over 12 months. This dosing schedule was selected because it equates to the total weekly dose following 20mg once a day (120mg/week).

The GALA study was conducted in 142 sites across 17 countries and involved 1,404 participants. Researchers who led the study observed number of relapses as well as disease activity seen on MRI in people with relapsing remitting MS who received glatiramer acetate treatment versus those treated with placebo (a mock drug).

What they found:

Results of the study showed that treatment with glatiramer acetate, at a dose of 40mg three times per week, led to a 34% reduction in number of relapses over 12 months compared to placebo. Researchers also reported a 44.8% decrease in disease activity observed on MRI. Moreover, taking glatiramer acetate at twice the standard dose three times a week was shown to be just as safe as the standard dose taken daily.


People living with MS face many challenges. Among these, staying on top of a rigorous treatment regimen is daunting. This study illustrates that taking glatiramer acetate, or Copaxone, at 40mg three times a week is effective in reducing MS disease, and appears to be safe and well-tolerated by the human body. This study provides promising evidence of a safe and effective alternative treatment schedule that may help to lessen the burden of glatiramer acetate injections in people with relapsing-remitting MS.


    Khan O et al. Three times weekly glatiramer acetate in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. Annals of Neurology 2013 June 28 [Epub ahead of print]

    MS Society supported study yields new information on "remyelination"

    MS Update
    July 9, 2013

    Background: Remyelination and MS

    Multiple sclerosis symptoms are the result of damage to myelin, a substance which wraps around and protects the wire-like structures known as axons which are found in the brain, spinal cord and optic nerve. Myelin also serves as an insulator for axons, allowing them to send nerve impulses required by the body to see, walk, write, speak, and other basic functions. When myelin is damaged, the speed with which axons deliver nerve impulses is either slowed dramatically or lost completely.

    During normal development, a group of cells called oligodendrocytes are responsible for producing myelin. Because of their critical role in myelin production, oligodendrocytes have been intensively investigated by researchers to see if they are able to reform damaged myelin after an immune attack in MS, through a process known as "remyelination"™. Previous evidence has demonstrated that remyelination can and has occurred in the central nervous system of people with MS. Now they are trying to determine which cells are responsible for creating new myelin, and if the level of remyelination is sufficient to repair what has been lost in MS.

    MS Society of Canada funded scientist and clinician Dr. Jack Antel has been leading a lab of MS researchers from McGill University who actively explore remyelination through a series of elaborate cell, animal and human experiments. Their latest research, published in the American Journal of Pathology, suggests that oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) - the younger version of oligodendrocytes - may actually be the source of new, healthy myelin in MS following immune-mediated damage.

    Study Methods and Results:

    Dr. Antel and colleagues conducted a series of laboratory experiments comparing the presence and remyelination capabilities of oligodendrocytes versus their younger counterparts, the OPCs. These experiments used tissue samples taken from people with MS as well as healthy volunteers. Summary of results:

    1. When they compared tissue samples from people with MS versus samples from healthy volunteers, researchers noticed that OPCs took a harder hit than oligodendrocytes when under attack.

      This was reflected by a greater reduction in numbers of OPCs versus oligodendrocytes and suggests that OPCs may be more vulnerable to the destructive activity of immune cells in MS

    2. OPCs were able to travel to sites of damage to begin repairing injured tissue

      This further implies the role of OPCs in promoting remyelination in MS

    3. When oligodendrocytes were added to the MS cell cultures, the oligodendrocytes failed to produce myelin.

      This suggests that oligodendrocytes are not the main source of repair

    4. When OPCs were removed from the MS cell cultures, remyelination failed to occur.

          This suggests that OPCs are required for repair of MS lesions


    This new data demonstrates that the younger oligodendrocytes - the oligodendrocyte precursor cells or OPCs - may be more important in tissue repair following an MS relapse. In fact, this MS Society funded study proposes that damage to or loss of OPCs greatly contributes to the limited remyelination observed in MS, which in turn may lead to progression of disease. If research confirms these findings, there is strong potential for the development of MS therapies to stimulate activity or promote survival of OPCs with the goal of boosting their capacity for remyelination. Source:
    Cui Q et al. Oligodendrocyte progenitor cell susceptibility to injury in multiple sclerosis. American Journal of Pathology 2013 7 June [Epub ahead of print]

    MS Research Webinar May 2013


    Click on the link below to listen to the Webinar.


    Latest in MS research presented at the 65th American Academy of Neurology Meeting

    MS Update
    July 2, 2013

    This past April the world’s largest and most important annual event in the field of neuroscience took place in San Diego, California. Over 10,000 practicing neurologists, medical students and research scientists convened for the 65th American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting. The weeklong conference featured educational seminars, scientific presentations, and innovative workshops which enabled attendees to learn about the latest in research while networking with other neurology professionals.

    To read the entire update, please visit:                                 


    Gilenya now covered by BC Pharmacare

     Gilenya (fingolimod) is now covered by BC Pharmacare. This is the first oral disease modifying therapy covered and provides another option for people living with RRMS. 

    For your reference, the following Ministry of Health link further explains the criteria for coverage.

    Additional information on Gilenya is also available on our national website at


    The South Okanagan/Similkameen Chapter would like to thank the following generous supporters of the 3rd Annual MS Pub Night Fundraiser:

    Apex Mountain Resort

    Dynamic Funds

    Windeler Investment Team

    DEM Mechanics

    Dr. Mike Abougoush

    Dr. John McIntosh

    Carl’s Flowers

    Global Spectrum

    RPB Hotels & Resorts

    MELT Mineral Spa

    Lindsey Veterinary Hospital

    Summerland Builders Mart

    Starbucks - Cherry Lane

    Vees hockey

    Shoppers Drug Mart -Summerland

    Lindsey Hayter, Gold Canyon Rep.

    Dr. Zagrodney


    City Centre Health & Fitness

    Summerland Aquatic Centre

    Perch Pub Summerland

    Caroline’s Boutique

    Freeride Boardshop

    Zink Print

    Dirty Laundry

    The South Okanagan/Similkameen MS Chapter would like to acknowledge and send a big “Thank You” to the Hamlets for supporting our MS Chapter. The Hamlets have been and continue to be a supporting sponsor for many of our Chapters’ educational and social events.



    The South Okanagan/Simiklameen MS Chapter would like to give a "BIG" Thank You to Business Gives Back in Petition for their generous $1000.00 donation, supporting our Chapter's programs, support groups and continued education.


      New Studies on the Role of Salt in Autoimmunity

    MS Update
    March 13, 2013

    Background: The Role of Dietary Salt in Autoimmune Diseases

    Autoimmune diseases like MS are defined as inappropriate immune responses to cells and tissues in the body. Much work has been done to identify the types of cells involved in these responses, as well as genetic abnormalities that alter cell behavior. New studies are now looking at the role of environmental and lifestyle factors in driving autoimmune diseases, especially in light of the notable increase in these diseases over the last few decades. 

    Three studies were published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature examining the effects of salt (NaCl2) on immune activity. Overall the results of their experiments show that increased concentrations of salt lead to the production of a specific type of T cell involved in autoimmunity. This group of T cells, known as Th17 cells, has also been implicated in the development of EAE which is an animal model that mimics MS disease.

    Dr. David Hafler, Dr. Markus Kleinewietfeld (Yale University and Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard), Dr. Vijay Kuchroo, Dr. Aviv Regev, Dr. Chuan Wu (Harvard Medical School and Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard), Dr. Regev, Kuchroo and Dr. Nir Yosef (Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard) report on the effects of salt on Th17 cells using a variety of advanced techniques both in cell culture and in animal models.

    The Studies:

    Dr. Hafler’s team exposed naïve T cells (immune cells which have not yet developed into specific subtypes) to increased salt concentrations. They noticed that this stimulated the naïve cells to become the Th17 cells, which play a major role in autoimmunity. The results demonstrated that the presence of salt led to the expression of molecules that promote inflammation, which is what causes damage in autoimmune diseases like MS. For example, levels of the molecule CCR6 were elevated after the administration of salt; CCR6 is required for Th17 cells to function. The researchers also explored the effects of a high-salt diet in mice which develop MS-like disease. The results showed that a modest increase in salt levels sped up the onset of EAE and increased disease severity.

    Dr. Kuchroo’s team observed the effects of salt on a protein called “serum glucocorticoid kinase-1” (SGK1), which a molecule that drives the harmful effects of Th17 cells. The study reports that an increase in salt concentrations led to greater levels of the SGK1 protein, which resulted in an increased expression of molecules that promote the development of Th17 cells. In a follow-up experiment, normal mice as well as mice lacking the SGK1 protein were fed a high salt-diet. After 3 weeks, researchers noticed that mice that did not have SGK1 exhibited lower levels of Th17 cells as well as a reduction in EAE severity.

    The final study conducted by Dr. Regev’s team provides evidence on the highly intricate network of signaling molecules that govern the response of the Th17 cells. A key player in this network is IL-17, which has shown to play an important role in high-salt induced autoimmunity as described in the paper from Dr. Kuchroo’s group.


    This research collectively illustrates the important role of Th17 cells in autoimmunity. The activity of these cells depends on mechanisms that are governed by a number of signals. Understanding this pathway is key in developing new therapies for autoimmune diseases like MS. The link between Th17 cell activity and salt is a new line of evidence that probes the relationship between autoimmune diseases and environmental factors such as diet. It is important to bear in mind that the clinical and regulatory significance of this work is yet to be determined as these experiments are still being done in a laboratory setting. Further research is required to determine if dietary salt does in fact have an effect on MS disease activity.


    Kleinewietfeld M et al. Sodium chloride drives autoimmune disease by the induction of pathogenic TH17 cells. Nature, 2013 Mar 6 [Epub ahead of print]

    Wu C et al. Induction of pathogenic TH17 cells by inducible salt-sensing kinase SGK1. Nature, 2013 Mar 6 [Epub ahead of print]

    Yosef N et al. Dynamic regulatory network controlling TH17 cell differentiation. Nature, 2013 Mar 6 [Epub ahead of print]


    National Research and Programs



    Interdependence and contributions of sun exposure and vitamin D to MRI measures in multiple sclerosis

    MS Update
    March 4, 2013

    Background: Vitamin D and MS

    Recent studies have illustrated a relationship between levels of vitamin D and multiple sclerosis disease activity as seen through clinical and MRI measures. Aside from its role in promoting calcium absorption and overall good bone health, vitamin D has also been shown to have a direct effect on the immune system. The immunoregulatory function of vitamin D, including its ability to inhibit T and B cell activity, has prompted ongoing research into its impact on disease course and treatment of autoimmune diseases like MS.

    The human body is able to produce vitamin D with the help of sufficient exposure to UVB-radiation. Natural human levels of vitamin D are therefore dependent on factors such as: amount of sun exposure, use of sun protection, geographical location, skin colour, age, sex, and genetic factors. A person’s level of vitamin D can also be increased through intake of vitamin D-enriched foods and supplements.

    Several lines of evidence have reported associations between vitamin D with relapse rates, changes in disability, and risk of MS. The goal of this study was to assess the relative contribution of environmental factors such as sun exposure and vitamin D supplementation to vitamin D levels in people with MS. The study also aims to ascertain the relationship between sun exposure and MRI measures of neurodegeneration.

    The study:

    The study, led by a team of scientists from the Department of Neurology at the State University of New York in Buffalo, included 264 people with MS and 69 healthy controls. Subjects underwent neurological and MRI examinations and provided blood samples. Information on race, skin and eye colour, supplement use, body mass index (BMI) and sun exposure history was obtained through a questionnaire. Levels of vitamin D were measured using mass spectrometry.

    What they found:

    Results of the study revealed that vitamin supplementation, sun exposure, eye colour and BMI were associated with changes in vitamin D levels in people with MS. The study also showed that longer sun exposure was associated with a significant increase in brain volume in people with MS compared to healthy controls. The researchers speculate that changes in the immune system resulting from exposure to the sun may lead to changes in brain volume and other MRI measures of MS. The main limitation of their research was that it was a cross-sectional study, meaning that the investigators are collecting information from the subjects at a specific point in time. This may lead to past lifestyle changes having an effect on the results observed.


    This study adds to the growing body of research that highlights the relationship between vitamin D and MS. Although research on vitamin D has shown that its effect on the immune system bears implications in reducing disease severity, it is important to keep in mind that the results are not conclusive. Thus, further research in this area as well as on the therapeutic benefit of vitamin D is required.

    Source: Zivadinov R et al. Interdependence and contributions of sun exposure and vitamin D to MRI measures in multiple sclerosis. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, 2013 Feb 5 [Epub ahead of print]
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