Newcastle researchers are participating in a world-first clinical trial that will test whether Vitamin D supplements can prevent Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in those at risk of developing the disease.
The PrevANZ study aims to determine a safe and effective dose of vitamin D for patients presenting with symptoms that may lead to a diagnosis of MS.
Trial subjects will be recruited through neurologists working in the Hunter Region and at 20 other hospital sites in Australia and New Zealand.
Jeannette Lechner-Scott, Senior Staff Specialist in the Department of Neurology at John Hunter Hospital, said the trial was an important and necessary step to prove that a major environmental risk factor for the disease can be modified.
“We have an opportunity here to help reduce the impact of MS around the world,” Associate Professor Lechner-Scott said. “Patients from our region will not only contribute to this research but could be among the first to benefit from its results.
“The causes of MS are unknown but a deficiency of Vitamin D, which is primarily synthesized in the skin by exposure to sunlight, has been associated with a higher risk of developing the disease and with a more active disease course.”
MS Research Australia has provided $2.5 million in funding for PrevANZ, with further support coming from the Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation. An additional $1 million is needed to extend the sample size and achieve robust data.
“This is a gold-standard, placebo-controlled trial,” Professor Bruce Taylor, lead investigator at Royal Hobart Hospital and member of the PrevANZ steering committee, said. “Patients will start to be enrolled from November 2012 and the trial will run for four years from 2013 to 2016.”
MS is an inflammatory disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. Three out of four people with the disease are women who are usually diagnosed in their 20s and 30s.
Further information is available on the website www.msra.org.au
HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.