Contact:
Carrie Munk
The ALS Association
(571) 319-3047
cmunk@alsa-national.org

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ALS Association Announces Two New Awards to Help Develop New Treatments for ALS

Washington, D.C. (December 13, 2013) — The ALS Association is pleased to announce two new awards that will contribute to the development of new therapies for ALS. These awards are part of its Translational Research Advancing Therapy (TREAT ALS™) program, through which The Association funds a diverse portfolio of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research to find treatments and a cure for ALS.

ALS, which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Eventually, people with ALS lose the ability to initiate and control muscle movement, which often leads to total paralysis and death within two to five years of diagnosis. There is no cure and only one drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that modestly extends survival.

The Association awarded $48,000 to Bjorn Oskarsson, M.D., Director of the ALS clinic at the University of California at Davis, to support a trial of the drug mexiletine for treatment of muscle cramps. Muscle cramps are a common problem in the disease, affecting more than three-quarters of people with ALS. The drug has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for arrhythmia and has been used in an open-label fashion for cramps in another neurodegenerative disease and in some people with ALS. With this funding, Dr. Oskarsson will study the safety and efficacy of mexiletine in a double-blind trial in 30 people with ALS. This project is funded in part by The Association’s Greater Sacramento Chapter, who received generous support from Sundt.

“Reducing cramps is a clear, unmet need in the treatment of ALS,” said Lucie Bruijn, Ph.D., Chief Scientist for The Association. “This trial will provide us with the first objective test of whether this drug can offer some relief from this painful condition.”

The Association also awarded $140,000 to Rita Sattler, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and John Gerdes, Ph.D., of the University of Montana at Missoula to fund further development of a PET imaging marker for the glutamate transporter. The transporter helps reduce potentially toxic glutamate in the brain and spinal cord. A reduction in the transporter, and an increase in glutamate, are believed to contribute to the disease. The PET imaging marker has the ability to detect loss of transporters during the course of the disease and potentially a change in that loss in response to therapy. The newly funded studies will test the safety of the marker in animals, in preparation for use in humans.

“The ability to objectively track disease progress, and to determine the cellular effects of therapies, is critical for rapid development of new treatments for ALS,” Dr. Bruijn said. “We have supported the development of this imaging marker from early on, and we are excited to see it move closer to the clinic through this important test of its safety.”

About The ALS Association
The ALS Association is the only national non-profit organization fighting Lou Gehrig’s Disease on every front.  By leading the way in global research, providing assistance for people with ALS through a nationwide network of chapters, coordinating multidisciplinary care through certified clinical care centers, and fostering government partnerships, The Association builds hope and enhances quality of life while aggressively searching for new treatments and a cure.  For more information about The ALS Association, visit our website at www.alsa.org.

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