Clinical trials

Clinical trials are research studies that use human volunteers to test new therapies. After scientists test experimental therapies in the laboratory, those with promising results move to clinical trial to determine whether the therapy is safe and effective for use in humans. A new therapy must successfully pass through a series of phases before ultimately being approved by Health Canada and being made widely available to the Canadian public (learn more in our Clinical Trials FAQs).

In general, ALS clinical trials are therapeutic or observational in nature. Therapeutic clinical trials test potential drug therapies or interventional devices that aim to either slow the progression of the disease or help to manage symptoms. Observational trials aim to learn more about the disease and are essential to understanding, diagnosing and ultimately treating ALS. In many cases people who participate in clinical trials will not benefit from the therapy, but their generous involvement will help to find a successful therapy for those diagnosed in the future. One day, a clinical trial will test a therapeutic that slows the progression of ALS and those involved may directly benefit from taking part.

For more information, please speak with your clinician (preferably at an ALS clinic) and visit ClinicalTrials.gov, where all legitimate, recognized ALS clinical trials are registered globally. You can also visit the EU Clinical Trials Register and the World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry for additional information.

You can learn more about the clinical trials currently being conducted at sites across Canada below.

Current Clinical Trials for ALS in Canada

*NEW* A Study to Evaluate AP-101 in Familial and Sporadic Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

Study Type: Therapeutic (Drug: AP-101); Phase 1
Status: Not yet recruiting
Sites: Calgary, Edmonton, London, Toronto, Montreal (Neuro)
Sponsor: AL-S Pharma

Antibodies are proteins that are produced by the immune system to protect the body against foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses, and work by binding to specific proteins on the harmful agents and triggering their removal and/or destruction. In this Phase 1 trial, researchers will be testing the safety of a human antibody (called AP-101) designed to target an ALS-linked protein called SOD1. Evidence suggests that the misfolding of SOD1 in cells may cause a toxic gain of function that leads to neurodegeneration. Researchers are hopeful that targeting this protein may represent a promising strategy for the treatment of ALS. The study is expected to enroll 18 participants who will receive doses of AP-101 by intravenous (IV) infusion.

Learn More and Contact

Efficacy and Safety of Masitinib Versus Placebo in the Treatment of ALS Patients

Study Type: Therapeutic (Drug: Masitnib); Phase 3
Status: Not yet recruiting
Sites: Montreal (Neuro)
Sponsor: AB Science

Masitinib is an oral drug that targets cells within the body that play an important role in the immune system. Previous studies suggest that masitinib may reduce inflammation within the nervous system that is thought to be a factor in the progression of ALS. A previous Phase 2/3 clinical trial showed that over a 48-week period, treatment with masitinib reduced loss of function and increased quality of life. This global Phase 3 clinical trial is intended to confirm the results of the previous Phase 2/3 study and will be led by Canadian researcher Dr. Angela Genge from the Montréal Neurological Institute. The study is expected to enroll 495 participants in Canada, the US and Europe.

Learn More and Contact

An Efficacy, Safety, Tolerability, Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics Study of BIIB067 in Adults With Inherited Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

Study Type: Therapeutic (BIIB067); Phase 3
Status: Recruiting
Sites: Toronto, Montreal (Neuro)
Sponsor: Biogen
Collaborator: Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

*Due to the specificity of this treatment, this clinical trial is only open to individuals with a SOD1 mutation.   

BIIB067 (also referred to as tofersen) is an antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) that is being studied to treat a familial form of ALS linked to mutations in the SOD1 gene. As a result of mutation, SOD1 is believed to gain a toxic function that is damaging to the nerve cells that control movement. BIIB067 is designed to decrease production of SOD1 which researchers hope will lead to preservation of motor neurons and slowed progression of the disease. This Phase 3 clinical trial will enroll 144 participants with a confirmed SOD1 mutation and will test the safety, tolerability and effectiveness of BIIB067. This study is a continuation of a previous Phase 1/2 clinical trial which showed promising results.

Learn More and Contact

A Study to Assess the Safety, Tolerability, and Pharmacokinetics of BIIB078 in Adults With C9ORF72-Associated Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Study Type: Therapeutic (BIIB078); Phase 1
Status: Recruiting
Sites: Montreal (Neuro)
Sponsor: Biogen

*Due to the specificity of this treatment, this clinical trial is only open to individuals with a C9ORF72 mutation.   

BIIB078 is an antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) that is being studied to treat a familial form of ALS linked to mutations in the C9ORF72 gene. Approximately 34% of all familial ALS cases are linked to C9ORF72, making it the most common genetic cause of ALS. Two substances are produced in cells as a result of C9ORF72 mutations, commonly referred to as repeat RNAs and DPR proteins. These substances are thought to contribute to the cellular toxicity that leads to disease. BIIB078 is designed to target repeat RNAs preventing them from being used to create the potentially toxic DPR proteins. This Phase 1 clinical trial will enroll 80 participants with a confirmed C9ORF72 mutation. Researchers will monitor participants to ensure that the drug is safe, determine the appropriate dosage and learn more about how the body breaks down the drug internally.

Learn More and Contact

Novel MRI Biomarkers for Monitoring Disease Progression in ALS

Study Type: Observational
Status: Recruiting
Sites: Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, London, Toronto, Montreal (Neuro), Quebec City
Sponsor: University of Alberta

The ability to accurately measure people’s brain degeneration may help researchers to find much needed biomarkers that are essential to understanding, diagnosing and ultimately treating ALS. Using advanced brain imaging techniques (magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI), this observational study will monitor over time the degree of change that occurs in the brains of people who are living with ALS. Each study participant will have 3 MRI scans over a period of 8 months, along with neurological and cognitive evaluations. This study is led Dr. Sanjay Kalra and will operate within the Canadian ALS Neuroimaging Consortium (CALSNIC), a cross-Canada imaging network funded by the largest-ever grant provided by the ALS Canada research program.

Learn More and Contact

 

A Study to Assess the Efficacy and Safety of H.P. Acthar® Gel in the Treatment of Subjects With Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Study Type: Therapeutic (Drug: Acthar); Phase 2
Status: Recruiting
Sites: Edmonton, Ottawa, Montreal (Neuro & CHUM), Greenfield Park
Sponsor: Mallinckrodt

H.P. Acthar® Gel is an injectable drug that contains ACTH, a hormone normally found within the body that stimulates the release of natural steroids, such as cortisol. It is believed that ACTH may also affect immune cells within the body. This Phase 2 clinical trail will test whether H.P. Acthar® Gel can slow the progression of ALS. Participants will receive daily subcutaneous injections (i.e. injections under the skin) of the drug for a period of 36 weeks. To determine the effectiveness of the drug, researchers will measure participants’ functional decline via telephone calls using the ALS Functional Rating Score Revised (ALSFRS-R). H.P. Acthar® Gel is currently used to treat other conditions, such as lupus and multiple sclerosis, and so researchers are hopeful that there may be a positive effect for people living with ALS as well.

Learn More and Contact

A Phase 3, Randomised, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Arimoclomol in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Study Type: Therapeutic (Drug: Arimoclomol); Phase 3
Status: Recruiting
Sites: Toronto, Montreal (Neuro), London
Sponsor: Orphazyme

One of the defining characteristics of ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases is that proteins can become misfolded and clump together, potentially damaging nerve cells. Arimoclomol is an oral drug that increases the production of a group of proteins called heat shock proteins (HSPs) that work to prevent protein misfolding in cells. This Phase 3 clinical trial will test whether treatment with Arimoclomol can slow the progression of ALS. Researchers will determine the effectiveness of the drug through a combined assessment of functional decline (measured using the ALSFRS-R) and survival. Researchers will also monitor changes in participant’s slow vital capacity (SVC), a measure of lung function. The study is expected to last 76 weeks, after which participants will have the option to partake in an open-label extension trial.

Learn More and Contact

REFALS: Effects of Oral Levosimendan (ODM-109) on Respiratory Function in Patients With ALS

Study Type: Therapeutic (Drug: levosimendan); Phase 3
Status: Recruiting
Sites: Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal (Neuro & CHUM), Fredericton, Moncton
Sponsor: Orion Corporation, Orion Pharma

This Phase 3 clinical trial will determine whether levosimendan (ODM-109) can improve respiratory function (breathing abilities) in people living with ALS. Levosimendan is an oral drug shown in previous studies to help muscles (such as the diaphragm) contract more easily. This study will enroll approximately 450 people living with ALS. Participants will take the drug daily for a period of 48 weeks. The effectiveness of the treatment will be assessed by monitoring changes in a participant’s slow vital capacity (SVC), a measure of the volume of air exhaled without forced effort after a full breath. Overall functional decline will also be measured using the ALS Functional Rating Score Revised (ALSFRS-R).

Learn More and Contact

Safety and Efficacy of Repeated Administrations of NurOwn® in ALS Patients

Study Type: Therapeutic (Drug: NurOwn®); Phase 3
Status: Recruiting
Sites: University of Massachusetts Medical School
*Canadians may contact diane.mckenna-yasek@umassmed.edu
Sponsor: Brainstorm-Cell Therapeutics
Collaborator: California Institute for Regenerative Medicine

Stem cells are cells in the body that have not yet matured into a specific type of cell with a function (such as skin, muscle, bone, etc.). Because of this, stem cells have the ability to become part of any organ in the body. This special ability has led scientists to believe that stem cells may have the ability to repair and replace tissue within the human body. In this Phase 3 clinical trial, researchers are testing the safety and effectiveness of a new potential ALS treatment called NurOwn®. In this study, a person’s own stem cells are taken from their bone marrow and are then combined with the NurOwn® drug. The drug converts the stem cells into cells that secrete neurotrophic factors (NTFs), substances thought to support motor neuron health and delay their degeneration in ALS. These transformed cells are then injected back into the spinal cord of the person living with ALS (intrathecal injection). Researchers will be monitoring participants to assess the safety and ability of NurOwn® to slow the progression of ALS.

Learn More and Contact

A Study of GDC-0134 to Determine Initial Safety, Tolerability, and Pharmacokinetic Parameters in Participants with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Study Type: Therapeutic (Drug: GDC-0134); Phase 1
Status: Recruiting
Sites: Montreal (Neuro)
Sponsor: Genentech, Inc.

This Phase 1 clinical trial is designed to test the safety and tolerability of a new oral medicine called GDC-0134 in people living with ALS. GDC-0134 is a drug designed to block the activity of a protein called dual leucine zipper kinase or DLK. DLK is found in nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord and previous studies have shown that activation of DLK may cause these nerve cells to die when they become stressed. Preclinical studies using ALS animal models also revealed that when DLK is blocked it may help to delay motor neuron death. Based on these positive results, GDC-0134 is now being tested as a potential treatment for ALS with approximately 70 people living with ALS to be enrolled in this study. Researchers will monitor participants to ensure that the drug is safe, determine the appropriate dosage and learn more about how the body breaks down the drug internally.

Learn More and Contact

NeuroCognitive Communicator: Safety Study (NCC-1701)

Study Type: Therapeutic (Device: NeuroCognitive Communicator)
Status: Not yet recruiting
Sites: Ottawa
Sponsor: Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

The progressive paralysis experienced by people living with ALS can eventually make communicating with others difficult as the ability to gesture and speak lessens with the weakening of the muscles. To help improve quality of life for people affected by ALS, researchers from the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute are testing the safety of a new assistive device that uses brain-computer interface (BCI) technology to help people who have motor impairments to communicate. This device can convert brain signals into single letters on a computer screen, allowing people to spell words simply with their thoughts. The technology requires surgical placement of two sensors into the areas of the brain that support motor and cognitive function. Researchers will be monitoring the two participants to ensure that the procedure is safe, and to assess the ability of this technology to support effective communication and improve quality of life.

Learn More and Contact

A Clinical Trial of Pimozide in Patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Study Type: Therapeutic (Drug: pimozide); Phase 2
Status: Recruiting
Sites: Calgary, Edmonton, Fredericton, Hamilton, London, Toronto, Greenfield Park, Montreal (CHUM)
Sponsor: University of Calgary
Collaborators: ALS Canada, Brain Canada

Some people believe that the loss of muscle function that occurs in ALS is caused by the muscles and the nerves not being able to communicate anymore. The area in the body where this communication occurs is called the neuromuscular junction. Pimozide is a medication originally used in schizophrenia that has been shown to enhance communication at the neuromuscular junction in laboratory worms, fish and mice. This Phase 2 study will investigate whether treatment with pimozide slows the progression of ALS in humans. Pimozide will be evaluated primarily using the ALS Functional Rating Score Revised (ALSFRS-R), a 12-item questionnaire that assesses function in certain daily activities. This Phase 2 clinical trial is supported by an ALS Canada-Brain Canada Arthur J Hudson Translational Team Grant.

Learn More

Advancing Research and Treatment for Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration (ARTFL) (ARTFL)

Study Type: Observational
Status: Recruiting
Sites: Vancouver, Toronto
Sponsor: University of California

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is present in 15 to 18 per cent of people living with ALS. FTD is the second most common cause of early onset dementia and results in degeneration of the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, which can cause changes in personality and language difficulties. The Advancing Research and Treatment for Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration (ARTFL) project is an observational study with the goal to ultimately discover new biomarkers to better understand disease, improve diagnostic criteria, and identify a large group of potential participants for future clinical trials of new treatment options. Participants in this study include people living with FTD and/or ALS, as well as those living with related frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) syndromes. On-site evaluations will include medical exams, clinical assessments of cognition and function, questionnaires and surveys, and biological samples.

Learn More and Contact

Diagnosing Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration

Study Type: Observational
Status: Recruiting
Sites: Toronto
Sponsor: University Health Network, University of Toronto

Diagnosing neurodegenerative conditions such as FTD or ALS can be difficult, as symptoms and disease progression often differ significantly from person to person. The goal of this observational study is to use a variety of tests to determine the best criteria for diagnosing frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) syndromes. These tests include brain imaging, skin biopsy, cognitive and functional assessments and biological samples for genetic testing. Researchers hope the results of this study will not only guide FTLD diagnosis but also provide a better understanding of the mechanism of disease and aid in the development of new treatments in the future. These advancements may also prove to be helpful in understanding and ultimately treating ALS due to the close overlap in the pathological and genetic features of ALS and FTD.

Learn More and Contact

Phenotype, Genotype & Biomarkers in ALS and Related Disorders

Study Type: Observational
Status: Recruiting
Sites: Edmonton
Sponsor: University of Miami

This observational study is recruiting people living with ALS and related diseases, including primary lateral sclerosis (PLS), hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP), progressive muscular atrophy (PMA), and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Biological samples will be collected from study participants with the aim of discovering new biomarkers of disease, and the hope to better understand the links between genetic data (genotype) and observable symptoms (phenotype).

Learn More and Contact