ALS Research Roundup February 2004

by ALSN Staff on Sun, 2004-02-01 07:00
Article Highlights:

Research Roundup updates as of January 2004:

Study of new compound open

The international pharmaceutical company Novartis has opened a large-scale, dose-finding trial of a compound called TCH346 for treatment of ALS.

This compound has been found to have anti-apoptotic (anti-cell death) properties in laboratory models of neurodegenerative disease. In ALS, muscle-controlling nerve cells (motor neurons) die for mysterious reasons, and several drug strategies have aimed at keeping these cells alive.

A short study conducted by Novartis in New York and Canada has established the drug’s safety and candidacy for large-scale testing.

The trial is open at about 20 sites in the United States and at other sites in Canada and Europe.

For more information, contact any of these people at Novartis: Ellen M. Vernotica, global clinical trial leader for ALS, (862) 778-3441 or; Meredith Weidenman, (862) 778-7562 or; Dayao Zhao, medical adviser, (862) 778-4756 or

For specific study sites and other details, see the MDA clinical trials section at

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Writing about events may lower caregiver stress

Graduate student Suzanne Candell at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis recently studied caregivers of people with ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases (see "Caregivers Invited to Try Journal Writing," July 2002) to see whether writing about distressing events was helpful.

Candell divided the caregivers, 47 of whom were caring for someone with ALS, into three groups. One group was asked to write three journal entries (essays), one day apart, about a distressing event of the caregiver’s choosing; a second group wrote three essays about a perceived benefit of a chosen distressing event; and a third (control) group wrote three daily entries about a neutral topic.

A month after the writing sessions, caregivers in the two experimental groups reported significantly lower levels of perceived stress than did those in the control group.

Perhaps surprisingly, those who wrote about distressing events, but weren’t asked to find benefit in them, had better perceptions of their own health than did people in the benefit-finding group.

Participants in both experimental groups reported that they found participation in the study more valuable than did those in the control group.

However, writing group assignment made no difference in caregivers’ measured level of hopefulness, Candell reports.

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