(UNDATED) - Very little progress has been made over the years on a cure for the disease afflicting the former fire chief of Indianapolis.
Brian Sanford announced this week that he was retiring as fire chief and taking another job within the Department of Public Safety, as his battle with ALS made it difficult for him to carry out his duties as chief.
57-year-old Sanford was diagnosed with the neuromuscular disease in 2011.
ALS is known as Lou Gehrig's Disease to many, named for the baseball legend who died from the disease more than seven decades ago. It still has no definitive cause.
"In about 90-to-95 percent of all ALS cases, it appears to be clearly at random with no clear risk factors," said Dr. Cynthia McGarvey with the St. Vincent Neuroscience Institute in Indianapolis.
There are two primary types of ALS.
"One is sporadic, which means it doesn't have any known genetic link or familial cause. There's also a familial form, which means it can happen in children of people who have been diagnosed or other family members," McGarvey said.
While a cure seems far off, McGarvey says there have been advances in treatment, such as drugs that extend lives by a few months. Some, like renowned scientist Stephen Hawking, have opted to live on a ventilator - Hawking has lived five decades since his diagnosis.
"(They live indefinitely) until they succumb to pneumonia or something else. But patients gradually lose muscle control, so each family has to make decisions about elongation of life."
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