Multiple Sclerosis: Recent Research Roundup

The year 2017 saw the first therapy for primary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) approved by the FDA. Overall, there are 15 disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) approved for relapsing forms of MS.

There are two main types of MS: 1—relapsing-remitting (RRMS), which occurs in about 85 percent of the 2.3 million people worldwide with MS, where they experience unpredictable flare-ups which then subside; and 2—primary progressive MS (PPMS), where the disease is progressive from the
start, without any relapses. In the majority of RRMS cases, after 15 to 20 years, PPMS occurs.

In addition to the new FDA-approved therapy (Ocrevus™, or ocrelizumab, an immunosuppressant), other advancements are occurring in drug therapies:

  • In the largest clinical trial in children and adolescents with MS, Gilenya® (oral fingolimod) significantly reduced the number of relapses.
  • A phase II trial of oral ibudilast in people with progressive forms of MS seemed to slow the rate of brain atrophy.
  • A lab test at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center found that an experimental therapy, “miR-219”, promoted the regrowth of nerve-insulating myelin in mice.
  • Laquinimod is in phase II and III trials; it may reduce the relapse rate, disability progression, and brain volume loss.
  • MD1003—a highly concentrated form of biotin—may promote myelin repair.
  •  Siponimod traps T and B cells in the body’s lymph nodes, preventing them from causing myelin damage; a phase III trial lowered the risk of progression and reduced the number of relapses and brain shrinkage.
  • A phase II clinical trial demonstrated that clemastine fumarate—an antihistamine that has been approved since 1977 and available over the counter since 1993—“increased the speed of the neural signals from the eye to the back of the brain,” indicating that re-myelation has occurred.

Recent non-drug related discoveries include:

  • A demonstrable reduction in the rate of brain tissue loss by using antioxidant lipoic acid.
  •  Enhanced myelin repair by reducing fibrinogen, a blood coagulation factor.
  • Improvements in working memory, brain activity, and connectivity after treatment with Repetitive Transcranial Magnet Stimulation.
  • Mounting evidence that childhood head trauma and concussion, low blood levels of vitamin D, intestinal bacteria, and diet and lifestyle may all play a role in the risks, onset, and advancement of MS.

Many advances have been made in the treatment of and search for causes and cures since MS was first recognized in 1868 and more research is being conducted today than ever before. The National MS Society alone invested $40 million in 2017 in research projects and initiatives, with 360 projects under active management. Research is critical to developing treatments and therapies for MS, and for eventually determining the cause, preventing, and curing the debilitating disease.

However, research on MS is difficult because many studies require patients to have recently experienced an attack or relapse and these events are unpredictable. In fact, years may pass between each episode. This can make enrolling patients in an MS research study complicated. Volunteers with MS are encouraged to pre-screen for multiple sclerosis research studies so that when a relapse occurs, they can participate in a trial right away.

Meridien Research’s Tampa office specializes in MS studies. For more information or to see if you or someone you know may qualify to participate, please contact us today at (813) 877-8839. For more on MS and the importance of early treatment, read Meridien Research’s blog here .