The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) has awarded $13.4 million to two scientists at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University (JHU) to study how best to treat newly diagnosed patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS).
The study will be led by Dr. Ellen Mowry, an associate professor of neurology and epidemiology at JHU, and by Dr. Scott Newsome, an associate professor of neurology. Both belong to the Johns Hopkins Precision Medicine Center of Excellence for Multiple Sclerosis team, which will use clinical trials to discover and test new prognostic factors in MS.
“This PCORI project will be a tremendous step forward for improving the understanding of how to best approach the treatment of MS,” Mowry said in a press release.
The $13.4 million award will be used in clinical trials to compare two treatment approaches. The JHU trials will focus on randomizing treatment of about 900 patients with a recent RRMS diagnosis. Some will receive a new generation of stronger drugs, while others will get the standard treatment.
This is important because doctors still don’t know the long-term effects of treatment with these newer drugs. It has not yet been established whether RRMS patients have a real long-term advantage in receiving these drugs at the time of diagnosis or later in the disease’s progression. This award can substantially increase knowledge about this issue.
“It is difficult to know whether a group of newer medications that may be more likely to reduce early, episodic MS symptoms actually leads to a meaningful reduction in the long-term risk of more permanent disability,” Mowry said. “Since the newer medications come with substantially more risks, it’s important to determine if people with MS should be offered such medications at the time of diagnosis or if it’s appropriate to start with older medications, changing to the newer therapies only if the disease remains active despite the treatment.”