Levels of a protein stemming from brain cell damage can mirror the severity and symptoms of multiple sclerosis, an analysis of combined data from three trials showed.
Researchers will present this and related findings at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Los Angeles, April 21-27. The presentation will be titled “Serum Neurofilament Light (NfL): Towards a Blood Test for Prognosis and Disease/Treatment Monitoring in Multiple Sclerosis Patients.”
A hallmark of MS is progressive degeneration of brain cells. This process promotes the release of a protein called neurofilament light chain, or NfL, into cerebral spinal fluid and blood.
Previous studies have suggested that levels of NfL in the blood can provide a reliable picture of MS activity. They could even be used to monitor the disease’s progression, instead of magnetic resonance imaging scans of the brain, the research indicated.
To further validate NfL’s diagnostic potential, a research team analyzed pooled data from three Phase 3 clinical trials that Biogen supported — CHAMPS (NCT00179478), ADVANCE (NCT00906399), and SENTINEL (NCT00030966). The analysis covered 319 patients with clinically isolated syndrome and 432 with relapsing-remitting MS, or RRMS.
The team found a correlation between blood levels of NfL, the number of patients’ brain lesions, and the lesions’ volume. Long-term follow-up of NfL levels also showed a link to various measures of the worsening of MS, including additional disability, brain lesions, and brain atrophy.
In patients with no signs of an active disease, blood levels of NfL were low and stable, researchers found. In contrast, patients with an active disease had considerably higher amounts.
Patients treated with the MS therapies Avonex (interferon β-1a) and Plegridy (peginterferon beta-1a) during the trials ended up with lower levels of NfL in their blood. The effect was even more pronounced with Tysabri (natalizumab).
Taken together, the findings added to the evidence that levels of NfL in the blood could be “a biomarker for disease severity and treatment monitoring in MS patients,” the researchers wrote.
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