#ACTRIMS2019 – Forum Leaders Discuss: ‘Will There Be a Cure for MS?’

#ACTRIMS2019 – Forum Leaders Discuss: ‘Will There Be a Cure for MS?’

It is a question that multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, loved ones, and the larger community have asked for some time: “Will there be a cure for multiple sclerosis?”

MS News Today had the opportunity to ask that question of leaders at the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS) kick-off press conference of the fourth annual forum on Feb. 28 in Dallas, Texas.

Forum committee co-chairs Tanuja Chitnis, MD, and Alexandre Prat, MD, PhD, were present, as was Jack Antel, MD, the outgoing ACTRIMS president.

“There’s are a number of different ways that one can define a cure,” Chitnis noted. “It could be through controlling disease activity, it could be through preventing disease, or could be through actually repairing disease. Those are all missions of the National MS Society.

According to her, the research/medical field for MS is close to being able to control disease and prevent disease activity, “especially if treatments are used very cognizant and carefully.”

Regarding prevention of the disease, Chitnis noted that several risk factors have been identified so far, and that many of them were found “in early and pediatric-onset MS work, in which we see the disease at its earliest onset.”

“I think for the next generation, we are hopefully going to be able to advise patients and young people about those risk factors,” she said. “I would love to see pediatric clinic measurements of vitamin D levels and other factors that we think are associated with risk.”

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Pediatric studies are quite relevant, and they have shown that early treatment, particularly focused on treating inflammation in early disease stages, “is important and seems to lead to better long-term outcomes,” Chitnis said, suggesting that early treatment is key in the search for a potential cure for MS.

Prat agreed with Chitnis, and also emphasized that if an MS cure is defined as “the absence of disease activity clinically and radiologically in the absence of treatment, then the answer might well come from the field of pediatric MS,” he said.

Prat then brought up cases of aggressive forms of MS in pediatric patients who subsequently had to be treated more aggressively. He mentioned that some of these patients were successfully treated with autologous bone marrow transplants.

His team has seen a handful of patients with aggressive pediatric MS in their clinic, and “a year after treatment they’re off treatment and there is absolutely no sign of disease activity. That is prolonged after four, five, six years,” Prat said.

Based on these cases, Prat suggested that an answer for a cure may already exist. However, according to him, we do not fully understand how and why autologous bone marrow transplants work in some patients, and when to best employ this treatment strategy.

To put things into perspective, Antel, the outgoing ACTRIMS president, reminded the audience of the progress that has been made the past few decades.

“When I started, if someone said ‘Are you going to have a treatment for MS?’ People would look at you like, ‘What are you talking about?’,” he said.

Antel put into perspective how far we’ve come from “a generation or more ago.” According to him, “the MRI has been around 30 years … the strategy before that was, let’s see who gets into trouble from the disease and then institute a therapy.”

Antel pointed out that we’ve progressed to a point where researchers and clinicians like Chitnis are working on understanding MS prevention and risk factors that could be used at a very young age in interventions early on.

“We should take some pride in what we’ve accomplished, but not too much. We still have some way to go,”Antel added.

Overall, the experts suggested that the path to a cure for MS may lie in cell-based therapeutic strategies, focused on immune modulation, neuroprotection, and/or repair of the damaged central nervous system. Fittingly, cell-based therapies might be the theme of an ACTRIMS forum program in 2020.

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28 comments

  1. Lee Davidson says:

    C’mon man? Some way to go? Yes be proud of the breakthroughs that have been accomplished for sure. Reality is researchers have a long long long way to go. Try a day in my shoes….And I think you would agree.

  2. tom hennessy says:

    “26.2% of patients demonstrated an appreciable increase of blood viscosity”

    Increased viscosity is a sign of increased red blood cells, hemoglobin/hematocrit. They have recently found the difference between a vegetarian WITHOUT low grade chronic inflammation and a meat eater WITH low grade chronic inflammation is the raised hematocrit found in the meat eater.
    A marker for inflammation is IL6 and IL6 has been shown to cause transverse myelitis.
    So, yes there very well could be a treatment for Multiple Sclerosis, decrease the viscosity of the blood by phlebotomy, simple blood donations, slowly but surely to lower the hematocrit to those levels found in a vegetarian, also you must become vegetarian, no blood, because the increased iron from meat causes increased hematocrit, more red blood cells, increased viscosity of the blood.

    • Christopher says:

      Bloodletting didn’t work a few centuries ago, so what makes you think it would work now? And what would you do with all the patients that are now anemic from this procedure?

    • david bonanno says:

      In ppms, inflammation is not as much of a factor in the attack on the cns, therefore being vegetarian wouldn’t help in this regard.

  3. Jo Hubchik says:

    I find it interesting that the “definition “ of a cure is the answer to a simple question. If we aren’t looking to cure this disease are we wasting our precious research dollars?

    • Rebecca says:

      @joehubchick honestly I never donate any money to find the cure for anything. Take breast cancer for example, it’s prevalent, we have pink everything, breast cancer months, days, walks etc. And where’s the cure? Or anything even remotely close. It takes 10, 15, 20 years to think of a new med, test it, have it fail, retest…. there won’t be a cure for any of it… just treatments… so no I will never donate any money to any of the supposed research for a cure… won’t happen

  4. GARY SHAMBLEN says:

    I think that’s a very accurate prognosis. But, what will be the cost and how will the expense of it be shared? Many patients now are unable to afford current costs.

  5. Alex says:

    The first step to a “cure” is to find out what causes the disease. I think we’re pretty close to finding that out. The epic/origins study at UCSF is dedicated to finding out what causes ms. Probably a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It’s more likely that a more effective treatment to stop progression will be developed than a “cure” that completely eradicates it. Treatment options have improved so much in the past few decades. They will only continue to get better. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about our future with this debilitating disease

  6. Kevin Keplinger says:

    Why no mention of HSCT. The most effective treatment that we have for MS is HSCT & yet it is still being ignored!!! Why aren’t patients being informed about HSCT?? Why aren’t the MS Society’s advocating for HSCT to be approved of as a front line therapy that is available to all patients!! http://www.vimeo.com/170691942

  7. Bob says:

    Some way to to? That’s an understatement. Despite years of research and millions invested, it appears we are nowhere near even understanding what triggers MS. with plenty of “maybes” and “if’s” in this article, I see no evidence from the Forum discussion that we are any further than the starting line.

  8. Peter says:

    I’m wondering if the apparent cure for sickle cell anemia (60 Minutes story last night) and the ability to alter cells might accelerate activity envisioned in the last paragraph of this article (copied below):

    Overall, the experts suggested that the path to a cure for MS may lie in cell-based therapeutic strategies, focused on immune modulation, neuroprotection, and/or repair of the damaged central nervous system. Fittingly, cell-based therapies might be the theme of an ACTRIMS forum program in 2020.

  9. mark r moses says:

    Yes, stem cells have been shown to be the best treatment for MS. However, it is being kept from the public so that pharma can make more profits. Like their continued lobbying against medicinal cannabis. They try and prevent the public from having a choice.

  10. Michelle says:

    I have had MS for almost 30 years now.At first it was RRMS which did transition to SPMS. I am chairbound…unable to walk, have left-handed weakness, and use a scooter to get around. The only thing that will “cure” me is replacing the myelin on my nerves. I have no idea if the DMT I am on is helping maintain my current level of minimal function or doing nothing at all. Stem cells did not work…Just helped decrease my savings account. I get so frustrated when I see such major progress in the treatment of other diseases…happy for those who benefit from it but upset there is not more progress for MS. All I know is that all of my husband and my dreams for retirement travel are crushed.

    • J S says:

      Have you heard of an allergy medicine that is prescribed to people that suffer from hives? Clemastine Fumarate. I I read that some people and professionals have attested to its restoring effects on myelin. It’s also sold OTC as Tavegil. Used to be accessible in the US. Apparently, not much anymore.

      • david bonanno says:

        Is the pet form of these pills safe for humans? I’m thinking of buying them.
        Anything would be better than my ability to walk continuing to degrade.

  11. Martin Matko says:

    Ellminating cause of the Symptoms of so called Multiple Sclerosis will End MS often when CCSVI is treated w/ Venous Angioplasty SymptoMS Ease/Disappear incl. Fatigue, sleep apnea, gait, cognition & urinary issues, ect Ect ECT! FACILITATE MAKE AVAILABLE CCSVI TREATMENT RESEARCH!elp Facilitating Sharing Research in Venous Cerebrospinal Blood Flow Treatment/s as Baseline Primary Care Option Impacting Neurovascular & SO CALLED AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE! Eliminating the cause/s of Multiple Sclerosis will
    End MS!
    Facebook Group:
    Multiple Stenosis Society
    @ms_matko

    • Linda says:

      I had the procedure to treat CCSVI twice. The symptom relief only lasted about a year the first time, and a couple months at most the second. Although an effective treatment, I can’t say it was more than a temporary, expensive, surgical treatment. Not the answer.

  12. Alyona says:

    I am a relatively new MS patient as I was diagnosed last year. I had no idea such a sickness exists!!! And what shocked me the most is that there is no cure or at least stopping the disease for sure. But what’s even more ironic is how very few people can actually afford say Ocrevus which all doctors say is the best treatment what we have today. I live in Ukraine and it’s just not possible to buy. So what to do now?! I am just 32 and can’t even afford DMT?! How crazy is it?! I am just lost for words.

    • Kathy says:

      I would contact the HSCT center in Moscow Russia. It is run by a group there that has an amazing reputation. I was scheduled, but since I am 60, my physician talked me out of it. Do this procedure while you are young before you become disabled!

  13. Janice Braun says:

    Hi Alyona, its been 10 years since I’ve been diagnosed with MS & am doing just fine. Since then, my health insurance approved me to take Avonex (once weekly shot)the whole time, otherwise I couldnt afford my medication either. in addition to insurance coverage I also qualify for help thru a copay assistance company, which pays the rest of what insurance doesnt so I can take my medication as I need to. There is financial help out there that you might qualify for in your area. I would ask your neurologist for information about this as well. Hope this helps & God bless!

  14. Greg Bond says:

    They don’t even really know for sure if MS is an Autoimmune disease, or if the immune attack is the result of underlying neoro-degeneration (the compartmentalized theory). Which happens first? Many of the powerful drugs that act on the immune system don’t do much in terms of degeneration; some even postulate PPMS and RRMS are one common form. Until they have this figured out, there will not be a cure. My prediction is we are 30-40 years out from a cure as it is defined.

  15. Maria Giles says:

    I have had MS for 20 years and live in Queensland Australia. When I have painful spasms in my feet I have found mosquito bites take the pain away almost immediately and have no further spasms for several months. They should research these species on our behalf. I visited the UK for a month recently and the spasms continued every day until I returned home and
    was bitten by a mosquito purposely
    and within hours, all pain was gone! There has to be an element of research here? Feel free to contact me. Mrs Maria Giles

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