Patricia Silva, PhD, director of science content —

Patrícia holds a PhD in medical microbiology and infectious diseases from the Leiden University Medical Center, Netherlands, and completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at the Instituto de Medicina Molecular, Lisbon, Portugal. Her work in academia was mainly focused on molecular biology and the genetic traits of infectious agents such as viruses and parasites. Patrícia earned several travel awards to present her work at international scientific meetings. She is a published author of several peer-reviewed science articles.

Articles by Patricia Silva

Toyota Foundation and Nesta Launch $4 Million Global Challenge to Create ‘Smart’ Mobility Devices

Teams of inventors working to improve mobility for people with lower-limb paralysis, including those with multiple sclerosis (MS), are invited to take part in a $4 million technology challenge launched by Toyota Mobility Foundation and Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre. The most common causes of lower-limb paralysis are MS, spinal cord injury, and…

Partners in Huge Cannabis Therapy Operation Planned for Australia Apply for Licenses

Two companies that plan a huge cannabis-growing and research facility in Australia have applied for licenses to run the operations, whose products could benefit multiple sclerosis patients. MYM Nutraceuticals and PUF Ventures Australia asked the Australian Office of Drug Control for both medical cannabis and cannabis research licenses. The applications come at…

National MS Society Endorses US-Canada Registry Aiming to Advance Research and Patient Care

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has endorsed the North American Registry for Care and Research in Multiple Sclerosis, a collaborative effort involving other multiple sclerosis registries, clinicians, researchers and patients in the U.S. and parts of Canada. NARCRMS is a public-private partnership, bringing together academia, industry, governmental agencies, and nonprofit organizations with an interest in MS. It operates under the auspices of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers. It consists of a database of clinical records and patient-centered outcomes, providing clinicians and scientists with a greater and more integrated ability to track the incidence, prevalence and course of MS. Like many registries, NARCRMS includes data collected by physicians, like neuroimaging scans, genetic markers, cognitive assessments and specimen collection, and testing for identification of biomarkers of disease progression. It also adds patient-reported outcomes focused on disease challenges and impacts on daily life. Its goal is to improve the understanding of MS, facilitate multi-level care, and aid in recruiting patients into clinical trials. NARCRMS is the first open-source database to connect MS centers across North America to regional databases by state, region and zip code. To date, NARCRMS has recruited 10 centers, with another three in the process of coming aboard, and has enrolled 113 patients. The registry builds on North American Research Committee on Multiple Sclerosis (NARCOMS), the oldest patient-driven registry in the U.S. using patient experiences to advance MS clinical care and life quality. NARCOMS was created in 1993 by the CMSC. More than 37,500 people had joined the registry as of 2015. Researchers used NARCOMS data on 2014 to report on outcomes in switching treatments, therapy effectiveness, disease progression, co-existing conditions, and other topics that help understand the MS experience.

MMJ Files US Patent for Multiple Sclerosis Cannabinoid Treatment

MMJ International Holdings has applied to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for new pharmaceutical compounds and methods to treat and prevent symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis (MS) and other diseases responsive to cannabinoids. The patent covers MMJ BioScience’s intellectual property portfolio, which comprises several patent families…

European Neurologists Ready to Use Both Mavenclad and Ocrevus, Survey Shows

Mavenclad has become the multiple sclerosis therapy of choice for one in five neurologists in Germany and the United Kingdom, according to a Spherix Global Insights survey. Meanwhile, many European neurologists are looking forward to the continent's approval of Ocrevus, particularly as a treatment for primary progressive multiple sclerosis, or PPMS. The United States approved the therapy in March of 2017. European neurologists are using Mavenclad for both relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, or RRMS, and secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, SPMS. The report that Spherix issued on European neurologists' treatment choices is called "RealTime Dynamix: Multiple Sclerosis EU." It was based on a survey of 261 neurologists, who were asked about thei disease-modifying drugs they prescribed and the way they manage MS, according to a press release. The survey focused on Merck KGaA’s Mavenclad, which the European Union approved in August 2017, and Genentech’s Ocrevus, which the European Commission is expected to approve soon. The European Medicines Agency paved the way for approval by recommending its authorization earlier this month. Mavenclad is the first disease-modifying therapy that most of the patients who are on it have tried, according to the survey. Spherix analysts said this indicates that Mavenclad may expand the proportion of MS patients using disease-modifying drugs. But while Mavenclad’s label allows patients to use it as a first-line therapy, the survey revealed that many neurologists are not comfortable prescribing it as an initial treatment. This suggests that the Mavenclad-treated population may later include more patients who switched treatments, Spherix said. Mavenclad reduces MS relapses by resetting the immune system, studies have shown. Neurologists who prescribe it as a first-line treatment appear to endorse the idea of induction therapy. This approach involves more potent therapies being used from the onset of the disease. British neurologists in particular appear to favor the induction approach, the report revealed. Patients who had been on previous treatments have switched mainly from Copaxone (glatiramer acetate), interferons, or Novartis' Gilenya, the report showed. Many neurologists' lack of familiarity with Mavenclad may be limiting its use, the report said. It noted that two out of five neurologists had not received a detailed briefing on the drug, and more than one-third had not attended any launch activities. Limited market access was the second most common obstacle to Mavenclad prescription, the report indicated. Interestingly, those who had participated in Mavenclad launch activities said these consisted mostly of independent research or discussions with colleagues, rather than activities organized by Mavenclad’s developer Merck KGaA. Spherix’s survey was done just before the European Medicines Agency recommended Ocrevus' approval in mid-November. Even before the endorsement, the survey indicated, Ocrevus was by far the MS drug in development that most neurologists looked forward to using. The reasons, the neurologists said, were its beneficial effectiveness-safety profile, its new mechanism of action, the fact that it only needs to be given once every six months, and a treatment label that includes PPMS. It is the first disease-modifying drug ever approved for PPMS patients. Twice as many neurologists said they look forward to using Ocrevus as a first-line treatment for PPMS as those saying they wanted to use it as a first-line treatment for relapsing MS. And neurologists estimated that twice as many PPMS patients as RRMS patients are appropriate candidates for Ocrevus treatment. In a report in October about U.S. neurologists' treatment preferences, Spherix said those doctors estimated the number of PPMS Ocrevus candidates at three times that of RRMS patients. Nonetheless, about equally as many PPMS and RRMS patients had tried Ocrevus four months after its launch, the survey showed. The European situation may evolve in a similar manner, since the European Medicines Agency recommended a specific use of Ocrevus in PPMS patients. It specified that the drug be used in PPMS patients who show “imaging features characteristic of inflammatory activity." This makes it likely that only a subgroup of PPMS patients will receive the treatment. The use of Biogen's Tysabri, Gilenya, and Rituxan (rituximab), also made by Roche's Genentech subdivision, will be most impacted by Ocrevus' introduction. Despite this, neurologists believe rituximab's use will grow in the next six months, because Ocrevus is still not available, while lower-cost rituximab biosimilars are.

Oral Cannabidiol, PTL101, Meets Goals of Phase 1 Study as Possible Spasticity Treatment

Results of a Phase 1 clinical trial in healthy volunteers show that PTL101, an oral cannabidiol compound, is a safe and effectively delivered potential treatment of spasticity in multiple sclerosis (MS) and for conditions like epilepsy, Harvest One Cannabis announced. These findings were published in the journal Clinical Pharmacology in Drug Development, in the study…

Physical Exercise Using Nintendo Wii May Improve Balance and Gait in MS Patients, Study Says

A physiotherapist-supported exercise program using Nintendo Wii may be a feasible and cost-effective way of helping  people with multiple sclerosis (MS) be more physically active, researchers reported after performing a small pilot study. While findings showed some evidence that people improved — both in terms of self-reported health, gait and balance measurements — researchers underscored that more data needs to be gathered on the intervention’s effectiveness, as the study mainly intended to determine if such a program was feasible. Researchers at the Bournemouth University and Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, both in the U.K., argued that a physical activity intervention using active gaming at home may overcome the many challenges MS patients face when attempting to be active. Barriers to it could be physical, but psychological factors, such as fear, embarrassment, or lack of confidence, can also prevent patients from attempting to increase their activity levels. Moreover, practical aspects — such as transport and cost — can hinder people from joining interventions. In the report, “Mii-vitaliSe: a pilot randomised controlled trial of a home gaming system (Nintendo Wii) to increase activity levels, vitality and well-being in people with multiple sclerosis,” researchers explained they used data generated in earlier Nintendo Wii studies to design an improved intervention program. Earlier studies showed that behavior change techniques, including motivational interviews and problem solving, would likely improve the impact of an intervention. These early studies also highlighted the importance of considering the functional levels, environment, and preferences of individual patients when prescribing a Wii-based program. The study (ISRCTN49286846), described in the journal BMJ Open, shows that among the 30 people who signed up, only two dropped out because of medical reasons. Patients either received the 12-month intervention, called Mii-vitaliSe, directly or after a six-month waiting period. Those on the waiting list group were given six months of intervention. Patients, who had low levels of physical activity when the study began, were instructed as to the benefits of physical activity and on how to use the Wii. During the personalized intervention, participants had access to regular support from a physiotherapist and were provided with a personal activity workbook, which aided participants in setting goals and monitoring progress, among other things. They were also asked to keep a log to track their activity, which showed an average use of the Wii two times per week, for 27 minutes each day. Results showed that patients who started the intervention immediately tended to report better physical activity levels, and better physical and psychological well-being. They also had numerical improvements in gait and balance. While no severe adverse reactions were seen, participants reported pain and worsening of scar tissue after some exercises, for which they received follow-up advice and care. The team also identified several problems or difficulties, including wrongly completed questionnaires, that will allow them to improve measurements once they launch a larger study. "Our study is the first to report on home-based use of the Wii for people with MS in the UK. Overall, findings from this study are promising and support proceeding to a full-scale trial of effectiveness and cost-effectiveness. We will refine the trial design, aspects of the intervention and finalize outcome measures in the light of our experiences from this pilot study" the researchers wrote.

MMJ Hires Lead Investigator for Phase 2 Trials of Medicinal Cannabis to Treat Progressive MS

MMJ BioScience, an affiliate of medical cannabis research company MMJ International Holdings, has hired a principal investigator to lead clinical trials exploring potential therapeutic applications of cannabinoids in progressive multiple sclerosis (MS). Dr. Bianca Weinstock-Guttman, a neurology professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, is executive director…

Sanofi and Principia Join to Develop Potential B-Cell-targeting Oral MS Treatment

Sanofi Genzyme and Principia Biopharma have entered into a license agreement to advance the clinical development of PRN2246, an oral drug candidate for the treatment of multiple sclerosis and other diseases of the central nervous system. PRN2246 is an inhibitor of the Bruton’s tyrosine kinase, an enzyme encoded by the BTK gene that plays a crucial role in B-cell development and the B-cell signaling pathway. B-cells are known to be involved in the development of autoimmune diseases that affect the nervous system, including multiple sclerosis. PRN2246 is an orally available therapy designed to easily access the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) by crossing the blood-brain barrier, and impact the signaling of immune cells and brain cells involved in autoimmunity and inflammatory processes. The drug is designed to safely and effectively modulate B-cell function without depleting these cells. A Phase 1 clinical trial is now testing the drug's safety in healthy volunteers. Under the agreement, which is expected to close shortly, Principia will grant Sanofi an exclusive, worldwide license to develop and commercialize PRN2246. Principia, in return, will receive $40 million in upfront payments from Sanofi, and future milestone payments could reach $765 million. Principia will retain the option to co-fund the treatment's Phase 3 development in exchange for other royalties in the United States. Principia has developed a novel way to design and develop better and safer therapies based on oral small molecules. The company uses its proprietary Tailored Covalency technology to develop its drug candidates, which are, according to the company's website, safer, and more selective, potent and durable than other available treatments. The terms of this licensing agreement are still subject to customary regulatory approval.

#MSParis2017 – Merck Announces Winners of 1 Million Euro Grant for Innovative Multiple Sclerosis Research

Research teams from Canada, Portugal and the United States, each with projects focused on predicting and defining characteristics of multiple sclerosis (MS) , will share this year’s 1 million euro ($1,165,700) Grant for Multiple Sclerosis Innovation (GMSI), announced by Merck at the 7th Joint ECTRIMS-ACTRIMS meeting in Paris, France,…

#MSParis2017 – Aerobic Exercise Seen to Quickly Strengthen Brain Connections in Patients

Aerobic exercise strengthens brain connections in people with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, Jan-Patrick Stellmann, with University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany, reported at the 7th Joint ECTRIMS-ACTRIMS Meeting in Paris that ran from Oct. 25–28. According to Stellmann, "aerobic exercises are considered to improve mobility, fatigue, depression and cognition in MS," and also to "promote neuroprotective or neuroregenerative mechanisms." For the study, the team used MRI to examine how exercise affected different types of brain connections. They recruited 57 RRMS patients and 30 healthy controls to the study. Women made up more than two-thirds of the patient group, which had a mean age of 39. Patients only had mild disability, with a mean score of 1.5 on the Expanded Disability Status Scale. Researchers randomly assigned about half the group to a supervised and individually adapted aerobic exercise program, consisting of 22 sessions of up to one hour each. Others were assigned to a waiting list — with the intent of taking up exercise after three months — and served as a control group. MRI scans at the study's beginning revealed that patients had more so-called functional connections, but fewer structural ones, than healthy controls. It is known from earlier studies that most RRMS patients show abnormalities in functional connections, but some researchers find increases while others decreases in these connections. Functional and structural connections appear on different types of MRI scans — ones that make use either of blood flow changes or of the properties of water molecules in the white matter of the brain. The deviations were particularly pronounced in highly connected hub regions, the researchers said. After three months, functional connections increased across the entire brain among exercising patients, but decreased in those on the waiting list. Structural connections also increased among patients who exercised, while no change was detected among control patients. Researchers also noted that exercising patients grew more local connections, mostly in hub regions, compared to those who did not exercise. While it is generally accepted that aerobic exercise promotes neuroprotective and regenerative processes within the brain, the study demonstrated that exercise, in only three months, did indeed affect how the brain is wired. "Short-term aerobic exercise increases functional and structural connectivity," Stellmann concluded. "Already after three months, exercise lead to functional and structural reorganization of brain networks." The researcher highlighted the difficulties in obtaining financial support for trials on exercise. And he emphasized that patients should be encouraged by their doctors to exercise regularly.

#MSParis2017 – Early High-Efficacy Treatment Reduces Disability Accumulation in Young MS Patients

While early use of high-efficacy treatments lowers relapse rates among patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) compared to lower-efficacy ones, starting these therapies earlier may only impact the accumulation of disability among young patients, according to data presented at the 7th Joint ECTRIMS-ACTRIMS Meeting in Paris, France. Earlier treatment…

#MSParis2017 – Quitting Smoking, Boosting Vitamin D Reduces MS Healthcare Costs, Improves Outcomes

People with multiple sclerosis (MS) who quit smoking have better health outcomes than those who continue. Therefore, MS-related costs can be reduced by encouraging smokers to quit. Similar results were observed in MS patients with healthy vitamin D levels, Maura Pugliatti, from the University of Ferrara, in Italy, said Friday in a presentation at the…