MS Patient’s Pick of the Week’s News: Most Effective, Brain MRIs, Vit D3, Lipoic Acid, Modeling

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Pick of the Week's News

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Here’s my Pick of this Week’s News, as published by Multiple Sclerosis News Today.

This week is a rather special one because it spotlights the work done by our news team in following and reporting the major events at ECTRIMS 2016. Here, I set out my choice of what I consider the top news stories of the last seven days – all from the congress in London.

Read through this column then click on the underlined blue headlines to read the full, already published stories that grab your attention.

#ECTRIMS2016 – Lemtrada and Tysabri Seen as Most Effective Therapies for MS in 5-Year Study

A five-year study comparing the efficacy of different treatments for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) found that, in general, Lemtrada(alemtuzumab) and Tysabri (natalizumab) are more effective as therapies than Gilenya (fingolimod) and interferon β.

Study results were presented in an oral presentation, “Comparison of 5-year treatment outcomes between alemtuzumab versus natalizumab, fingolimod and interferon β-1a,” given at the 32nd Congress of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS), in London, that concluded on Sept. 17.

Lemtrada is a highly effective monoclonal antibody that binds to CD52, a protein present on the surface of mature lymphocytes (immune cells) that are involved in MS development. Previous studies have shown that Lemtrada is more efficient compared to interferon β therapy in RRMS patients. How Lemtrada acts relative to other potent MS drugs, however, was not known.

#ECTRIMS2016 – Brain MRI Scans Can Predict Which Patients Will Progress into SPMS

The presence of certain brain and spinal cord lesions can be used to predict if an MS patient with clinically isolated syndrome will progress into relapsing or secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS) within 15 years.

Researchers agree that knowing which patients who will rapidly deteriorate will help physicians tailor both monitoring and treatment according to these patients’ needs.

The study, “Early MRI predictors of secondary progressive multiple sclerosis: a 15 year follow-up study of patients with clinically isolated syndrome,” was presented at the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS) 2016 Congress Sept. 14-17 in London, where MS researchers presented their latest findings.

The presentation was titled “Long term outcome after presentation with a clinically isolated syndrome,” and was given by Wallace Brownlee from theQueen Square Multiple Sclerosis Centre at University College London.

#ECTRIMS2016 – Vitamin D3 Oil Supplements May Benefit MS Patients in Early Disease Stages

Patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) might benefit from cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) oil as an add-on therapy in the early phases of the disease.

This finding was presented in an oral presentation, “High dose cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) oil as add-on therapy in subjects with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis receiving subcutaneous interferon β-1a,” given at the 32nd Congress of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS), recently held in London (Sept. 14–17).

In the SOLAR study (NCT01285401), researchers investigated the effects of cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) as an add-on therapy in RRMS patients receiving subcutaneous interferon (scIFN) β‑1a therapy.

Specifically, the team performed a double-blind and multicenter 48-week study to evaluate the efficacy of administrating daily oral cholecalciferol (350 µg vitamin D3), compared to placebo (a control group). Its primary endpoint was the percentage of patients who were disease activity free (DAF) at week 48. DAF was defined as the absence of relapses, Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) progression, or new combined unique active (CUA) lesions.

#ECTRIMS2016 – Antioxidant Lipoic Acid Appears to Slow SPMS Patients’ Neurodegeneration

A pilot study exploring the antioxidant lipoic acid in patients with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS) demonstrated that treatment for two years reduced the speed of brain tissue loss and improved the patients’ walking speed.

The surprising finding was presented during the “New directions in progressive MS research” session of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS) 2016 Congress Sept. 14-17 in London.

In her talk, titled “Lipoic acid for neuroprotection in secondary progressive multiple sclerosis: results of a randomised placebo-controlled pilot trial,” Dr. Rebecca Spain, MD, MSPH, a neurologist in the Oregon Health & Science University Multiple Sclerosis Center, also working with the VA Portland Health Care System, explained how her research team became interested in the over-the-counter antioxidant.

Lipoic acid has been shown to reduce inflammation and degeneration of the optic nerve and spinal cord tissue in animal models of MS. The compound is also suitable for patients, as studies have shown that even high doses of the antioxidant are well-tolerated.

#ECTRIMS2016 – Modeling Approach Able to Identify Likely Disease Trajectory in Progressive MS Patients

Long-term observations together with mathematical modeling present a way of predicting the likely disability trajectory of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients.

The approach was outlined in a presentation, titled “Long-term disability trajectories in primary progressive MS patients – a latent class growth analysis,” given at the 32nd Congress of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS), held in London on Sept. 14 –17.

In recent decades, a growing number of studies worldwide have focused on the epidemiology of MS — epidemiology being the study of disease causes and patterns in a given population — specifically in relation to primary progressive MS (PPMS) patients. These studies suggest a notable heterogeneity in patients’ rates of disability accumulation, denoted by the wide range, from 7 to 14 years, in which they progress from disease onset to EDSS 6, a milestone on the Expanded Disability Status Scale, or EDSS. The scale is a method of quantifying disability in multiple sclerosis and monitoring changes over time; the higher the EDSS score, the greater the disability.

In this study, researchers aimed to identify subgroups of PPMS patients with similar longitudinal EDSS trajectories over time. The team included data from all patients registered in an MSBase international registry, who had their first EDSS assessment within five years of onset.

There you have it, five great examples of the news out of ECTRIMS 2016. It is almost as though you were there.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

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Ian Franks is Managing Editor of the Columns division of BioNews Services. He has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media; during which he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain and uses his skills to write his own flourishing specialist MS, Health & Disability blog at Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.
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