Don’t Jump to Conclusions Over a Breakthrough MS Vaccine Just Yet
A medical website’s headline screamed, “Breakthrough Multiple Sclerosis Vaccine Shows Impressive Results In Study.” The New York Daily News joined in, highlighting a potential “breakthrough” vaccine. Other media outlets also were using similar adjectives earlier this month. Unfortunately, it’s normal media hype.
I suspect some of it was was encouraged because the company sponsoring the research is BioNTech, which helped to develop one of the COVID-19 vaccines. Now, the company is testing its mRNA vaccine model to see if it can be used to reduce the type of inflammation that destroys myelin.
As is typical in these cases, cheerleading by traditional media has generated a lot of social media buzz. People with MS have been sharing these stories and sounding a little like “The Little Engine That Could,” repeating, “I think I can, I think I can.”
But hold that train.
It’s a long way to the final stop
I’d like to see a vaccine that can protect our myelin as much as anyone, but I believe we’re still a long way from that day. As Marta Figueiredo pointed out here at Multiple Sclerosis News Today, the research in the previously mentioned stories comes from a mouse study.
It’s true, the investigational vaccine did prevent disease development in those rodents. In mice with early-stage MS, the vaccine candidate halted progression and restored some lost motor function. But those mice didn’t actually have multiple sclerosis, they were infected with an illness that is similar to MS, called experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. Also, we’re talking about mice, not men or women.
Don’t jump to conclusions
I don’t like writing about mice studies. A potential treatment may do well on a mouse, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll have the same results in humans. In fact, some researchers are fond of saying mice lie and monkeys exaggerate. There’s even a Twitter account dedicated to this concept.
After the mice tests come the monkeys. If the treatment passes monkey muster, there are then human tests, usually done in three phases. Don’t expect this clinical testing to move at anything like “warp speed,” either. It will likely take years.
As the MS Research Australia website puts it, “While this is an exciting research development, this is still in an early research phase. There are differences between human MS and EAE. … So while this is exciting research, several hurdles need to be cleared before we are likely to see such strategies trialed in humans. In the case of MS, the search for the exact target of the immune system continues.”
They took the words right out of my mouth. Let’s halt the hype that gives false hope. Instead, let’s report, without exclamation points, that another research project is producing some positive results that may, several years from now, lead to an MS vaccine.
Do you agree, or do you consider this to actually be an MS breakthrough? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. You’re also invited to visit my personal blog at www.themswire.com.
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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.