New Report Outlines Scholars’ Meeting Concerns Over MS Treatment, Drug Development

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by Patricia Silva, PhD |

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shutterstock_172885721A new report was recently released outlining researchers’ ongoing goals and focus points for advancing MS drug development and treatment options. “Multiple Sclerosis Management – A Changing Landscape 2013” is the result of a meeting held in Vienna, Austria in April of 2013 that brought together 372 delegates with neurological backgrounds from 30 countries.

The report, reviewed by Per Soelberg Sørensen, Director of the Danish Multiple Sclerosis Center and Professor of Clinical Neurology at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark; Massimo Filippi, Associate Professor of Neurology at the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan, Italy; and Wolfgang Brück, Professor of Neuropathology at the Göttingen University Medical School in Germany, aims to present and discuss the advances and unmet needs about treating multiple sclerosis (MS) that were presented and debated at the meeting last year. While the researchers heralded therapeutic achievements over the past few years, the most prominent points of the meeting dealt with the obstacles involved in advancing MS treatment options, particularly for the progressive forms of the disease.

Researchers clearly stated that the challenge of treating MS in the future is dealing with the progression of the disease. Several treatments for curtailing relapses, slowing down brain atrophy, and mitigating the progression of the disease were recently approved by public health administrations, including oral agents, and several studies are progressing toward approval, pending positive clinical results. The increase of treatment choices is a testament to significant progress in improving the well-being of Multiple Sclerosis patients.

However, the majority of treatments used for the disease nowadays focus mainly on clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) — a pre-MS phase of the disease — and relapsing remitting MS (RRMS). As of right now, there are ten disease-modifying agents, which include seven different anti-inflammatory modes of action to treat MS. These therapies are effective in treating these early forms of MS for a majority of patients.

Patients who experience secondary progressive MS (SPMS), however, have far fewer treatment options. Researchers worldwide have been studying new treatments, especially concerning the progress of the disease. Although studies to treat SPMS have only been marginally successful thus far, new agents have emerged from the studies that are currently in the development pipeline, and could pose viable therapeutic options in the near future.

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Since MS progression occurs in steps characterized by incomplete recoveries from symptomatic exascerbations, investigators have tried to use first-line disease-modifying treatments (DMT), which foster a gradual decrease of symptoms and degeneration in order to reduce relapses and inhibit progression.

Despite the recent studies, the new report points out that researchers haven’t been able to overcome the problem of assessing treatment efficacy.

Not only is there a need to improve the measures and outcomes in clinical trials for therapies, but also a need to improve multiple sclerosis diagnostics. Diagnosis alternatives, for example, include biomarkers, genomics, gene expression models, epigenomics, proteomics, advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) metrics, and clinical MRI biomarker profiles — all tools for diagnosing MS that researchers agree need to be better integrated into clinical practice.

MS is treatable, to some extent, and therapies work on reducing relapse rates, slowing disability progressions, modifying the disease, treating acute exacerbations, providing enhanced recovery and function, treating symptoms, providing neuroprotection to the brain, and improving quality of life. As top researchers continue to convene meetings such as the one held in Vienna last year, MS patient will in turn benefit from improved cooperation within the medical and research communities.

Click here to download the report from the Meeting in pdf format.

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