How Do You Define an MS Cure?
“Why aren’t researchers doing more to find a cure for multiple sclerosis?” “Why isn’t more effort and money devoted to this?”
I regularly read comments like these after I write a column about a new disease-modifying therapy (DMT) that’s either being tested or has just been approved. Some, like Multiple Sclerosis News Today columnist Jennifer Powell, have faith that a cure will come, but many others feel a cure is far, far away.
What if we already have a cure but just fail to see it? Professor Gavin Giovannoni suggests on The MS Blog that this might be the case. But to see it, we need to redefine “cure.” Or at least we need to refine how we define it.
What defines an MS cure?
To redefine cure, Giovannoni wrote, we need to accept the idea that “an MS cure doesn’t mean the restoration of lost neurological function; you can be cured of further autoimmune attacks on the nervous system, but the damage that is already done won’t necessarily be repaired as part of the cure.”
We also need to accept that “long-term remission” may be a better term than “cure” to describe the idea of MS going away and never coming back.
Long-term remission can be accomplished with some of our newest and most powerful DMTs, such as Lemtrada (alemtuzumab), Ocrevus (ocrelizumab), Mavenclad (cladribine), and hematopoietic stem cell therapy. Lemtrada has certainly slowed, and perhaps even stopped, my MS progression. Some of my symptoms have even improved a bit. My walking is a little faster, my concentration has improved, and I’ve stopped taking modafinil to treat my fatigue.
Has my MS been cured?
I’ve probably been considered as having NEDA-4 status for the past several years. That stands for “no evidence of disease activity” in four areas: no relapses, no progression, no MRI activity, and no brain atrophy. I can’t walk very far, I continue to have bladder issues, and my fatigue is much greater than a healthy person of my age. But my MS probably meets Giovannoni’s proposed definition of long-term remission. So, should I consider myself cured?
While you’re thinking about that, how would you answer the following three questions Giovannoni asked in his MS Blog post?
- Is it appropriate to use the word “cure” when discussing MS?
- Does talking about a cure for MS raise false hopes?
- Is long-term remission a better term than cure?
I’ll add a question of my own: Should we replace “cure” with “prevent”? Aren’t preventing and halting MS two separate outcomes? What do you think?
You’re 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.