Top 10 Multiple Sclerosis Stories of 2021
We look forward to continuing to be a resource for the MS community in 2022. Here are the Top 10 most-read articles of 2021, with a brief description of what made them relevant for our readers.
In March, Janssen announced that its oral medication Ponvory (ponesimod) was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat adults with relapsing forms of MS, including clinically isolated syndrome, relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), and active secondary progressive MS (SPMS).
The approval was supported by data from the pivotal OPTIMUM Phase 3 clinical trial (NCT02425644), in which Ponvory significantly outperformed the approved therapy Aubagio (teriflunomide) in terms of reducing relapse rates.
Vaccines are effective for preventing severe disease from COVID-19, but disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) for MS, which work by lowering immune activity, may reduce vaccine effectiveness. Based on data available at the time, the National MS Society recommended in February that people with MS who are about to start on immune-suppressing DMTs should wait to do so until until at least four weeks after they get vaccinated. Alterations in dosing schedules also were recommended for certain DMTs.
Scientists in the Netherlands found that women with MS who have a higher-quality diet — composed of substantial amounts of vegetables, fruits, fiber, and healthy types of fats — reported significantly better mental and physical quality of life.
The online survey of 728 MS patients collected detailed information about diet, as well as data on quality of life and physical and mental health. It also found a similar, but nonsignificant trend in men.
A team of researchers in Iran found that vitamin D binding protein (VDBP), which binds to vitamin D and helps transport it through the body, could potentially serve as a biomarker of the disease.
The analysis included 296 people with newly diagnosed MS and 313 healthy controls. While no differences in common genetic variants of VDBP were observed between the groups, a sub-analysis of 77 MS patients and 67 controls revealed that VDBP levels were significantly lower in the MS group. The scientists stressed the need for more research to determine whether VDBP could predict the risk of developing MS.
In April, a report from Spherix showed that Genentech’s Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) was the most commonly stopped MS therapy in the U.S. due to concerns surrounding COVID-19. Biogen’s fumarate-based oral treatment Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate) had also lost ground to other similar therapies, particularly Vumerity (diroximel fumarate), another fumarate medication made by Biogen that causes fewer and less severe digestive side effects.
Another well-established therapy, Novartis’ S1P receptor modulator Gilenya (fingolimod), also lost ground to more recent therapies in its class, namely Novartis’ Mayzent (siponimod) and Bristol Myers Squibb’s Zeposia (ozanimod).
Research done in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), a mouse model of MS, has shown that giving vitamin D supplements at the preclinical stage — when the disease is biologically present, but symptoms have yet to manifest — could help to prevent the disease’s progression.
Here, a team led by researchers in Brazil compared vitamin D with a structurally similar molecule called paricalcitol, which has some of the same effects as vitamin D. Results showed that vitamin D, but not paricalcitol, could significantly reduce inflammation and nerve cell damage in the brains of EAE mice.
A team of scientists in Germany showed that people with MS often experience disease symptoms several years before their diagnosis, which could help detect the condition sooner.
The researchers analyzed insurance data for more than 10,000 people with MS in the five years before their diagnosis, as well as tens of thousands of controls with other autoimmune diseases or no diseases. Compared with the controls, MS patients tended to seek more medical attention in the years before their diagnosis, and many of the complaints were for MS-like symptoms.
In a series of preclinical experiments in MS mouse models, scientists at BioNTech demonstrated that its investigational vaccine for MS could prevent the onset of disease or halt disease progression in mice with early-stage disease.
The mRNA vaccine basically aims to train the immune system not to attack myelin, the fatty substance that wraps around nerve fibers and helps them send electrical signals but is erroneously attacked in MS. Treated mice showed no signs of general immune suppression and had adequate immune responses against other infectious pathogens.
In July, we reported on a study showing that MS patients who received multivitamin supplements (containing vitamins A, B-complex, C, and D) experienced a significant decrease in fatigue scores on two standardized measures and increased antioxidant enzyme activity in the blood.
The trial enrolled 50 female participants with RRMS, who were randomly assigned to take multivitamin supplements or a placebo, for 70 days. No significant differences in fatigue scores were observed in the placebo group.
Our most-read story of 2021 concerned results demonstrating that people who never drank alcohol were significantly more likely to develop MS, by about 20%, compared with people who did. This association was particularly strong among current or former smokers.
In this study, scientists in Sweden conducted an analysis of 2,059 people with MS and 2,887 without whose records were included in a national population database. The scientists noted a need for more research into the mechanisms underlying this association, which could pave the way for therapies that allow for the benefits of alcohol consumption without its many well-established drawbacks.
At Multiple Sclerosis News Today, we hope these stories and our reporting throughout 2022 contribute to informing and improving the lives of everyone affected by MS.
We wish all our readers a very happy new year!