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Breakthrough could lead to treatment that would delay progression of advanced MS

MS affects around 9,000 people in Ireland.

Image: Shutterstock/Akimov Igor

A STUDY HAS indicated possible treatment options for those with an advanced kind of multiple sclerosis (MS) that could delay their symptoms.

The study, published in The Lancet today, indicates that those with an advanced version of the neurological condition could benefit from treatment that would delay the progression of MS in the short-term.

MS can manifest itself in a number of different ways depending on the severity of the disease and the person who has it. Most people are diagnosed between 20 and 40 years of age, and 85% of diagnoses relate to relapsing and remitting MS, which involves ‘relapses’ where you experience symptoms, and periods of time when you don’t.

This study relates to secondary MS, a form of MS that leads to progressive, irreversible disability, largely independent of relapses.

There is a high unmet medical need for new treatments that are safe and effective for patients with secondary progressive MS.

Although there are a wide range of symptoms, some of the most common ones include fatigue, vision problems, numbness and tingling, muscle spasms, and pain.

MS affects around 2.3 million people worldwide and about 9,000 people in Ireland.

The Novartis study EXPAND

In a randomised, double-blind placebo study EXPAND, results showed a “significant reduction” in the progression of the disease within three and six-months when a drug called siponimod is taken. This was compared to a placebo and favourable outcomes in other studies of MS.

If approved, siponimod would be the first disease-modifying therapy to delay disability progression in patients with secondary progressive MS, including many who had reached a high level of disability.

The results of the study were:

  • Reduced the risk of six-month confirmed disability progression by 26%
  • Slowed the rate of brain volume loss (brain shrinkage) by 23%1
  • Limited the increase of brain lesion volume by approximately 80%
  • Reduced annualised relapse rate by 55%
  • Did not show a significant difference in the Timed 25-Foot Walk test and MS Walking Scale
  • Demonstrated a safety profile that was overall consistent with the known effects of S1P receptor modulation.

“Currently, Irish people with secondary progressive MS have limited treatment options,”says Professor Orla Hardiman, Consultant Neurologist at Beaumont Hospital and Professor of Neurology at Trinity College.

These data, published today, shows that siponimod delays the advancement of disability for these patients, representing an important milestone in MS care.

“These data are all the more impressive when considering that the majority of patients already had advanced disability when starting treatment on the study”.

Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis, who conducted the study, plans to file for a European licence in 2018. You can read more about the study here.

Read: “Adam says to me ‘You have MS mum, but I’ve got to wear glasses’”

Read: ‘Imaginations flourish’: 30 years of good done through the MS Readathon

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