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Saturday, November 7, 2015

Emerging Therapies, Progressive MS, Wellness/Lifestyle and Other Research News from ECTRIMS Meeting

  • Results from clinical trials in new approaches to treating progressive and relapsing MS, wellness and lifestyle research, and myelin repair strategies took center stage during the European Committee for Treatment and Research in MS (ECTRIMS) meeting held in Barcelona, Spain in early October.
  • More than 9,000 participants convened to share progress in understanding and treating MS.
  • Read blogs from the meeting
  • Explore scientific summaries (abstracts) on the ECTRIMS Website. Search specific topics of interest or sessions 
Below are a few highlights of presentations focusing on stopping MS, restoring function, and ending MS forever. In most cases, studies presented are considered preliminary. Many will be analyzed more thoroughly, and likely published in peer-reviewed medical journals. Confidence in a study’s findings is reinforced when it is repeated by others, who attain similar results.
Stopping MS - Therapies

Many studies presented showed the continued benefit and safety of available therapies, as well as more evidence that early and ongoing treatment with a disease-modifying therapy has long-term benefits for controlling disease activity, delaying accumulation of disability and protecting quality of life. A new MS Brain Health initiative is promoting the message of minimizing delays in the diagnosis and time to treatment to reduce the risks of MS progression.
Ocrelizumab in Primary Progressive MS: Ocrelizumab is a monoclonal antibody that targets a specific population of immune B cells. B cells make proteins that help fight infections and are thought to also play a role in the immune-mediated damage that leads to MS. Results were presented of a clinical trial of ocrelizumab in 732 people with primary progressive MS. Participants were given either ocrelizumab or inactive placebo by in-vein infusions about every 6 months. Compared to placebo, ocrelizumab significantly reduced the risk of progression of clinical disability (according to the standard EDSS scale) by 24%, and had other positive outcomes. The main side effects were reactions to the infusions, and a slight increase in the risk for infection. A more complete safety analysis is ongoing. (Abstract 228Read more
Ocrelizumab in Relapsing MS: Results from two phase III trials of ocrelizumab in relapsing MS were positive compared to Rebif®(interferon beta-1a, EMD Serono and Pfizer). Ocrelizumab reduced the risk of relapse by 46 to 47% compared to Rebif, reduced the risk of disease progression by 40%, and had other positive outcomes. The main side effects were reactions to the infusions, and a slight increase in infections. (Abstract 190) The sponsor, Genentech (a member of the Roche Group) stated that it plans to apply for marketing approval from the FDA in early 2016.

Minocycline Before MS Diagnosis (CIS): Dr. Luanne Metz (University of Calgary) reported on a Phase III trial of a relatively inexpensive oral antibiotic called minocycline, which is often prescribed to treat acne. In addition to its bacteria-killing action, it reduces inflammation. The trial tested minocycline against placebo in 144 people who had clinically isolated syndrome. Results showed that over 6 months, those taking twice daily minocycline had a 44.6% reduced risk of developing definite MS, compared to those taking placebo. There were no unexpected side effects outside of the most common that occur with this antibiotic, which carries several warnings including that it is not to be taken during pregnancy. (Abstract 227)
5-Year Results from Lemtrada: Reports from two ongoing extension studies of alemtuzumab (Lemtrada,® Genzyme, a Sanofi company), approved for relapsing MS, suggest this therapy continued to show effectiveness against relapses and brain volume loss after 5 years in people who had participated in the CARE 1 and CARE 2 trials, many of whom only received two courses of yearly infusions. Adverse events that have been well documented in the medication guide (.pdf) were reported to be comparable or reduced during the extension period compared with the original studies. (Abstracts 151152)
Lectures Focus on Progressive MS and Treatment Strategies: Giving the Keynote address, Professor Alan J. Thompson (University College London) focused on knowledge gaps and advances in research on progressive MS, which impacts more than half of all the people who have MS. He highlighted the work of the International Progressive MS Alliance as a force that is already driving research forward. Professor Giancarlo Comi (University Vita-Salute San Raffaele, Milan) gave the Charcot Award Lecture focusing on emerging approaches to treating MS. He focused on the need for evidence that will enable a personalized medicine approach, based on disease characteristics and predictive markers that would determine the best treatment course for an individual. He emphasized the importance of early treatment for better outcomes, stating his personal belief that there will be a shift toward the idea of “induction therapy” – hitting the disease hard and early.

Restoring Function: Nervous System Repair

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