Important research progress occurred in 2015, offering new leads toward our vision of a world free of MS. The Society mobilizes people and resources so that everyone affected by MS can live their best lives as we stop MS in its tracks, restore what has been lost and end MS forever. We continue to pursue all promising paths to uncover solutions, wherever those opportunities exist, with special focus on progressive MS, nervous system repair, lifestyle/wellness and genes/environment.
The results of previous Society investments continue to mount, and we are committed to growing our research funding even further. In 2015 the Society invested over $53 million in 380 new and ongoing research projects and initiatives. Here is a brief summary of significant 2015 research progress and initiatives, including links to details.
- Positive results were reported from three phase 3 trials of an experimental therapy called ocrelizumab (Genentech, a member of the Roche Group), showing positive impacts in relapsing MS and, for the first time in a large-scale trial, a modest impact in primary progressive MS.
- The Society collaborated to convene a scientific workshop to set research priorities for understanding how co-morbidities (other medical conditions) impact MS severity and clinical trial outcomes, and to explore implications for program development. Finding solutions to address co-morbidities may slow down progression, increase lifespan and quality of life of people with MS.
- A new study uncovered a gene variation linked to response to MS therapy, which may open new treatment approaches with further research toward the important goal of personalized medicine in MS.
- The first generic version of daily Copaxone® (glatiramer acetate), branded “Glatopa” (by Sandoz, a Novartis company, developed in collaboration with Momenta Pharmaceuticals), was approved by the FDA and distribution began by Sandoz in June. Additional generics of this therapy are expected soon.
- Scientists at the University of Virginia uncovered evidence of a previously unrecognized network of vessels that facilitate immune system activity in the brain. The team showed evidence of this network of “lymphatic vessels,” in both mice and people. Further research is needed to understand how and whether lymphatic vessels play a role in MS, and whether they present new opportunities for stopping MS disease activity.
- Results were published from a Phase 3 Trial of daclizumab high-yield process (Zinbryta™) in relapsing MS, showing it could significantly reduce relapse rates and disease activity observed on MRI scans over the course of 2 to 3 years. (Biogen and AbbVie have applied to regulatory agencies in the U.S. and Europe to obtain marketing approval to treat people with MS.)
- The 2015 John Dystel Prize for MS Research went to Prof. Alastair Compston (University of Cambridge) for driving breakthroughs in therapeutic immunology and genetics.
- A clinical trial co-funded by the Society of a repurposed oral epilepsy therapy called phenytoin showed promise for protecting the nervous system. Neuroprotection is a leading strategy for slowing down or stopping progression.
- While disappointing results were announced from major trials of Tysabri (natalizumab) in secondary progressive MS and Gilenya (fingolimod) in primary progressive MS, learnings from these trials have advanced our understanding of the processes that lead to progression and will inform future clinical trial designs.
- A study found that MS progressed faster in those who continue to smoke cigarettes compared to those who quit after an MS diagnosis. This may be explained in part by a Society-funded study showing that mice exposed to smoke showed increased inflammation and oxidative stress.
- The MS Outcome Assessments Consortium had its 3rd annual meeting with the FDA, and added new clinical trials data and partners in this global effort to develop a tool that will provide a sensitive way to detect the benefit of potential treatments that slow or reverse MS progression.
- The International Progressive MS Alliance held a scientific meeting on MS pathophysiology, funded 11 new collaborative network planning grants, and has grown to 14 member societies and pharmaceutical participation through the Industry Forum.
RESTORE AND REPAIR