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Multiple Sclerosis Society Recaps 2015 Research Progress

Scientists find new leads in stopping the disease

Important research progress in 2015 offered new leads in stopping multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a report from the National MS Society.

MS is a potentially disabling disease of the central nervous system in which the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and the body, is interrupted. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50 years, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide.

The following is a brief summary of significant 2015 research progress and initiatives.

  • Positive results were reported from three phase III trials of the investigational therapy ocrelizumab (Genentech), showing positive effects in relapsing MS and, for the first time in a large-scale trial, a modest effect in primary progressive MS.
  • A new study uncovered a gene variation linked to the response to MS therapy, which may open new treatment approaches toward the goal of personalized medicine in MS.
  • The first generic version of daily Copaxone (glatiramer acetate, Teva Neuroscience), branded Glatopa by Sandoz, was approved by the FDA, and distribution began in June 2015. Additional generics of this therapy are expected soon.
  • Scientists at the University of Virginia uncovered evidence of a previously unrecognized network of lymphatic vessels that facilitates immune-system activity in the brain. The team reported evidence of this network 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 III trial of Zinbryta (daclizumab high-yield process, Biogen/AbbVie) in relapsing MS, showing that it could significantly reduce relapse rates and disease activity observed on magnetic resonance imaging scans over the course of two to three years. Biogen and AbbVie have applied to the FDA to obtain marketing approval to treat patients with MS.
  • A clinical trial co-funded by the National MS Society of repurposed therapy with the oral epilepsy drug phenytoin showed promise for protecting the nervous system. Neuroprotection is a leading strategy for slowing or stopping the progression of MS.
  • A study found that MS progressed faster in individuals who continue to smoke cigarettes compared with 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 Outcomes Assessment Consortium had its third annual meeting with the FDA and added new clinical trials data and partners in its 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.

Source: PR Newswire; December 29, 2015.

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