At first glance, the news surrounding multiple sclerosis treatments appears middling; the vast majority of experimental drugs and novel therapies for the disease have been rejected over the past few years on account of the side effects and risks of the treatments outweighing their benefits. Moreover, for MS patients who suffer from more advanced forms of the disease, such as secondary progressive MS, there is virtually no effective treatment for curtailing the disease’s symptoms.
With all of this being said, there are still positive developments to report in the fields of research and development for MS treatments and an eventual cure. According to The National MS Society, 2013 was a year of “major advancements” in the fight against MS on a number of different fronts. In a recent press release from December, the organization noted that R&D in the previous year led to the advancement of new experimental drugs that show promise in slowing the progression of MS, restoring function to patients, and increasing the understanding of the disease toward a cure. Many of the new Multiple Sclerosis treatments are still in their experimental phase and have not been approved by the FDA. That being said, these drugs are in their clinical trial stage, which means that patients with MS can enroll in them as participants, possibly gaining early access to a solution to the disease’s symptoms and progression.
The press release goes on to outline the key developments in the MS field.
News for the treatment of Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis:
Since the majority of MS patients are diagnosed with this form of the disease, much of the research focus for Multiple Sclerosis is focused on doing better than what is currently available for those with Relapsing-Remitting. The National MS Society points out that “the oral therapy Tecfidera was approved for relapsing MS by FDA, and positive results of peginterferon beta-1a in relapsing MS led to an application to FDA for its marketing approval.” Other key findings that impact patients with Relapsing-Remitting MS include a study from 2013 suggesting that smoking increases a person’s immunity to interferon, which could reduce the treatment’s benefits. Since interferon is common treatment for Relapsing-Remitting MS, this could have an impact on treatment options. It was also found that dietary salt may stimulate immune activity in the disease, according to studies supported by the National MS Society and others. However, these findings are preliminary, and more efforts are being made to corroborate the findings.
Finally, for parents who have children with MS, a 2013 report from the International Pediatric MS Study Group’s Therapeutic Summit Workshop suggested a new framework in designing optimal trial designs for studying disease-modifying therapies in children with MS in a bid to improve treatment. Like interferon, disease-modifying therapies are a go-to treatment for many people suffering with Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis.
Read recent research news about Multiple Sclerosis:
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Advancements For Progressive Forms of MS:
Unfortunately, there are few if any viable FDA-approved options for treating the progressive forms of MS. Typically, the treatment options employ the same therapies used for the Relapsing-Remitting form of the disease, however, these therapies are largely reported to be ineffective. As a result, many people with Secondary Progressive MS (SPMS) take nothing for treating their symptoms, and simply have to live with it.” The drug development industry has traditionally been lax in focusing on the preside forms of MS, since the vast majority of those diagnosed with the disease present with the relapsing-remitting form. However, it is now understood that nearly 80% of all Relapsing-Remitting patients will eventually progress into SPMS, leading to a new effort to develop an effective treatment.
The National MS Society pointed out in its 2013 report that it has joined with NIH to launch a therapy trial of the re-purposed anti-inflammatory therapy ibudilast in primary-progressive and secondary-progressive MS. In addition, “researchers also found a possible “biomarker” or indicator that may help predict MS disease progression. It is called Tob1, a molecule associated with immune cells, and if confirmed, it may ultimately be used to identify people who are likely to progress to full-blown MS after an initial attack.”
It was also reported that the MS Society provided co-funding to the UK MS Society for an innovative clinical trial testing nerve-protecting therapies in secondary-progressive MS, as well as renewed funding for an international feasibility study (“SUMMIT”) aimed at identifying risk factors that drive MS progression.
Absent from the report was Texas-based Opexa Therapeutics’ research and development of its experimental drug Tcelna. The Tclena therapy has been described by some as a kind of vaccine approach to treating the disease, in that it uses a patient’s own T-cells to formulate a custom-tailored therapy. Tcelna is very much in line with next-generation immuntherapies, which made big headlines in 2013 as the breakthrough science of the year. Opexa is currently looking for MS patients with secondary progressive Multiple Sclerosis to participate in nationwide trials for Tcelna, which has already shown promising results in preliminary testing.
Multiple Sclerosis is still a largely misunderstood disease, and because there are still mysteries to unlock with it, effective treatments and a cure are inextricably linked with better understanding the underlying cases of the disease. However, thanks to the critical research work being done by the National MS Society, as well as countless other researchers, companies, and advocates, 2014 will produce new advancements and breakthroughs in the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis.