I just got around to reading emails that have been accumulating for the past few days and I learned that recently the National MS Society (NMSS) committed $17.5 million to support 50 new MS research projects. This is all "part of its comprehensive strategy to stop MS in its tracks, restore function that has been lost, and end the disease forever." The following is from the NMSS website:
To find the best research projects, the National MS Society relies on more than 70 world-class scientists. These scientists volunteer their time to carefully evaluate hundreds of proposals every year.This is so great! I am so happy to know that so much research is ongoing! I am also glad to know that all of that money we all raise every year for Walk MS, Bike MS and a number of other NMSS events is going toward all of this exciting research! I am especially excited to learn more about this Vitamin D theory. Personally, I have been taking Vitamin D supplements since the Valentine's Day teleconference and I would love to know if those are helping in any way.
The new projects support the comprehensive research goals outlined in the Society’s five-year Strategic Response, including an increased focus on understanding and stopping disease progression, supporting development of new therapies, identifying rehabilitation and other strategies to restore function, and getting more researchers and scientists focusing on MS. The new projects include:
- clinical trials testing whether vitamin D can stop MS activity
- a clinical trial to evaluate whether a repurposed drug, phenytoin, can protect the nervous system from MS damage;
- investigations of mechanisms that may lead the immune system to turn against the nervous system;
- studies of natural molecules that may stimulate repair of the nervous system to restore function;
- studies exploring novel exercise programs to combat MS symptoms; and
- a study comparing the activity of several viruses, including Epstein-Barr virus, that may be involved in triggering immune attacks in people with MS, which may lead to clues to ending MS through prevention.
I also learned that the oral drug BG-12, which I previously posted about here, which is in clinical trials recently reported some positive results. The following are excerpts from the NMSS website:
Biogen Idec announced that the experimental oral therapy BG-12 significantly reduced the proportion of people with MS who experienced relapses in a two-year study of more than 1200 people with relapsing-remitting MS. Although its exact mode of action is not known, BG-12 is thought to inhibit immune cells and molecules involved in MS attacks on the brain and spinal cord. The results were announced in an April 11 press release. Data analysis is ongoing and the company expects to provide a full report at an upcoming medical meeting. Another trial of BG-12 is currently underway.More good news! Maybe soon a second oral therapy will be available! That is enough news for one night, but everyone should also check out the Emerging Therapies Collaborative at this website. Also, if you have a chance, you should check out this MS blog.
In an earlier phase 2 study, compared to inactive placebo, the highest tested BG-12 dose led to a 69% reduction in active inflammation on MRI scans from weeks 12 to 24. Side effects (formally known as adverse events) included abdominal pain, flushing, headache, fatigue, and feeling hot.
The primary goal of the DEFINE study was to determine whether BG-12 could decrease the proportion of participants experiencing relapses and whether the agent was safe and well tolerated. Secondary objectives included assessing BG-12’s effects on the frequency of relapses, disability progression, and disease activity detected by MRI.
Participants were randomly assigned to one of two treatment groups receiving different doses, or a group receiving placebo. According to the press release, in both groups taking BG-12, the primary endpoint was met, meaning a significant reduction in the proportion of people experiencing relapses at 2 years. All secondary endpoints were met as well in these groups, with significant reductions in relapse rate, disease activity on MRI scans, and in disability progression as detected by the EDSS, a standard scale that measures disability. According to the press release, adverse events were similar to those experienced during the Phase 2 study (those included abdominal pain, flushing, headache, fatigue, and feeling hot):
These positive results are the first reported from this large, Phase 3 study of BG-12. Full details and evaluation of this study, and from another Phase 3 study now underway, should help define the safety and promise of BG-12 as a potential therapy for relapsing MS.
Hope everyone reading is well! Look forward to another post by the end of the weekend!