Sex hormones, salsa dancing and new exploratory therapies moving through the pipeline were among the topics of over 600 presentations focusing on MS during the American Academy of Neurology’s (AAN) annual meeting in late April. More than 12,000 neurologists and researchers convened to share progress in understanding and treating MS and other neurological diseases.
The generous contributions of donors like you are driving solutions for people with MS, as demonstrated by several National Multiple Sclerosis Society-supported investigators who presented promising findings on novel therapies focused on stopping MS, restoring function, and ending MS forever.
Pregnancy hormone estriol: Dr. Rhonda Voskuhl (UCLA) presented preliminary results of a clinical trial of the pregnancy hormone estriol combined with Copaxone® in relapsing-remitting MS. This study was inspired by the observation that MS relapses are less frequent during later pregnancy, a time when estriol is at high levels. In this trial of 164 women, the investigators determined that oral estriol plus Copaxone reduced the rate of relapses after one-year by 47% compared to women taking Copaxone alone, and also showed significant positive benefits in the scores of cognition tests.
Whipworm eggs: In a small clinical trial reported by Dr. John Fleming (University of Wisconsin) and colleagues, participants drank a sports drink containing the eggs of a parasite called porcine whipworm every two weeks for ten months. The number of active brain lesions detected at the end of the trial by MRI was moderately reduced compared to the number of lesions detected at the beginning of the trial, and they also found evidence that the treatment could promote the activity of disease-suppressing white blood cells. Repeating the trial in a larger population will be necessary for definitive conclusions to be made.
New lead for progressive MS treatment: Dr. Lior Mayo (Brigham and Women’s Hospital) and team investigated the potential of a vaccine-like therapy that stimulates cells that can turn off specific MS immune activity, which is the hallmark of progressive phases of MS. The “anti-CD3” vaccine was given to mice with a disease similar to secondary-progressive MS, reducing symptoms after the onset of progression. This early study suggests this approach merits further investigation.
Salsa, anyone?: Dr. Albert Lo, Rosalind Mandelbaum and colleagues (Brown University/Providence VA Medical Center) enrolled eight people with MS in a four-week salsa dance program. Individuals participated in dance sessions twice a week. Dancing resulted in significant improvements in gait and balance both right after the program and after three months of follow up. The Society is now funding Dr. Lo and colleagues to conduct a larger study that may lead to more widespread use of dance as a therapy to improve function in MS.