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Clinical Trials in MS

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The latest clinical research in MS: updated September 2014

As of this writing, clinicaltrials.gov -- the clinical trials registry created by the National Institutes of Health -- lists more than 900 studies in multiple sclerosis which have been registered on that site since 2000, including more than 300 ongoing or planned studies.

Here we provide information on several types of studies that are of interest to people affected by MS. These lists are just a sample of what appears on clinicaltrials.gov, to give people affected by MS an idea of the latest clinical research in MS. These are studies that are ongoing, or recently completed.

Where possible, we link to further information from our website, clinicaltrials.gov, or study information elsewhere.

How the Society drives treatment solutions for everyone with MS

Searching for better treatments, including better management of symptoms and complementary/alternative approaches, for all forms of MS is a high priority for the National MS Society. Well-designed clinical trials are crucial to determine the safety and effectiveness of therapies for MS. The National MS Society is dedicated to this effort in several ways.

The Society is providing support to investigators conducting clinical trials of potential therapeutic strategies to stop MS in its tracks or restore function to people who have it. Clinical trials help to determine if a treatment or other intervention is safe and effective for people with MS. The process is complicated. The Society is currently supporting approximately 30 studies of potential treatments or rehabilitation interventions.

Potential treatments under study with Society funding include:
  • Aspirin to improve fatigue
  • Axona® (a “medical food”) to improve cognitive function
  • Estriol + glatiramer acetate to control disease course
  • Helminth-induced immunomodulation (harmless parasitic worms) to reduce disease
  • Lipoic acid, and antioxidant, to repair optic nerve injury
  • Phenytoin, an epilepsy drug, to prevent optic nerve injury
  • Vitamin D + glatiramer acetate to reduce disease activity
  • The MS-SMART trial, testing three therapies that may have nerve-protecting properties in secondary-progressive MS (a collaboration with MS Society of the United Kingdom)
  • SPRINT-MS, a study of ibudilast (MN-166, MediciNova, Inc., an oral anti-inflammatory agent) in 250 people with progressive forms of MS (a unique collaboration between the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and NeuroNEXT Network, a trials initiative of the NIH)
  • Testing the neuroprotective effects of oxcarbazepine, an epilepsy therapy, in secondary-progressive MS using novel methods of measuring damage

Rehabilitation interventions under study with Society funding include:

  • Aerobic exercise to  improve cognitive function
  • Balance and eye movement exercises to improve stability and reduce fatigue
  • Hypnosis and neurofeedback to reduce pain
  • iPad-based program of intellectually engaging activities to improve cognitive function
  • Leg cycling to reduce spasticity
  • Lung volume recruitment to improve respiratory function
  • Manual wheelchair propulsion to increase activity in people using power wheelchairs
  • Talk therapy intervention to improve treatment adherence
  • Telehealth intervention to manage fatigue and increase physical activity

 

Moving trials forward, faster

Many factors are involved in making sure that clinical research is conducted properly and that the results are valid. The staff, office visits, imaging and laboratory tests involved can be extensive, with trials possibly costing millions of dollars. This cost necessitates creative thinking in terms of collaborations to get the job done. Here are a few examples of how the Society is leveraging its support:
  • Through Fast Forward, the Society forms commercial partnerships with early stage biotechnology companies, such as Apitope Technology Ltd., who reported positive results in a phase I study of the experimental treatment ATX-MS-1467, and Canbex Therapeutics Ltd., which is beginning a phase I study of its oral compound for spasticity.  Early Society support helped advance these treatments through the pipeline.
  • The Society-supported MS Outcome Assessments Consortium (MSOAC) involves a unique collaboration of academic, regulatory and pharmaceutical industry researchers, patient advocacy groups, and people with MS working toward a new measure of MS disability that will be validated by the FDA and the European Medicines Agency to speed new therapies for MS, particularly progressive forms of the disease. 
  • Treatments for progressive MS have eluded us for decades. The Progressive MS Alliance is an expanding alliance of organizations from around the world, working together to connect resources and experts to find the answers and develop the solutions to end progressive MS.
  • Through the International Committee on Clinical Trials in MS, jointly supported by the Society and the European Committee for Treatment and Research in MS, the Society works to provide perspective and guidance in areas related to planning and implementing clinical trials for new agents for the treatment of MS.
  • The Society has committed $2.5 million to support research by the Network of Pediatric MS Centers (NPMSC). Funding for the nine-center network provides essential infrastructure to facilitate research on pediatric MS; the center is coordinating the first controlled clinical trial of a treatment in pediatric MS.
  • Society grantees are investigating methods for quickly and noninvasively measuring the success of neuroprotective and nerve repair therapies. These include: 
  • a simple, quick eye test that can show nerve fiber damage and health; 
  • novel imaging that can detect and track myelin and nerve damage and repair;
  • possible biological markers of disease progression; and
  • simple functional tests that may correlate with underlying disease activity.

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