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Searching for Better Therapies

We Support academic and commercial research leading toward clinical trials of new therapies to stop damage and progression of disability; we are feeding the pipeline in several ways and pursuing therapies for EVERYONE with MS.


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Paving the way for treatment breakthroughs

The Society paved the way for many existing FDA-approved therapies. But there are still more questions than answers – we must keep learning and finding solutions for everyone affected by MS.
Here are some ways that Society-funded research has propelled treatment breakthroughs:
  • Interferons: Society-funded investigators were the first to conduct a major clinical trial of any form of interferon in MS.
  • Copaxone: The Society supported pre-clinical tests of what is now Copaxone.
  • Mitoxantrone: Society-funded investigator was among the first to investigate the potential of mitoxantrone in rodents with MS-like disease.
  • Tysabri: The significance of the integrin molecule, the study of which led to the development of Tysabri, was discovered as part of a Society-funded research fellowship.
  • Ampyra: The first studies of the potassium-blocking approach in people with MS were supported by the Society, leading to the approval of Ampyra for its ability to improve walking in people with any type of MS; this was the first therapy specifically approved to treat a symptom of MS 
  • Ocrevus: The Society funded early research that laid the groundwork for this first therapy specifically approved for primary progressive MS.
  • Gilenya for pediatric MS: The Society established a U.S. Network of Pediatric MS Centers, of which several centers recruited participants for the trial of Gilenya that led to its becoming the first therapy approved for children and teens with MS. The Society’s early, fundamental work helped lay the groundwork for this important breakthrough.

Funding that drives solutions

We continue to fuel the therapy pipeline in many ways, including:

  • Funding clinical trials. Read about these studies (.pdf).
  • Funding basic research to uncover new targets for stopping the immune attack and protecting and rebuilding the nervous system
  • Funding preclinical research on, and clinical trials of, promising agents in both academic and commercial sectors
  • Identifying funding gaps and providing seed money to support industry-based drug development through Fast Forward.
  • Supporting a program designed to train physicians in the art and science of conducting clinical trials.
  • Funding research and convening experts to develop ways to better track the effects of new therapies on brain tissues and disease activity through imaging and biomarkers, to speed readouts from trials.

Pursuing better therapies for EVERYONE with MS

We are pursuing better therapies for EVERYONE with MS - here's how:

  • The Society joined with NIH to launch a therapy trial of the re-purposed therapy ibudilast in primary-progressive and secondary-progressive MS. Results suggest that ibudilast significantly slowed the rate of brain atrophy (shrinkage), linked to cognitive and physical disability in MS.This therapy has been designated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a “Fast Track Product.”  
  • In a small, phase II clinical trial, the oral antihistamine clemastine modestly improved the transmission of electrical signals in the optic nerve in participants with MS who had optic nerve damage, indicating repair of nerve-insulating myelin. Clemastine was identified as having possible myelin-repairing properties through innovative preclinical research funded by the National MS Society.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the expansion of the use of the oral MS therapy Gilenya® (fingolimod, Novartis AG) to include the treatment of children and adolescents 10 years of age or older with relapsing MS.For more than a decade, the National MS Society has been a global leader in creating awareness and consistency around the diagnosis and care of children with MS. The Society’s early, fundamental work helped lay the groundwork for this important breakthrough.
  • 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 is providing funding for the ChariotMS trial in the UK, which will test whether cladribine tablets (Mavenclad®) can slow the progression of upper limb disability in people with advanced MS, who are rarely included in clinical trials.
  • We are supporting ongoing clinical trials of potential treatments such as vitamin D, antioxidants, and non-drug therapies such as exercise and rehabilitation.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


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