What is being done to treat MS? – Telegraph.co.uk

By Dr. Matthew Watson

Considered untreatable until the early 1990s, multiple sclerosis (MS) has benefited in recent decades from huge progress in developing treatments for people with relapsing MS, the most common form of the condition at the point of diagnosis. But there are many people living with the progressive forms of MS who face increasing disability and still have very few, if any, treatment options.

Thats why the MS Society is now focusing its attention on finding effective treatments for everyone with MS. And it has a clear plan to get there.

To stop MS, people will need to be treated with a combination of drugs, explains the charitys director of research, Dr Susan Kohlhaas. This might include one drug that acts on the immune system, another that prompts brain stem cells to repair damage to myelin, the fatty substance protecting nerve fibres, and a treatment that increases the resilience of brain and nerve cells to help prevent damage occurring in the first place.

Were now at a point where were beginning to understand the molecular mechanisms that cause myelin damage and promote repair exactly what we need to stop MS, she says. Were also in the middle of a promising trial of a common statin, which we think may be able to protect nerves. The Stop MS Appeal is about making sure we have a coordinated approach to developing these treatments and can do it as quickly and efficiently as possible.

In early 2020, the MS Society plans to launch a world-leading clinical trials platform to test multiple treatments for MS at the same time. The aim is to set up a large trial in which several drugs can be tested concurrently on different groups of patients the first time this will ever have been done in neurodegenerative disease.

It will be a much more efficient process than having separate trials and means participants will have a much higher chance of receiving an active treatment that may work, rather than a placebo. Regular reviews will ensure that promising drugs can go straight through to late-stage clinical trials, while ineffective drugs are dropped and replaced by others.

This means desperately needed new treatments could reach people living with progressive MS much faster, says Dr Kohlhaas. We now have around 40 researchers actively working on the programme and theres a real sense of momentum and excitement about its potential.

The MS Society Tissue Bank is a repository of brain and spinal-cord tissue donated by people with MS after their death to help researchers understand more about the condition. The charity has recently invested 1.5million to fund new developments at the facility including a digital brain bank of high-definition pictures of brain tissue that will allow researchers around the world easier access to the resource.

The MS Society also funds research facilities around the UK and the UK MS Register, which enables people to record information about the progress of their condition every six months. An important research tool and source of data, it can also help identify patients for new trials.

Something Im really proud of is that we involve people with MS in the decision-making about research, says Dr Kohlhaas. They sit on our panels and committees to decide what to fund, and they have a strong voice. Im confident this approach has absolutely changed our way of working and ensured we really focus on what people with MS want.

Our vision is that, by 2025, well have treatments in late-stage clinical trials that can be taken through into practice quite quickly, and that well soon have the ability to start treating people with combinations of treatments that not only slow the progress of MS but can actually stop it.

This article is brought to you by the MS Society and Telegraph Spark. The MS Society believes that with investment, MS can be stopped. Scientists can see a future in which no one with the condition need worry about it getting worse. But action is needed now.

Donate today and help the MS Society raise 100million to find treatments for everyone. Visit mssociety.org.uk/stop-ms-now

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What is being done to treat MS? - Telegraph.co.uk

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