Primary and Secondary MS Research Took Center Stage at  ECTRIMS 2016

      The European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS) held its 32nd annual meeting in London, September 14–17. With more than 9,000 attendees, it is the world’s largest MS conference, where global researchers, students, and professionals converge to present and learn about the latest MS research. Following are some highlights from this year’s event.


Secondary Progressive MS Participants See Positive Results from Fingolimod-like Drug

     In a phase III clinical trial called EXPAND, siponimod (Novartis), a drug similar to fingolimod (Gilenya®) but with a more targeted effect on white blood cells, slowed MS disease progression more than placebo. Siponimod may have fewer side effects than fingolimod, while maintaining similar positive effects. The trial included 1,651 participants from 31 countries making it the largest clinical trial on people with secondary progressive MS. (Ludwig Kappos et al, abstract 250) Participants received either a daily placebo or siponimod tablet. Results presented at ECTRIMS showed that, after 3 and 6 months, people with MS who received siponimod had slower progression as assessed by Expanded-Disability Status Scale (EDSS). Novartis has announced it will apply for the regulatory approval to formally include this drug as a treatment for secondary progressive MS. The results of this study have been submitted for publication. Read more about this trial on the International Progressive MS Alliance website:





Lipoic Acid for Neuroprotection in Secondary Progressive MS

     Researchers from Portland, Oregon, presented the results of a small clinical trial testing the effects of lipoic acid on 54 participants with secondary progressive MS. Lipoic acid is a tablet with antioxidant effects available over the counter. (Rebecca Spain, abstract 222). Participants were divided into two groups who either received placebo or lipoic acid. After 96 weeks of follow-up trial results showed that the group who received the lipoic acid treatment had lower rate of brain atrophy than those in the placebo group. However, there was no significant effect of the treatment on disability and clinical measures in people who received the treatment. Study authors stressed the need for trials with more participants in order to prove the effectiveness of lipoic acid.


Secondary Progressive Drug Trial MS-SMART Reports on Recruitment Phase

      The MS-SMART drug trial (Multiple Sclerosis – Secondary progressive Multiple Arm Randomisation Trial) is an ongoing study in 13 sites across the United Kingdom testing three drugs at once: amiloride, licensed to treat heart disease; fluoxetine, licensed to treat depression; riluzole, licensed to treat motor neuron disease (MND). Three research abstracts reported on the trials’ recruitment: A total of 440 participants with worsening secondary progressive MS have been recruited in 4 groups: (1) placebo, (2) riluzole, (3) fluoxetine, and (4) amiloride. Investigators plan to follow participants for 96 weeks and assess the effects of each drug on clinical, disability and MRI outcomes. (Peter Connick, abstract P1203).