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2018 - a year of hope for MS research

David Schley

2018 has seen significant progress for MS research, but there have been moments of disappointment too.

Our new Research Strategy ensures we continue to be at the forefront of science, delivering real change for people living with MS.

Groundbreaking clinical trial

The MIST trial of HSCT for highly active relapsing MS showed that the treatment can be highly beneficial for those people still experiencing relapses despite taking a disease modifying therapy (DMT). We’re now working for fair access to HSCT for everyone who could benefit.

The much anticipated MS-SMART results gave hope and disappointment in equal measure. Unfortunately, none of the three drugs tested showed any benefit for people with progressive MS, despite showing promise in earlier studies.

However, the trial did show that we can run effective multi-arm trials involving people with progressive MS - and that we can do this faster and cheaper than previously thought.

New opportunities to participate in trials

Recruitment for the phase 2 trial to see if bexarotene can boost myelin repair has now been completed at our and Cambridge and Edinburgh centres. Results are due next year.

We also opened the first 25 trial centres across the UK for the phase 3 MS-STAT2 trial looking at whether simvastatin can treat progressive MS. 140 people are already taking part, with another 1,000 expected to join them next year. This makes it the UK’s largest ever trial for secondary progressive MS.  You can register your interest in the MS-STAT2 trial on the UCL website

Following licensing for relapsing and early primary progressive MS earlier this year, it was announced that the drug ocrelizumab will be tested for advanced MS too. The trial will involve people with primary progressive MS and include those who use a wheelchair and are currently not eligible for DMTs.

More ways to get involved in research

Anyone who’s part of the UK MS Register can now get personalised reports of their scores. These can be useful for discussions with nurses and neurologists.

The MS Register has also linked up with the MS Society Tissue Bank, allowing them to share your data with more researchers if you give them permission.

Getting the best treatment for everyone

We want everyone to have fair access to all the treatments that could benefit them. Following an initiative from our Clinical Trials Network, a multi-million-pound international trial called DELIVER-MS will answer one of the biggest questions facing people diagnosed with relapsing MS: Is early treatment with an intensive but aggressive DMT the best option, or should you start with a DMT that has the least side effects? Find out more about DELIVER-MS on the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute website

Latest from the lab

Our researchers continue to make exciting discoveries in the lab that get us closer to developing new treatments. This year for example we found a new switch that controls myelin repair in the brain and what could happen if we produce too much myelin.

Uncovering the causes of MS

Our understanding of MS continued to grow in 2018, with new research showing the dangers of solvents and smoking and from smoking and low vitamin D. These factors increase the risk of developing MS and worsen prognosis for people who have it.

Investing in the future

We committed another £1.8 million to 11 new MS research projects and established new exciting partnerships will allow us to do more. Connect Immune Research is a collaboration to fund research that could benefit many different autoimmune conditions at the same time.

We also launched our Advanced Fellowships together with NIHR to support promising young scientists to establish a career in MS research.

The year ahead

2019 could be the most exciting year for MS research yet.

We’ll be launching our Efficient Clinical Trials Platform, testing multiple drugs at the same time to see if they can slow, stop or reverse the progression of disability. Our Expert Consortium already has a shortlist of the most promising drugs, after we crowd-sourced suggestions from people with MS and research experts. And look out for even more news of trials for treatments to stop MS for everyone.