People with progressive MS start joining new 'mega-trial' Octopus

Tuesday 28 March 2023

We’re excited to announce the new clinical trial we're funding, Octopus, has started recruitment at its first hospital site in London. This means the first few people with primary and secondary progressive MS have begun taking part. 

Octopus is the first multi-arm, multi-stage (MAMS) trial for MS. It's designed to transform the way treatments for progressive MS are tested. And it's being led by researchers at University College London.

Octopus is currently testing two drugs already used in other conditions.

University College London Hospital is currently the only site open. But there'll eventually be up to 30 sites around the UK, including in:

  • Scotland
  • Wales
  • Northern Ireland
  • Yorkshire
  • the West Midlands
  • the South of England.

“Joining a long line of people who’ve helped progress research”

Ailsa Guidi, from Surrey, was one of the first participants to join Octopus. She has secondary progressive MS.

She’s had two trial visits so far:

  • First, a screening visit where the team checked she met the trial’s eligibility criteria. This included blood tests and an MRI scan. Eligibility criteria are really important as they make sure it’s safe for someone to take part in a trial. And it gives the trial the best chance of success.

  • Then a visit where she took her first dose of either one of the drugs or a placebo (dummy drug). Both Ailsa and the trial team don't know which one she’s taking.

Ailsa says “I'm a positive person, but facing progressive MS feels quite different from living with the relapsing form.

“It’s a strange thing to say, but a family friend said to me ‘it’s a good time to have MS as there’s so much happening in research’ and they’re right! My husband read about the Octopus trial in an MS Society newsletter last year. I said I had enough to focus on just managing my MS to sign up, so I asked him to do it instead!

“Since then, and after being accepted last month, I feel excited that I’m joining a long line of people who have helped progress MS research. Octopus has the potential to find treatments for people, like me, living with progressive MS – it’s given me hope.”

Can I take part in Octopus?

If you’re interested in taking part in Octopus, you can register your interest through the UK MS Register.

When you register, you’ll be asked some questions about your MS. This is so the trial team can get an early idea of whether the trial might be right for you.

You’ll also be asked where you live. This is so the closest trial sites can get in touch when they start recruiting. For most people, this won’t happen for quite a while. This is because trial sites are still getting set up and over 1000 people have already registered their interest.

Another clinical trial we support, ChariotMS, is currently open to participants with advanced MS. They have trial sites around the country.

Find out about other ways to take part in research

"A momentous milestone”

Octopus is being led by Professor Jeremy Chataway. Jeremy says “The multi-arm, multi-stage approach to trialing emerging medications has been utterly transformative in other conditions.

So I’m thrilled we’re now able to apply it to progressive MS. Ultimately, Octopus will lead to more treatments for progression becoming available to people living with MS sooner. 

“Getting to this stage has been an incredible joint effort of people up and down the country. The other large trial I am Chief Investigator for, MS-STAT2, has shown we can run large-scale, nationwide trials for progressive MS.

Now we're taking it to the next level as we start a new journey to develop treatments for progressive MS. I know our amazing community of people is poised to help us make it to the top, so we can find the answers we so desperately need.”

Professor Max Parmar, Director of the Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Unit at UCL, is co-leading Octopus with Jeremy. He’s a trial design expert who helped change how men with prostate cancer around the world are treated.

Hear from Professor Max Parmar about the STAMPEDE MAMS trial

Dr Emma Gray, our Assistant Director of Research, says “Launching the world’s first multi-arm, multi-stage trial for MS has long been an ambition of ours. And opening the doors to Octopus is a momentous milestone.

More than 130,000 people live with MS in the UK. And there are tens of thousands with progressive forms who have nothing to stop their MS getting worse. By tapping into the potential of approved drugs, which may have the potential to protect nerves, we can develop new treatments for MS faster. 

“This is a major moment for MS research – Octopus has the potential to change the clinical trials landscape around the world. It's thanks to all the wonderful participants that trials, like Octopus, can happen. We won’t stop until we have treatments that transform the lives of everyone with MS.”

Support clinical trials

To help everyone with MS, we must stop the condition from progressing. And to do this, we must fund more world-leading research.

Our Stop MS Appeal is supporting trials like OctopusChariotMS and MS-STAT2. This is world-leading, highly ambitious research. That’s why your support is so vital.

Find out more