Photo: Researcher working in lab

Progressive MS – the big questions

Last week we announced that a new scientific consensus has been reached on how relapsing forms of MS should be treated. This is big news for people with relapsing MS, but what about those with a progressive form?

It can be incredibly frustrating and disappointing to hear about new developments that aren’t helpful to you. Here we move the spotlight back to progressive MS.

Why are there no treatments for primary or secondary progressive MS?

The underlying biology of progressive MS is complicated. For a long time we didn’t understand exactly what was going on in progressive MS, so it was difficult for researchers to identify treatments that could help. Of the treatments that have been tested so far in progressive MS, unfortunately most have produced negative results.

Thankfully this is changing. At the very top of our research priorities is finding treatments that are effective to slow, stop or reverse the worsening of disability in MS. More and more research into understanding and treating progressive MS is being done and there’s now real momentum and hope of finding new treatments.

What are the latest breakthroughs?

Just this week, very encouraging results from a phase 3 trial of the drug ocrelizumab in primary progressive MS have been announced. This is the first phase 3 clinical trial in primary progressive MS to show a delay in disability progression so marks a huge step forwards.

Last year we saw a very important step forwards, with the first positive results in many years published for a clinical trial in secondary progressive MS. A phase 2 trial of the drug simvastatin in people with secondary progressive MS suggested that the drug could slow the progression of disability.

Earlier in 2015, encouraging results were announced at the American Academy of Neurology’s Annual Meeting in Washington. This included early data from an ongoing phase 3 clinical trial which suggested that MD1003 may be able to slow MS progression. Other exciting results announced included a trial testing the drug anti-LINGO-1, which was shown to promote myelin repair in people with optic neuritis.

What other research is going on in progressive MS?

The ground-breaking MS SMART trial, is now underway in the UK for people with secondary progressive MS. In a first for MS research, the trial will investigate whether any of three different drugs could slow or stop the worsening of disability.

We’re also funding two other trials of drugs that have the potential to protect nerves from damage (phenytoin and amiloride), which are being tested in people with optic neuritis. Initial promising results were announced in April this year.

The UK MS Society is also a member of the Progressive MS Alliance, a global network of MS charities that are united to speed up the development of treatments for progressive MS.

Where can people with progressive MS find support?

If you can’t treat your MS with DMTs, there are symptom management options you can try to help manage your MS day to day. The MS Society has a progressive MS forum, support is available through our Helpline and local branches and centres, and grants and a Short Breaks scheme can also be applied for.

Help us to stop MS

Every penny we raise takes us a step closer to stopping MS. And everyone has a part to play. You can help us by supporting research that could one day lead to more effective treatments for progressive MS.