Image of MRI brain scans

Risk factors for early progression identified

A new study has identified ways to predict which people with relapsing MS are most likely to develop secondary progressive MS.

Researchers at Imperial College London and the University of Verona followed 219 people diagnosed with relapsing MS for 5-12 years, with regular check-ups and annual MRI scans.

Predicting progression

The study, led by Dr Antonio Scalfari from Imperial College London and Professor Massimiliano Calabrese from the University of Verona, showed the number of relapses someone has in the first two years after diagnosis is linked to how quickly they might develop secondary progressive MS (SPMS).

Researchers found the number of cortical lesions people have at the onset of relapsing MS predicted their probability of developing progressive MS. The more lesions someone had, the higher the risk of them developing SPMS, and the sooner this was likely to happen.

Dr Antonio Scalfari said:

“These results confirm that processes taking place early on in MS influence how the condition develops in the long term, and it’s the first time we’ve realised the importance of assessing the grey matter damage at the point of diagnosis.

"This is a huge step forward in how we assess and treat the condition, which affects 100,000 people in the UK, and we must prioritise improving MRI techniques to detect cortical lesions so we can begin to reflect this in routine clinical practice.”

Reducing uncertainty for people with MS

Dr David Schley, our Research Communications Manager, said:

"MS is notoriously unpredictable, and one of the hardest things about receiving a diagnosis is you have no way of knowing how your condition will progress.

"We’re proud to have funded this valuable study that could finally help us give people with MS more certainty about the future. As well as having an immense impact on overall wellbeing, this could even help people make more effective treatment decisions, and have a long term benefit on health."

Decisions about MS treatments

These results confirm biological processes that take place early on in MS influence how the condition develops in the long term. Experts now think that even when symptoms get better after a relapse, the damage MS causes often continues. This is why it’s important people with MS get to talk to their neurologist about treatment options.

We worked with the Progressive MS Alliance to fund this research.

> Read the original research paper