The holidays have come and gone and as we rang in the new year, a number of exciting developments helped to kick off another promising year for MS research. Findings from the Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation for Relapsing-Remitting MS (HALT-MS) study, a phase II clinical trial investigating the efficacy and safety of high-dose immunosuppressive therapy (HDIT) followed by transplant with the patients’ own hematopoietic cells (HCT) for the treatment of relapsing-remitting MS, were published in a 3-year interim report. The results from the trial so far are encouraging: HDIT/HCT caused sustained remission of symptoms along with improved neurologic function in most participants receiving the treatment. Adverse events were in line with what is expected from aggressive immunosuppressive therapy, and the final report at the end of the 5-year study will weigh the benefits and disadvantages of the treatment against other mainline treatments.
In other news, MS Society-funded researcher Dr. Ruth-Ann Marrie and colleagues published a collection of systematic literature reviews examining the incidence and prevalence of various co-existing diseases and disorders in the MS population, including sleep disorders, psychiatric disorders, cardiac and vascular disease, psychiatric disorders, cancer, and others. The results of their findings highlight important gaps in our understanding of how frequently these various conditions occur alongside MS on a population-level, and stress the importance of consistency and high quality in the design of population studies.
On the assessment tools front, a new article published in JAMA Neurology by a research group from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston recommended that “no-evidence-of-disease-activity” (NEDA), a measurement used to assess progression of MS, become a key measure for gauging long-term prognosis of people with MS, as well as for predicting how a person with MS will respond to a treatment.
Finally, exciting progress was made in research into mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which are being studied for their therapeutic applications for treating MS. A study published in Stem Cell Research & Therapy by Dr. Marin-Bañasco and colleagues demonstrated that MSCs, which are normally derived from the bone marrow, can also be isolated from fat cells from a specific mouse strain. Importantly, these fat-derived MSCs were shown to reduce inflammation and decrease disease severity when transplanted into mice with an MS-like disease, thus revealing a potential new source of therapeutic MSCs for the treatment of MS.
I am confident that 2015 will continue the amazing momentum that research has been building over the years towards making a difference in the fight against MS. I will continue to post the latest news as well as my own insights into various topics in MS, and I encourage you to contribute your own thoughts and experiences too!