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News and Opinions about MS, Health & Disability

Cure for multiple sclerosis: Are we close?

I keep reading about potential cures for multiple sclerosis but how lose are we? Let us take a look at the situation.

Researchers and the medical profession already know that MS is a complicated disease with numerous symptoms. Also, they know that that it is not completely understood. That being the case, it is difficult to see how a cure may be imminent.

But let’s look at the current situation with an open mind.

Recently approved

On the drug front, there are numerous disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) that are used to slow the course of the disease. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved 15 such DMTs mostly for use in treating people with relapsing MS.

The FDA most recently approved ocrelizumab Ocrevus (brand name Ocrevus), at the end of March. This has been given the green light for treating both relapsing and primary progressive forms of the illness.

Ocrelizumab is an immunosuppressant that targets B cells, believed to have a key part in the destruction of myelin.

Patients receiving ocrelizumab also had fewer brain lesions and less loss of brain volume than the placebo group.

What’s ahead

Scientists can take 10 to 15 years to develop new medicines to the stage where they have approval of regulatory authorities to being commercially available. Clinical trials are an important part of his development process.

Some prospective therapies now in the pipeline are:

Laquinimod is an experimental drug in phase III trials for relapsing MS, and phase II

Autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT or AHSCT) “reboots” the immune system in people with all types of MS. HSCT can halt the progress of the disease but does not repair damage already done.

MD1003 is high-dose biotin. It is being tested in phase III trials for both primary and secondary progressive MS and may promote myelin repair.

Siponimod is being developed for use in SPMS.

This all goes to show that research towards new MS treatments is moving fast. These new therapies include: resistance training, antioxidants, and gut microbes.

But is a cure for MS imminent?

Avures much as I wish it is just around the corner, the answer has to be NO.

DMTs help relieve symptoms, reduce disease progression and so on – but they are not cures. We maybe at a point where we are making significant progress to hope for a breakthrough soon, but nothing more.

It is a shame but I really cannot be any more positive than that.

Speaking personally, I have not yet found a DMT that I would be prepared to take. But that’s my choice, not my recommendation. As there is no cure yet, I am convinced that HSCT is the next best that is currently available.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Clinical Writer with Healthline, the fastest growing health information site. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Stem cell clinical trial is real, not ‘false hope’

stem cell therapy_edited

This blog’s story about the outcome of the long-term clinical trial of stem cell therapy was deleted from one Facebook group on the grounds that it did not wish to allow anything that would give its members ‘false hope’.

Actually, nor do I.

That is why, writing both in Multiple Sclerosis News Today and here, I very carefully kept to the findings as published in The Lancet, plus comments made afterwards.

The fact is that this was the first long-term clinical trial of the same procedure as used today in major HSCT clinics worldwide. It was a small trial but that was acknowledged by the researchers who said a larger trial was necessary.

I purposely did not say, as many journalists did, that scientists are close to finding a cure. Theaustralian.com.au said ‘Multiple Sclerosis cure very near’ while thetimes.co.uk said ‘Scientists close to a cure for multiple sclerosis’. That was not a statement made in the study’s report, nor was it claimed afterwards. I can see little justification for headlines mentioning a ‘cure’. Just one doctor, a stem cell biologist not involved in the trial described it as ‘close to being curative’.

HSCT or, more correctly, aHSCT has never been claimed to be a cure. Despite some notable anecdotal tales of the disease being reversed in some people, the therapy has only ever been claimed to stop MS progressing; to stop it getting worse.

And that is what the clinical trial proved. It said relapses were halted and MRI scans showed no new brain lesions.

The word ‘cure’ was not mentioned in the report of the trial, nor in my story about it.  So, no false hope there!

It is a shame that members of one FB group were denied the opportunity of seeing my fair and objective article on this issue.

Now, if I had wanted to court controversy or talk about ‘false hope’, I could have written about CCVI and its supposed link with MS, which is unsupported scientifically. The whole issue of CCVI still divides opinion and is, at best, unproved by any clinical trial that meets accepted standards. That may change in the future. Who knows?

 

MSNT strapline copy

 

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