MS news articles for January 2001
of 2000 Research Progress
Thanks to the hard
work of tens of thousands of volunteers, walkers, bikers and a host of
other donors, the year 2000 was one of significant advances in both laboratory
and clinical studies in MS. As the largest private supporter of MS research,
the National MS Society has been at the core of many of these advances.
Throughout the year, the National MS Society's volunteer scientific advisors
reviewed 275 MS research proposals and approved 117 as being of scientific
merit and relevance. New funding commitments totaling $3.4 million were
made in the targeted research areas of gender differences, genetics and
other projects. With the additional research projects, the National MS
Society has commit to funding a total of over 300 projects to find the
cause, treatment and cure for MS.
Key highlights include:
The U.S. FDA approved
Novantrone© "for reducing neurologic disability and /or the frequency
of clinical relapses" in people with secondary-progressive MS, progressive-relapsing
MS, or worsening relapsing-remitting MS. This is the first drug approved
in the U.S. for treating secondary -progressive MS. The MS Society funded
some of the first studies of Novantrone in laboratory rodents with the
MS-like disease EAE, which helped move this agent into clinical studies.
National MS Society
-supported investigators at Mayo Clinic reported success in promoting the
regrowth of myelin in mice with MS-like disease by injecting them with
immune-system proteins called "monoclonal antibodies." Additional research
is ongoing in advance of possible clinical trials in humans with MS.
The National MS Society
convened an international task force to refine and improve diagnostic procedures
to reflect our better understanding of MS and advances in technology, especially
MRI. A consensus publication laying out new guidelines for diagnosing MS
is in preparation, which is anticipated to be widely adopted by the medical
The first large clinical
trial of an experimental oral therapy for MS began in spring. The "CORAL"
trial, conducted by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, is testing an oral
form of Copaxone© in 1,300 people with relapsing-remitting MS over
56 weeks to determine whether it can reduce the rate of MS relapses. Another
study involving Copaxone, led by University of Maryland researchers, suggested
that over six years of therapy, Copaxone continues to have positive effects
against relapsing-remitting MS.
Two separate clinical
trials testing two forms of interferon beta-1a (Avonex® and Rebif®)
suggested that both drugs delayed development of MS based on the appearance
of brain lesions, or areas of myelin destruction. To follow up, the MS
Society launched the "MS LESION PROJECT," a five-year, $1.8 million international
research project to correlate clinical manifestations of MS and findings
from MRI and brain tissue samples. This targeted research initiative, centered
at Mayo Clinic, is the largest grant awarded in the history of the National
Researchers at Cleveland
Clinic and elsewhere showed that treatment with Avonex had beneficial effects
no a number of cognitive functions among people with relapsing MS.
announced mixed results from its North American clinical trial of Betaseron®
for secondary-progressive MS. In the study, the drug failed to slow progression
of disability but did reduce annual relapse rates and accumulation of brain
lesions detected by MRI. The company submitted results from these and from
a more successful European trial to the FDA for consideration for approval
to expand Betaseron's use to people with secondary-progressive MS.
A small study testing
the ability of oral modafinil (Provigil) to fight fatigue, a common and
potentially disabling symptom of MS, showed promising results in MS. Modafinil
is currently FDA-approved for the treatment of narcolepsy.
Investigators in the
U.S. and the United Kingdom reported that several derivatives of marijuana,
called cannabinoids, could temporarily relieve spasticity and tremor in
mice with MS-likes disease. A large-scale trial of capsules containing
extracts of marijuana and its component THC is now underway in Britain
to determine whether it can help control spasticity in people with different
forms of MS.
This fruitful year has
brought the National MS Society closer to achieving its goal: to end the
devastating effects of MS. For more information on upcoming events, please
The National MS Society
convened an international task force of clinicians, statisticians, ethicists,
and regulators to generate ethical guidelines for the use of placebos in
MS clinical trials. They concluded that placebo-controlled clinical trials
in forms of MS for which partially effective therapies exist are ethical,
so long as study subjects are fully apprised of the availability of such
therapies and are encouraged to take them.