UK patients are set to take part in a $10 million international clinical trial to discover whether giving MS patients the strongest available medicines from the beginning of their illness is more effective than waiting for the disease to progress.
Scientists and clinicians in Nottingham are joining forces with collaborators in the US for a five-year study, which will look to answer one of the most important questions we have about MS.
The UK arm of the trial, which will run at eight centres across the country, will be led by Dr Nikos Evangelou at the University of Nottingham, in partnership with neurologists at Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) NHS Trust.
Dr Evangelou said: 'The Nottingham team is delighted to have played a role in making this study possible. This is a joint effort between neurologists, patients with MS and MS societies in the UK and US coming together to tackle the most important question in MS treatment – how intensive should the initial treatment of MS be?
'As we diagnose MS, we still don’t know how best to treat it. Some doctors advocate hitting the disease hard to avoid the damage and disability that can develop early, and some suggest going more slowly to avoid potential side effects of the medicine.
'Currently, across the UK, the variability of treatments used in different centres is staggering. This is a reflection of the fact that little is known about how best to treat it and this is what we are attempting to tackle.'
The trial will recruit 800 patients – half in the US and half in the UK – and will compare the effects of treating with an early highly effective treatment (EHT) approach to an escalation approach.
The study will aim to determine which approach better slows brain volume loss, is safer, more effective, and better tolerated by patients. It will measure how well the participants are functioning in several areas, including cognition, arm and leg function, and eyesight. The researchers will ask patients for their perspective on their MS symptoms, quality of life and satisfaction with their treatment. They will also monitor any potential side effects, as treatment choices in MS are influenced by not only the potential benefits of treatment, but also—importantly—the perceived risks.
For more information about this trial, click here.