Author Interviews, JAMA, Multiple Sclerosis, Neurology / 15.06.2020 Interview with: Cris S Constantinescu,  MD, PhD, FRCP Professor, Division of Clinical Neuroscience Research Group in Clinical Neurology University of Nottingham Queen's Medical Centre Nottingham UK What is the background for this study? Response: The study is in some way a test of the hygiene or old friends hypothesis, whereby eradication, through improved hygiene, of some parasites that have existed in the human gut for thousands of years and have suppressed inflammatory reactions, leads to an increase in inflammatory conditions. This has been used to explain the increased autoimmune and inflammatory diseases in the developed world. Healthy volunteer studies at the University of Nottingham showed therapeutic hookworm infection to be safe and well tolerated up to about 50 larvae, and then safety studies in people with airway hyperreactivity and inflammatory bowel disease raised no concern. Following a study in Argentina showing that people with MS have milder disease when they have a natural co-existing asymptomatic infection with intestinal parasites, we (Professor Pritchard, immunoparasitologist and myself) decided to test hookworm in MS, and for the first time used 25 larvae in a patient study. (more…)
Author Interviews, Infections, Multiple Sclerosis, Neurological Disorders / 12.07.2019 Interview with: Prof. Dr. Patrick Küry Dept. of Neurology Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf Germany What is the background for this study? How do these viruses in our DNA differ from others such as the herpes family of viruses? Response: The background of our current two published studies is elucidating the role of endogenous retroviruses such as the HERV-W in contributing to neurological disease initiation and progression. Our new paper in PNAS (Kremer et al., PNAS 2019) describes a novel axon damage scenario for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in which a "toxic" protein called ENV from HERV-W instructs so called microglial cells in the human brain to attack and damage myelinated axons. Our second review article (Gruchot et al., Front Genet 2019) summarizes currently known effects on endogenous retroviruses exerted towards neural cells, that means cells other than the infiltrating immune cells. There is currently a shift of attention and research in the MS field in that resident neural cells such as oligodendrocytes, precursor cells, stem cells and microglial cells and their reactions are intensively investigated. HERVs are evolutionary acquired retroviruses (RNA viruses able to integrate into host DNA via reverse transcription from RNA to DNA) that were collected during evolution by our ancestors. Some of them remained in our genome (8% of our genome is HERV related) and in most cases appear to be non-functional, mutated or genetically silenced. A few of them, as for example HERV-W in MS or HERV-K in ALS, can apparently be activated, woken up so to say, and one of the mechanisms leading to activation might be an infection by Herpesviruses. Note that herpesviruses such as for example the Epstein Bar Virus (EBV) are long known suspected triggers of MS, however, a direct correlation could never be demonstrated. HERVs such as HERV-W might therefore constitute the missing link. (more…)
ALS, Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Biomarkers, JAMA, Multiple Sclerosis / 27.06.2019 Interview with: Charlotte E. Teunissen, PhD Neurochemistry Laboratory, Department of Clinical Chemistry VU University Medical Centre, Neuroscience Campus Amsterdam Amsterdam, the Netherlands What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Several reports have shown increased in NfL in various neurological disorders, separately. We wanted to know how the levels are in these disorders relative to each other. Moreover, some reports showed absence of age effects in Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients, which is normally present in controls. So, we thought that it would be good to study age effects in a large group of controls, and if these effects are absent in other diseases, similarly as in MS. (more…)
Author Interviews, McGill, Multiple Sclerosis, Neurology / 09.05.2019 Interview with: Douglas Arnold, MD The Montreal Neurological Institute & Hospital McGill University Montreal, QC, Canada What is the background for this study? Response: Diroximel fumarate (DRF) is a novel oral fumarate, with a distinct chemical structure that is being developed for relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS). It is hypothesized that the distinct chemical structure of DRF may elicit less localized irritation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, potentially leading to improved GI tolerability. Diroximel fumarate is expected to have similar efficacy as dimethyl fumarate (marketed as TECFIDERA®), as both are converted to equivalent levels of monomethyl fumarate in the body. The EVOLVE-MS-1 study is primarily evaluating the safety of DRF and also exploring efficacy endpoints.   (more…)
Author Interviews / 07.05.2019 Interview with: Lana Zhovtis Ryserson, MD Assistant Professor, Department of Neurology NYU Langone Health What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Natalizumab is an effective therapy of relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis dosed at 300mg every 4 weeks. However it is associated with a potentially deadly infection - progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy. In order to mitigate this risk, clinicians have adopted an approach of infusing the medication less frequently, a strategy which has become known as Extended Interval Dosing (EID). The TOUCH database is US mandatated risk evaluation and mitigation program which is the largest database available to assess PML risk for patients on EID schedule. Previous analysis of this database in 2017, showed a significant risk reduction of PML in patients utilizing extended interval dosing schedule. The aim of the current study was to update on this analysis with another year of data. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Multiple Sclerosis / 30.04.2019 Interview with: Prof. Bernhard Hemmer MD PhD Director of the Neurology Clinic Technische Universität München What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?  Response: The course of multiple sclerosis (MS) is still highly unpredictable and reliable markers to predict disability progression are largely missing. We found that patients with a high IgG Index, which means that the produce large amount of IgG within the CNS, have a higher risk of disease worsening during the first 4 years. I would consider patients with an elevated IgG index at a higher risk to run a more severe disease course. The marker could be used together with others to guide treatment decisions after multiple sclerosis diagnosis. (more…)
Author Interviews, Immunotherapy, Multiple Sclerosis / 27.11.2018 Interview with: Dietmar P. Berger, MD, PhD Head of Global R&D Atara Biotherapeutic What is the background for this study? Response: Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is present in B lymphocytes, plasma cells and epithelial cells of over 95% of individuals over the age of 40.  Multiple studies have shown that nearly all patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) are EBV positive, including a recent presentation at the 2018 ECTRIMS Congress in Berlin that showed 100% of MS patients are positive for EBV (Ruprecht et. al). Current B cell directed therapies such as anti-CD20 therapies have demonstrated an effect on  Multiple Sclerosis activity. These therapies work by depleting B cells including those infected by EBV. Our belief is that loss of EBV-specific T cell function (e.g., T cell exhaustion) occurs in patients who develop Multiple Sclerosis, which results in the accumulation of EBV infected B and plasma cells in the CNS leading to the autoreactive immune cycle seen in MS patients. The increasing evidence of a link between EBV infection and the development of MS led to the initiation of a Phase 1 study to investigate the use of an autologous T-cell immunotherapy (ATA190) to selectively target and deplete EBV infected cells in patients with progressive MS. As T cell immunotherapies (like ATA190) are designed to penetrate the central nervous system, this approach was felt to be particularly useful in  Multiple Sclerosis where the inflammatory response and infected B lymphocytes and plasma cells are inaccessible inside the CNS to the vast majority of classic targeted agents. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cleveland Clinic, Multiple Sclerosis, NEJM / 30.08.2018 Interview with: Robert J. Fox, MD, FAAN Principal Investigator | SPRINT-MS Trial Mellen Center for MS  |  Cleveland Clinic Cleveland, OH 44195 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The current treatment options for progressive multiple sclerosis are very limited. The SPRINT-MS trial sought to obtain proof-of-concept evidence that ibudilast has beneficial activity in progressive multiple sclerosis. In a placebo-controlled, 96-week trial of 255 people living with progressive MS, treatment with ibudilast slowed the progression of brain atrophy (brain shrinkage) by 48% compared to placebo. Side-effects of ibudilast included gastrointestinal symptoms, headache, and depression.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Multiple Sclerosis, Ophthalmology, Pharmaceutical Companies / 08.03.2018 Interview with: Sarah A. Morrow MD, MS, FRCPC Associate Professor of Neurology Department of Clinical Neurological Sciences University of Western Ontario (Western) What is the background for this study? Response: Acute demyelinating optic neuritis, which presents with loss of vision and painful eye movements, is common in multiple sclerosis (MS) occurring 50% of persons with MS. High dose (≥ 1g) corticosteroids administered through an IV became the standard of practice after the landmark Optic Neuritis Treatment Trial as IV administration. However, in that study the IV dose of corticosteroids was much higher (1 gram daily) than the oral dose (1 mg/kg). Thus, it is not clear if IV administration is still better if equivalent doses are used orally. Oral administration is much more convenient for patients and less expensive, and previous studies showed that it is preferred by patients. In this study, we asked the following question: are high dose (≥ 1000mg) IV corticosteroids superior to equivalent doses of oral corticosteroids for the acute treatment of optic neuritis? We randomly assigned fifty-five cases of acute optic neuritis to 1000mg IV methylprednisolone or 1250mg oral prednisone daily for three days and compared recovery of their vision over the next 6 months.  (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Neurology / 13.01.2018 Interview with: Fredrik Piehl MD PhD, prof. of Neurology Neuroimmunology Unit. Dept Clinical Neuroscience Neurology Dept. Karolinska University Hospital (Solna) Stockholm What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: In recent years we have seen a drastic increase in treatment options for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS). However, it is difficult to deduce long term performance of different drugs based only on data from randomized controlled trials, since such trials are performed in selected patients without major co-morbidities and perhaps also enriched for those with a milder disease course. In addition, most trials only last for two years and lack relevant comparators. This lack of knowledge makes it difficult to predict if a drug will work or not for a given patient, in turn leading to frequent treatment switches but also different treatment practices across countries, regions or even between centers. This is also the case in Sweden, but with the additional aspect that some regions have opted to treat most newly diagnosed RRMS patients with rituximab (Rituxan/Mabthera), a drug not formally approved for RRMS, but with extensive safety data from other indications. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Multiple Sclerosis, Radiology / 04.01.2018 Interview with: Netta Levin MD PhD fMRI lab Neurology Department Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center Jerusalem What is the background for this study? Response: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune demyelinating disease of the central nervous system, manifesting with episodes of local inflammatory processes, called relapses. The most useful surrogate laboratory test for MS is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), in which dissemination of demyelinating lesions in space and time are the hallmark of the disease. However, there is a discrepancy between the lesion load - the number, size, and location of the lesions - and the clinical state of the patients, reflected in their disability. This discrepancy is known as the “clinico-radiological paradox” and suggests that something other than the well-known mechanisms of demyelination, remyelination, and axonal loss may tip the scale of recovery from an acute episode. Global effects of the local damage and compensatory mechanisms were suggested as an explanation to this paradox. In this study, we compared the visual system of patients with clinically isolated syndrome optic neuritis (ON) to patients with clinically isolated episodes in other functional systems, exploring changes, both anatomical and functional, caused to the system following the demyelinating episode. Optic neuritis was deemed a good in vivo model for studying the pathophysiology of tissue damage and repair in MS due to its characteristic clinical manifestation and to the visual pathways’ amenability to investigation using various techniques. To assess anatomical wiring ,i.e the white matter fibers themselves , we used diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). To assess functional networking as reflected by signal synchronization between distinct brain regions, we used resting state fMRI. (more…)
Author Interviews, Microbiome, Multiple Sclerosis / 23.11.2017 Interview with: Kouichi Ito, PhD Associate Professor Department of Neurology Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Rutgers What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (CNS), and breakdown of immune tolerance to CNS proteins has been suggested to initiate CNS autoimmunity. Although the mechanism underlying the breakdown of immune tolerance to CNS proteins is still unknown, gut microbiota has been suggested to be involved in disease initiation and progression. To investigate the etiology of Multiple Sclerosis, we have created humanized transgenic mice expressing MHC class II and T cell receptor genes isolated from an Multiple Sclerosis patient and showed that gut dysbiosis, alteration in intestinal microbial composition, can induce gut leakiness and subsequently trigger the development of neurological deficits through activation of complement C3 and reduction of CBLB and Foxp3 genes. This study suggests that gut dysbiosis is one of the possible etiological factors for Multiple Sclerosis. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Multiple Sclerosis / 05.04.2017 Interview with: Dr. Chase Spurlock, Ph.D. Executive Officer at IQuity, Inc Nashville, Tennessee IQuity is working to further develop RNA technologies that can be used to diagnose and treat Multiple Sclerosis. IQuity hopes to develop a ‘disease activity test’, which would help physicians determine when a patient is likely to relapse so that treatments can be timed for best effect. What is the background for IQuity? What are its goals and mission? Response: IQuity, Inc. is a biotechnology company that focuses on the research and development of innovative specialty diagnostic technology, specifically for autoimmune diseases. Our research has shown that autoimmune patients have distinct RNA expression patterns in their blood, and we have figured out how to leverage machine learning methods to analyze these RNA expression patterns and test for the presence of diseases like multiple sclerosis, IBS/IBD (Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis) and fibromyalgia. We collected patient samples from around the globe to match their RNA profiles against healthy and sick patient profiles we identified through our previous research. These tests led to the development of IQIsolate, our technology that informs the suite of tests which, when used even at the earliest onset of symptoms, can give providers information to rule in or rule out a suspected autoimmune disease with more than 90% accuracy. Our mission is to relentlessly pursue innovation in specialized diagnostic and analytic technology, identifying complicated autoimmune and autoimmune-related diseases at the earliest signs of symptoms. We strive to enable providers to diagnose early and treat sooner in the disease progression to improve long-term outcomes, lower the overall cost of lifelong autoimmune diseases and minimize the uncertainty and fear patients experience during prolonged diagnosis periods. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, Multiple Sclerosis, NYU / 01.03.2017 Interview with: Leigh E. Charvet, PhD Associate Professor, Department of Neurology Department of Neurology New York University Langone Medical Center New York, NY What is the background for transcranial direct current stimulation? What are the main findings of this study in multiple sclerosis patients? Response: The application of tDCS is a relatively recent therapeutic development that utilizes low amplitude direct currents to induce changes in cortical excitability. When paired with a rehabilitation activity, it may improve learning rates and outcomes. Multiple repeated sessions are needed for both tDCS and cognitive training sessions to see a benefit. Because it is not feasible to have participants come to clinic daily for treatments, we developed a method to deliver tDCS paired with cognitive training (using computer-based training games) to patients at home. Our protocol uses a telemedicine platform with videoconferencing to assist study participants with all the procedures and to ensure safety and consistency across treatment sessions. When testing our methods, we enrolled 25 participants with multiple sclerosis (MS) completed 10 sessions of tDCS (2.0 mA x 20 minutes, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, left anodal) using the remotely-supervised telerehabilitation protocol. This group was compared to n=20 MS participants who completed 10 sessions of cognitive training only (also through remote supervision). We administered cognitive testing measures at baseline and study end. We found that both the tDCS and cognitive training only group had similar and slight improvements on composites of standard neuropsychological measures and basic attention. However, the tDCS group had a significantly greater gain on computer-based measures of complex attention and on a measure of intra-individual variability in response times. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Multiple Sclerosis, Neurology / 18.02.2017 Interview with: Linard Filli, PhD Gait Research Lab Department of Neurology University Hospital Zurich Zürich What is the background for this study? Response: Gait dysfunction is common in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and is perceived as the most restricting of symptoms. Fampridine (4-aminopyridine, dalfampridine), a blocker of voltage-gated potassium channels, is currently the only approved medication for the symptomatic treatment of walking disorders in patients in both the early and late phases of  multiple sclerosis. (more…)
Author Interviews, Lancet, Multiple Sclerosis, Neurological Disorders, Pharmacology / 12.02.2017 Interview with: Tomas Kalincik, MD, PhD, PGCertBiostat Neurologist and Senior Research Fellow Melbourne Brain Centre | Department of Medicine | University of Melbourne Department of Neurology | Royal Melbourne Hospital Melbourne | Victoria | Australia What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Multiple sclerosis is a disease predominantly of young adults, with the peak of incidence in the 3rd and 4th decades. It is the most common cause of neurological disability in young adults. Only in Australia, 23,000 people are living with MS, with MS representing an annual cost of almost 1 billion $AU to the Australian society. It is a disease that presents with broad range of neurological symptoms and signs, which are typically temporary (these are called relapses) that with time can lead to permanent neurological disability. While there is currently no cure for MS, with appropriate therapy, its symptoms can be controlled and the disability progression slowed down. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, JAMA, Multiple Sclerosis / 07.01.2017 Interview with: Prof Rogier Q Hintzen Neurologist/immunologist Head MS Centre ErasMS Dept of Neurology Erasmus MC, Rotterdam What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Years ago, we identified soluble (s) CD27 as a biomarker for T cell activation in body fluids, as part of my PhD study. (J Immunol. 1991 Jul 1;147(1):29-35.) As we presume the neuropathology seen in MS is guided by T cells we were interested to be able to quantify the activity of such cells in a given patient. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is as close as we can get to the site of the disease process in MS, therefore we focus on biomarkers in this compartment. We found clearly elevated levels of sCD27 in CSF of Multiple Sclerosis patients versus non-inflammatory controls. In this study we investigated whether at the moment of first attack of suspected Multiple Sclerosis, quantification of CSF sCD27 can predict further progression in to a diagnosis of MS and whether sCD27 levels are correlated with later attack frequency. Indeed, we found that high sCD27 measured at this early stage predicts a more rapid diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis and a more aggressive disease course. (more…)
Author Interviews, Immunotherapy, Multiple Sclerosis, NEJM, University Texas / 22.12.2016 Interview with: Jerry S. Wolinsky, MD Emeritus Professor in Neurology McGovern Medical School The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Houston’s Health University Department of Neurology Houston, Texas 77030 What is the background for this study? Response: Multiple sclerosis (MS) clinically is a very heterogeneous disease. It presents in considerably different ways and has a very poorly predictable clinical course. In an attempt to better communicate between experts in the field, there have been multiple attempts to categorize “typical” courses of the disease. How we think about the disease is in part driven by these somewhat artificial categories that lump our patients into those with relapsing forms of the disease (relapsing remitting with or without accumulating clinical disability, and secondary progressive with accumulating disability eventually occurring even in the absence of apparent clinical episodes of the disease), and primary progressive MS, where patients are slowly or sometimes rather rapidly accumulating disability in the absence of prior clinical relapses. However, the distinctions between multiple sclerosis patients are not always as clear as the definitions would suggest, and it is certain that patients with primary progressive multiple sclerosis sometimes have clinical relapses after years of never having had relapses, and show MRI evidence of having accumulated many lesions in the brain over the course of their disease. Until now, none of the drugs that have shown benefit for relapsing disease have been able to convincingly show clinical benefit for patients with primary progressive disease, and for that matter have shown variable results when attempted in patients categorized as having secondary progressive courses. While some of our currently approved drugs have shown hints of benefit when tried in major clinical trials in primary progressive MS, the results were not been robust enough to seek regulatory approval. The Oratorio study design was based on lessons learned from prior trials in primary progressive and relapsing forms of MS, as well as the recognition that B cells might play an important role in the immunopathogenesis of disease based on a considerable amount of preclinical work and observations in patients with multiple sclerosis. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Multiple Sclerosis / 19.12.2016 Interview with: Charles Bangham PhD ScD Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine Imperial College London London, UK What is the background for this study? Response: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological disease of the brain and spinal cord, often beginning in the 20s and 30s which can cause both attacks (relapses) and disability over time. Most people with the condition have intermittent episodes of illness at first, but about two-thirds go on to develop a progressive form, known as secondary progressive MS. In this form, there is a gradual loss of nerve cells in the brain, resulting in shrinkage of the brain and progressive disability. Neither the initiating cause of  Multiple sclerosis nor the reasons for this brain shrinkage are known, and existing treatments for the early phase of the condition are unsatisfactory. (more…)
Author Interviews, Immunotherapy, Multiple Sclerosis / 22.11.2016 Interview with Ralph Kern, M.D. Senior vice president, Worldwide Medical Biogen What is the background for this study? Response: Previously reported clinical trials of daclizumab demonstrated significant efficacy across clinical and MRI measures, compared to placebo and interferon beta-1a 30 mcg intramuscular (IM) injection, and established the therapy’s safety profile for up to two to three years. These trials were the basis for approval by health authorities in the United States, European Union and Australia. Daclizumab is a once-monthly, self-administered, subcutaneous therapy for relapsing forms of MS (RMS). At ECTRIMS we presented the first interim results from EXTEND, a long-term extension study. EXTEND is an ongoing multicenter, open-label study to evaluate the safety and efficacy of daclizumab treatment in more than 1,500 patients with RMS. This interim ECTRIMS analysis includes up to five years of data from patients who were previously enrolled in DECIDE. DECIDE was a Phase 3 study evaluating the effects of daclizumab relative to interferon beta-1a IM. In the new analysis, patients who were treated with interferon beta-1a IM for two to three years in DECIDE switched to daclizumab when they enrolled in EXTEND, and were compared to daclizumab patients treated continuously in both DECIDE and EXTEND. (more…)
Author Interviews, Multiple Sclerosis, Pharmacology / 27.09.2016 Interview with: Marcia Kayath, MD Vice President and Head US Clinical Development and Medical Affairs US General Medicines Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Injectable disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) are typically used first-line in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), but discontinuation of injectable DMTs is common, especially within the first 12 months of treatment1,2. PREFERMS is the largest, prospective, randomized, active-controlled, open-label study to evaluate patient retention in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS). In the 12-month, Phase IV study, a total of 875 patients were randomized (1:1) to Gilenya® (fingolimod) 0.5 mg or to a pre-selected injectable DMT (IFNβ-1a, IFNβ-1b or glatiramer acetate), and followed up quarterly for 12 months3. After a minimum of 3 months of treatment, a single on-study treatment switch was allowed, however, switches due to efficacy or safety were allowed (based on patient-doctor consultation) at any month following randomization3. The primary endpoint was to compare the patient retention on randomized treatment over 12 months3. This study was powered for the primary endpoint (retention rate)3. The study was not powered to detect the treatment difference in the secondary efficacy endpoints or treatment effects related to switching study medication3. (more…)
Author Interviews, Microbiome, Multiple Sclerosis, Nutrition, Science / 02.07.2016 Interview with: Ashutosh K Mangalam PhD Assistant Professor Department of Pathology University of Iowa Iowa City, IA What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Every human carries trillions of bacteria in their gut (gut microbiome) and recent advances in research indicate that these tiny passengers play an important role in our overall health maintenance. Having evolved over the time span of millions of years with the gut microbiome, they keep us healthy in multiple ways such as fermentation and absorption of undigested carbohydrates, synthesis of some vitamins, metabolism of bile acids etc. However, new research suggests that gut microbiome, also regulating our body’s defense system. It is hypothesized that a diverse gut microbiome is good for our health and perturbations in this might predispose us to disease development. Therefore, we asked whether multiple sclerosis (MS) patients have a gut microbiome which is distinct from healthy individuals. We collected fecal samples from MS patients and healthy controls and performed microbiome analysis. I have recently moved to UI but the entire study was completed at Mayo Clinic Rochester. This study involved a big team comprised of neurologist, gastroenterologist, bioinformatician, system biologist and study coordinators. We found that  multiple sclerosis patients indeed have a gut microbiome which is different from what is observed in healthy people. We identified certain bacteria which are increased or decreased in the gut of patients with multiple sclerosis compared to healthy controls. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Colon Cancer, Immunotherapy, Leukemia, Multiple Sclerosis, Neurology / 13.05.2016 Interview with: PD Dr. Mathias Buttmann Senior Consultant Neurologist and Head of the Multiple Sclerosis Outpatient Clinic University of Wuerzburg Wuerzburg, Germany What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Buttmann: The synthetic anthracenedione mitoxantrone is approved for disease-modifying treatment of patients with aggressive forms of relapsing or secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS). It has been known for years that this DNA-intercalating agent increases the risk of acute myeloid leukemia. We performed a retrospective cohort study to investigate whether mitoxantrone also increases the risk for other types of malignancies. We included all 677 mitoxantrone-treated  multiple sclerosis patients who were seen at our large German academic MS centre between 1994 and 2007 and collected follow-up information on the occurrence of malignancies, death and causes of death as of 2011. Follow-up was complete in 676 patients. The median age at mitoxantrone initiation was 41 years and the median follow-up duration was 8.7 years. We identified 37 patients with a malignancy after mitoxantrone initiation, among them 4 cases of acute myeloic leukemia and 7 cases of colorectal cancer. Compared to the general population matched for sex, age and year of occurrence, we calculated an 1.5-fold increased incidence of any type of malignancy, a tenfold increased incidence of acute myeloic leukemia and a threefold increased incidence of colorectal cancer, while the incidence of other types of malignancies was not increased. Higher age at mitoxantrone initiation but neither higher cumulative mitoxantrone dose nor treatment with other immuosuppressive agents was identified as a malignancy risk factor. Fifty-five patients had died, among them 12 from a malignancy. Our study confirmed previous reports on an increased incidence of acute myeloic leukemia after mitoxantrone treatment and newly described an association between mitoxantrone therapy and an increased incidence of colorectal cancer. (more…)
Author Interviews, Immunotherapy, JAMA, Multiple Sclerosis, UCSF / 02.05.2016 Interview with: Jennifer Graves, MD, PhD, MAS Adult and Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis Centers UCSF What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Graves: Cessation of medications with effects on immune trafficking may be more likely to cause rebound inflammatory activity in autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis.  We observed 5 strikingly severe relapses consistent with rebound events following cessation of fingolimod treatment and identified several similar cases in the literature.  At our center the rebound events occurred with an approximate 10% frequency. What should clinicians and patients take away from your report? Dr. Graves: Fingolimod cessation may be complicated by rebound phenomena in some patients, similar to what has been observed with natalizumab. Both of these medications have effects on immune cell trafficking, likely explaining the association with rebound events.  Careful consideration must be taken in stopping these medications. (more…)
Author Interviews, Multiple Sclerosis, Neurology, NYU / 21.04.2016 Interview with: Leigh Elkins Charvet, PhD Director of MS Research Multiple Sclerosis Comprehensive Care Center Associate Professor of Neurology NYU Langone Medical Center New York, NY 10016 What is the background for this study? Dr. Charvet One of the goals of our work is to identify cognitive impairment at the earliest point that it occurs in multiple sclerosis (MS), and ultimately to predict those who are at greatest risk.  Olfactory impairment is a feature of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and predicts cognitive decline.  Olfactory impairment has also been reported in adults with multiple sclerosis.  Our study, lead by Colleen Schwarz, measured olfactory identification and its link to cognitive performance in a subpopulation of those with earliest onset of MS—pediatric onset multiple sclerosis (POMS, referring to those with onset before the age of 18). (more…)
Author Interviews, Multiple Sclerosis, PNAS / 12.04.2016 Interview with: Dr. Christian W. Gruber PhD Assistant Professor tenure-track and ARC Future Fellow The University of Queensland, School of Biomedical Sciences, Australia Medical University of Vienna, Center for Physiology and Pharmacology, Vienna, Austria What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Gruber: We initially discovered that particular circular peptides (called cyclotides) isolated from an African traditional herbal medicine have promising immunosuppressive properties (Gründemann et al., 2012, J Nat Prod, 75(2):167-74). Cyclotides are considered a pharmacological ‘treasure trove’ (Koehbach et al., 2013, PNAS, 110(52):21183-8). Hence we aimed at testing the efficacy of these peptides to treat and ameliorate multiple sclerosis, and found that the new plant-derived drug (‘T20K’), in an animal model, can block the progression of the disease. We demonstrated in an animal model that T20K stopped progression of the normal clinical symptoms of multiple sclerosis (Thell et al., PNAS, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1519960113). (more…)
Author Interviews, Microbiome, Multiple Sclerosis / 05.04.2016 Interview with: Professor JF Cryan PhD Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience APC Microbiome Institute University College Cork Cork, Ireland What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?  Prof. Cryan: Over the past decade there has been an ever growing body of preclinical studies that highlight an essential role of the gut microbiota in many aspects of physiology including and perhps most surprtisingly the brain . Germ-free animals are one useful approach used to establish causality in gut microbiota-brain relationships. This model has been extremely useful in establishing that the microbiota is essential for appropriate stress responsibility, anxiety-like behaviours, neurogenesis, blood-brain barrier function and microglia activity. From these findings we can see that there is a clear cut role for the microbiota in CNS developmental processes. Here we wanted to investigate using next generation sequencing, as we had done previously in the amygdala what impact life without microbes has on transcriptional regulation in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region essential in many aspects of emotional behaviour. What we uncovered from this was that there was a large number of dysregulated genes in germ-free animals that have a direct role in myelination. We found increased expression levels of genes that encode for structural proteins that are key in forming the myelin sheath. We followed up this finding with transmission electron microscopy to identify whether this marked increase in myelin related gene expression was functional at a structural level. What we found was germ-free myelinated axons in the prefrontal cortex were hypermyelinated (lower g-ratio), they had thicker myelin sheaths compared to conventionally raised mice. Additionally we also had germ-free colonized animals, animals that were born germ-free but have been colonized with a conventional microbiome early in life. These animals displayed no change in myelin related gene expression and appeared to be indistinguishable from the conventional animals. However, at the protein levels they appeared to have increased myelin protein like germ-free mice. This could be due to the fact that these mice were germ-free for at least 3 weeks of life and the hypermyelinated axons had already been established before colonization. Really this shows that we can still target the microbiota in later life that can have an impact of myelin gene regulation. (more…)
Author Interviews, Diabetes, JAMA, Multiple Sclerosis / 10.03.2016 Interview with: Jorge Correale MD Department of Neurology, Institute for Neurological Research Dr Raúl Carrea Buenos Aires, Argentina What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Correale: First it is now well known that in parallel to the specific treatment of Multiple Sclerosis, those comorbidities that worsen the course of the disease should be treated. For example, cardiovascular diseases. Moreover there are in vitro and in animal models evidence of an anti-inflammatory role of compounds investigated in this publication evidence. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, JAMA, Vitamin D / 08.03.2016 Interview with: Kassandra Munger, Sc.D. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health What is the background for this study? Dr. Munger: Previous work has shown that adequate vitamin D nutrition is associated with a lower risk of multiple sclerosis (MS).  Results from studies examining whether adequate vitamin D exposure during early-life are also associated with a lower risk of MS have been mixed.  One study reported that daughters of mothers with high dietary vitamin D intake during their pregnancy had a reduced risk of multiple sclerosis, while two studies measuring 25-hydroxy vitamin D either in a blood sample from the pregnant mother or from a sample taken from the neonate, were not associated with future multiple sclerosis risk in the child. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cleveland Clinic, Lancet, Multiple Sclerosis / 16.02.2016 Interview with: Dr Jeffrey A Cohen MD Mellen Center, Neurological Institute Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland OH 44195, USA Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Cohen: Fingolimod, a non-selective sphingosine 1-phosphate receptor (S1PR) modulator, was the first oral medication approved to treat relapsing multiple sclerosis.  Though generally well tolerated, fingolimod’s first dose cardiac effects and other potential adverse effects complicate its use.  Ozanimod is a selective S1PR modulator with several other potentially advantageous pharmacologic properties. The results of phase 2 RADIANCE trial were recently published.  In this trial, participants were randomized to placebo (n=88), ozanimod 0.5 mg (n=87), or ozanimod 1 mg (n=83) PO once daily for 24 weeks.  The mean cumulative number of gadolinium-enhancing lesions on monthly MRI scans at weeks 12-24, the primary endpoint, was reduced from 11.1 +/- 29.9 with placebo to 1.5 +/- 3.7 with ozanimod 0.5 mg and 1.5 +/- 3.4 with ozanimod 1 mg (both p<0.0001).  Other MRI endpoints supported the primary endpoint.  Ozanimod was well tolerated with good safety.  Importantly, the dose up-titration protocol effectively mitigated first dose cardiac effects. (more…)