MS treatments delay progressive disease

A recent study, led by Associate Professor Tomas Kalincik from the Department of Medicine and Radiology’s Clinical Outcomes Research (CORe) Unit has revealed some very positive news for people living with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Associate Professor Tomas Kalincik
Associate Professor Tomas Kalincik
(Research Leader, CORe, The University of Melbourne)
led a study that reassures people living with MS.

This research, published in JAMA, is the first to provide evidence that currently available disease modifying therapies for MS can delay the onset of secondary progressive disease.

As the conversion to the secondary progressive stage of MS is characterised by worsening of physical and mental capacity, as well as reduced quality of life, the capability to delay this progression of disability represents an important outcome for people living with MS.

The international study utilised the MSBase Registry and included data from 1555 patients, from 68 neurological clinics across 21 countries.

There were three main outcomes from the study:

  1. Treatments are effective in the long-term.  The study found the group of people on treatment (in this study that included interferons, Copaxone, Tysabri, Gilenya and Lemtrada) had a delayed time to the onset of SPMS compared to people who were not taking any DMTs.
  2. The newer, more ‘powerful’ treatments are more effective at delaying the onset of SPMS.  The study found taking Tysabri, Gilenya and Lemtrada resulted in a longer time to transitioning to progressive disease.
  3. The earlier treatment was begun after disease onset, the better the long-term outcomes.  In particular, they found starting the therapy within the first five years provided the best benefits in terms of delaying progressive disease.

Associate Professor Kalincik said the study showed how important it is to treat MS proactively.

"People who converted from relapsing MS to secondary progressive MS experience gradual and mostly irreversible worsening of disability," Associate Professor Kalincik said.

"Most of the therapies we use to treat MS have no effect once people have converted to secondary progressive MS," he said.

"This study shows us how important it is to treat relapsing MS early and pro-actively."

The results are reassuring for neurologists and patients with MS.

"This study shows the therapies they have been treated with for many years, significantly improve the quality of their lives over the long-term," Associate Professor Kalincik said​.

The published study is available on the Journal of the American Medical Association website.