20 Years of MS Research
Article from Autumn 2020 edition of Intouch Magazine

MS ResearchIt’s been 20 years since the world nervously welcomed the new millennium.  Let’s look back on those two decades and examine the major developments in multiple sclerosis research and treatment.
Twenty years ago, people living with multiple sclerosis only had access to three different types of treatments.  These therapies were all injectables and, while they all reduced the number of relapses people experienced, studies showed they only had modest effects on disability progression.
Fast forward 20 years and the situation is much different.  Now, there are now 13 therapies that are approved in Australia for the treatment of multiple sclerosis.  In 2004, one of the first intravenous treatments, Tysabri (natalizumab), was approved.   

In 2010, the first oral therapy for multiple sclerosis, Gilenya (fingolimod), became available.  Since these breakthroughs, another two intravenous medications and four more oral treatments have been approved for use by people living with multiple sclerosis.    

A large observational study, published at the start of 2019 by the Clinical Outcomes Research (CORe) Unit at the University of Melbourne, showed for the first time that these new, more powerful treatments, are actually delaying the onset of progressive disease.  Thus, these therapies are not only having short-term impacts, but long-term benefits as well.  

The lead researcher on this study, A/Prof Tomas Kalincik (Head of the Melbourne MS Centre and CORe), sees this as an important reflection on how the treatment landscape of multiple sclerosis has changed since 2000.  "We now have access to multiple highly potent MS therapies, which we are learning to use more effectively, with approaches tailored to individuals with MS. This includes new biomarkers that will help guide treatment decisions”, he says.  

The availability of new therapies is complemented by ongoing studies and clinical trials in many new areas that will hopefully lead to even more effective treatment options for people living with multiple sclerosis.  One of the most well-publicised new avenues of research is on the use of haematopoietic stem cell transplantation or HSCT.   

In the mid 90’s, the first trials tested whether HSCT would be an effective treatment for multiple sclerosis.  Indeed, by the year 2000, a handful of people with multiple sclerosis had been involved in pilot studies of this novel therapeutic approach.  Since then, many more trials have been undertaken to better understand not only its effectiveness, but also which individuals are most likely to have positive outcomes and how the process can be made safer.   

By MS Translate

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