A new trial has begun in the UK, researching the effect existing drugs can have on the development of MS.
A new ‘Octopus’ trial has started in the UK this month with the aim of slowing down the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS).
The MS Society – funders of the trial – estimate that the autoimmune condition affects around 130,000 people in the UK.
The trial has been hailed as a “major moment in MS research”.
Multiple sclerosis – what is MS?
Multiple sclerosis is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the brain and spinal cord.
It happens when the immune system mistakenly attacks the myelin sheath – a fatty layer that surrounds and protects the nerves. The sheath and potentially the nerves become damaged and scarred.
Damage to the nerves adversely affects the messages they send to the brain, delaying these messages or preventing them completely. This can affect the MS sufferer’s speech, movement, and dexterity.
No cure currently exists for MS, but treatments can ease symptoms and control the condition. This treatment varies depending on the patient’s specific difficulties and symptoms.
The ‘Octopus’ trial – a critical moment in MS research
The new trial has begun in the UK. It will explore the theory that existing drugs can be repurposed to help delay the progression of MS. Similar research has previously been used to test drugs for coronavirus and prostate cancer.
The term ‘Octopus trial’ derives from the trial’s multi-arm, multi-stage nature. Its design means several drugs can be tested simultaneously, and more can be added or removed as results become clearer.
The first trial drugs are the diabetes drug metformin and a high-dose alpha-lipoic acid. Germany has already approved the latter for treating neuropathy.
Professor Jeremy Chataway of the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London spearheads the trial. Chataway described the trial as “a machine for testing drugs for progressive MS”.
He added, “Octopus has the potential to change the clinical trials landscape around the world, and we won’t stop until we have the treatments that transform the lives of everyone with MS”.
Bringing hope to MS sufferers – the trial begins this month
Stage one of the trial began this month, consisting of 375 patients. Stage two will increase the number of participants to 1,000.
MS sufferer Alisa Guidi became one of the first to join the trial this month. She was diagnosed with MS in 1999.
After a thorough neurological examination, including brain scans and blood tests, she recently received her first dose of the trial drugs.
Guidi knows she may be in the placebo group and therefore receive no real treatment. However, she hopes the ‘Octopus’ trial will achieve its aim of finding ways to slow or stop MS progression.