National MS Society funding over the years has provided the springboard for breakthroughs in understanding MS and developing new treatments and measures to improve quality of life.
The National MS Society often plants research “seeds” from which great things grow. We support treatment research including clinical trials and laboratory studies to find new therapies for people with MS. Even before pharmaceutical companies began pursuing the development of therapies for MS, the Society was supporting clinical trials. Here are some ways that Society-funded research has propelled treatment breakthroughs:
- Interferons: Society-funded investigators were the first to conduct a major clinical trial of any form of interferon in MS.
- Copaxone: The Society supported pre-clinical tests of what is now Copaxone.
- Novantrone: Society-funded investigator was among the first to investigate the potential of Novantrone in rodents with MS-like disease.
- Tysabri: The significance of the integrin molecule, the study of which led to the development of Tysabri, was discovered as part of a Society-funded research fellowship.
- We also support research into rehabilitation techniques in efforts to speed recovery from acute attacks and find better ways to maximize physical and mental abilities to improve day to day living and working.
We have been at the core of many of the major findings related to MS. Here are a few landmark developments facilitated by National MS Society research funding:
- We funded many studies identifying the immune players involved in the attack against brain and spinal cord tissues. This includes a landmark study in basic science that showed that immune cells that recognize myelin also react to viruses and bacteria. This may offer clues to how MS is triggered.
- The discovery that myelin damage in MS is often repaired by the body offers hope that we can find ways to stimulate natural repair processes to restore function. Likewise, Society-supported researchers discovered that the adult brain has resident replacement cells for myelin, again offering hope that we can find ways to further stimulate nervous system repair.
- Society-funded investigators have been at the forefront investigating gender differences in MS. Among other important leads, this work has led to the testing of sex hormones as possible therapies for MS. We supported a pilot study of testosterone in men with MS, and are currently supporting a middle-phase trial of the pregnancy hormone estriol in women with relapsing MS.
- An international consortium of researchers launched with seed funding from the Society recently reported progress in identifying two new genetic variations associated with susceptibility to MS, completing the largest replicated whole genome scan (scan of all the genes in the body) for multiple sclerosis to date. Read more about the search for MS genes.
Improving Quality of Life
The National MS Society recognizes that MS affects more than the brain or the ability to walk—it affects one’s quality of life. And unless we are improving one’s quality of life, we are not truly moving toward a world free of this disease.
- We funded the development of quality of life measures specific to MS, and has fostered their use as “outcome” measures in clinical trials and other research
- We helped raise the recognition of quality of life as an important concept for management, care and therapy of MS.
- We developed evidence-based consensus(.pdf) encouraging patients to consider initiating disease-modifying therapy early in their disease
- We supported task forces and convened conferences to develop consensus on criteria for diagnosing MS typically difficult to diagnose. These resulted in gradual refinements and the recent incorporation of tools such as MRI, speeding the diagnostic process.
- Society-funded research led to the recognition of cognitive dysfunction, depression and fatigue as common MS symptoms, and research continues into finding ways to better treat and evaluate these symptoms.