Early cladribine treatment prevents MS

Barts-MS rose-tinted-odometer: ★★★★★★ (6-star bull’s blood red #8a0303)

Yesterday’s post on using cladribine to prevent CIS from converting to MS and whether this is MS prevention or an MS cure generated a robust debate. Good, this was the purpose of the post; i.e. to get you thinking. 

As you are aware that as the diagnostic criteria for MS evolve many people diagnosed with CIS in the past actually have MS when the new diagnostic criteria are applied retrospectively. This then allows you to see how well cladribine works in preventing conversion to MS in the small subgroup of subjects who have ‘CIS’ and not MS when they were treated with cladribine. 

The subjects who were still CIS after applying the newer McDonald diagnostic criteria showed that cladribine’s treatment effect improved with a reduction in risk of conversion to clinically definite MS by 63% on low-dose cladribine and by 75% on high-dose cladribine compared to placebo. I am not sure the MS community has clocked how effective cladribine really is when used early. 

This post-hoc analysis also suggests that people with CIS treated with lower doses of cladribine actually do better than those on higher doses. The dose-effect is pretty clear when you look at the time to next attack or three-month confirmed disability worsening. Have we optimised the dose of cladribine? When you are trying to prevent/cure MS maybe not!

Any predictions? I predict that a proportion of patients with CIS treated early with cladribine may never go on to have a second attack or disability progression and hence are prevented from developing MS or cured of their MS, depending on how you define MS. Anyone taking bets? 

Freedman et al. The efficacy of cladribine tablets in CIS patients retrospectively assigned the diagnosis of MS using modern criteria: Results from the ORACLE-MS study. Mult Scler J Exp Transl Clin. 2017 Oct 9;3(4):2055217317732802.

Background: Multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnostic criteria have changed since the ORACLE-MS study was conducted; 223 of 616 patients (36.2%) would have met the diagnosis of MS vs clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) using the newer criteria.

Objective: The objective of this paper is to assess the effect of cladribine tablets in patients with a first clinical demyelinating attack fulfilling newer criteria (McDonald 2010) for MS vs CIS.

Methods: A post hoc analysis for subgroups of patients retrospectively classified as fulfilling or not fulfilling newer criteria at the first clinical demyelinating attack was conducted.

Results: Cladribine tablets 3.5 mg/kg (n = 68) reduced the risk of next attack or three-month confirmed Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) worsening by 74% vs placebo (n = 72); p = 0.0009 in patients meeting newer criteria for MS at baseline. Cladribine tablets 5.25 mg/kg (n = 83) reduced the risk of next attack or three-month confirmed EDSS worsening by 37%, but nominal significance was not reached (p = 0.14). In patients who were still CIS after applying newer criteria, cladribine tablets 3.5 mg/kg (n = 138) reduced the risk of conversion to clinically definite multiple sclerosis (CDMS) by 63% vs placebo (n = 134); p = 0.0003. Cladribine tablets 5.25 mg/kg (n = 121) reduced the risk of conversion by 75% vs placebo (n = 134); p < 0.0001.

Conclusions: Regardless of the criteria used to define CIS or MS, 3.5 mg/kg cladribine tablets are effective in patients with a first clinical demyelinating attack. ClinicalTrials.gov registration: The ORACLE-MS study (NCT00725985).

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General Disclaimer: Please note that the opinions expressed here are those of Professor Giovannoni and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry nor Barts Health NHS Trust and are not meant to be interpreted as personal clinical advice. 

Prevention vs. cure

Barts-MS rose-tinted-odometer: ★★★★★ (a bright blue buzz – #0096FF)

I was at a mid-summer party last night when someone suggested that I should not waste my time trying to answer peripheral or trivial questions in relation to MS and focus on the really big questions. 

This got me thinking about which are the biggest MS questions in MS that I can try to tackle and answer. Apart from (1) MS prevention, i.e. does preventing primary EBV infection with a sterilizing EBV vaccine prevent MS, the next major question must relate to (2) curing MS

The BIG-C issue is one I have been exploring on this blog for several years but is hampered by defining what an MS cure looks like and then looking for it. The problem with the latter is the issue of smouldering MS, which clouds the definition of a cure. Even if you cure someone from the biological drivers of MS, if they have relatively advanced MS they may still get worse from downstream smouldering processes that become independent of the initial MS attack(s). So the only solution is to test the hypothesis of an MS cure is very early in the disease, i.e. at the RIS (radiologically-isolated syndrome) or CIS (clinically-isolated syndrome) stage. 

To cure MS what treatment strategy do you need to use?  I have made the point that we can only cure MS with an IRT (immune reconstitution therapy) and at present we only have three IRTs that are used routinely in MS., i.e. cladribine, alemtuzumab and AHSCT. It is clear that cladribine is the safest IRT and has the added advantage as being the most CNS penetrant, which I think is important. Cladribine levels in the spinal fluid of treated patients are high enough to have an effect on CNS resident T and B-cells. Cladribine is also the safest and easiest IRT to use and therefore the most likely to get widely adopted. I am convinced  that a proportion of pwMS treated early, within 12 to 24 months of MS diagnosis, with either alemtuzumab and AHSCT are cured. Despite the stunning results of this treatment approach the adoption of both alemtuzumab and AHSCT as a mainstream treatment for MS has been abysmal. I suspect cladribine as an early effective treatment would have a greater chance of being adopted. My conclusion then is that the IRT has to be cladribine and it has to be done evry early at the CIS or RIS stage. 

But this experiment has already been done. The ORACLE study below was of oral cladribine in CIS. So what has happened to these patients? We don’t know, which is why Merck is doing the CLASSIC MS study to try and find out what has happened to these patients with CIS. Wouldn’t it be brilliant if a significant proportion of the cladribine exposed patients have not developed MS compared to those in the placebo group? Would this be sufficient to convince the wider MS community that very early cladribine treatment cures a proportion of people with CIS, i.e. prevents them from developing MS?  I suspect not. This is why a new global RIS-CIS study will need to be done. 

Please note some people would argue that stopping people with CIS from getting MS is MS prevention, whereas others would argue, including me, that CIS is already MS and hence preventing CIS from becoming MS is an MS cure. This is not just semantics but challenges disease definitions and is an important philosophical debate. This is why I want to study medical philosophy to tackle some of these issues.


Kaplan–Meier estimates of time to conversion to CDMS and McDonald MS in the intention-to-treat population during the double-blind period. Cumulative percentage probability of conversion to (A) CDMS according to the Poser criteria and (B) MS according to the 2005 McDonald criteria. CDMS=clinically definite multiple sclerosis. MS=multiple sclerosis. Figure from Lancet Neurol 2014.

Leist  et al. Effect of oral cladribine on time to conversion to clinically definite multiple sclerosis in patients with a first demyelinating event (ORACLE MS): a phase 3 randomised trial. Lancet Neurol. 2014 Mar;13(3):257-67.

Background: Patients who develop relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) present with a first clinical demyelinating event. In this double-blind, multicentre, randomised, phase 3 study we investigated the effect of oral cladribine on conversion to clinically definite MS in patients with a first clinical demyelinating event, when given at the same doses shown to be effective in relapsing-remitting MS.

Methods: Between Oct 21, 2008, and Oct 11, 2010, we recruited patients aged 18-55 years, inclusive, from 160 hospitals, private clinics, or treatment centres in 34 countries. Eligible patients had a first clinical demyelinating event within 75 days before screening, at least two clinically silent lesions of at least 3 mm on a T2-weighted brain MRI scan, and an Expanded Disability Status Scale score of 5.0 or lower. Patients with a first clinical demyelinating event ≤75 days before screening were randomly assigned (1:1:1) to receive cladribine tablets at cumulative doses of 5.25 mg/kg or 3.5 mg/kg or placebo. Randomisation was done with a central web-based randomisation system and was stratified by geographic region. Masking was maintained using a two-physician model. The primary endpoint of this 96-week study was time to conversion to clinically definite MS according to the Poser criteria. This study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT00725985.

Findings: Of 903 participants assessed for eligibility, 616 patients received cladribine 5.25 mg/kg (n=204), cladribine 3.5 mg/kg (n=206), or placebo (n=206). At trial termination on Oct 25, 2011, cladribine was associated with a risk reduction versus placebo for time to conversion to clinically definite MS (hazard ratio [HR] for 5.25 mg/kg=0.38, 95% CI 0.25-0.58, p<0.0001; HR for 3.5 mg/kg=0.33, 0.21-0.51, p<0.0001). Adverse events were reported in 165 (81%) patients in the cladribine 5.25 mg/kg group, 168 (82%) patients in the cladribine 3.5 mg/kg group, and 162 (79%) patients in the placebo group. We noted no increase in risk of adverse events with active treatment versus placebo apart from lymphopenia, which was a severe event in 10 (5%) patients in the 5.25 mg/kg group and four (2%) patients in the 3.5 mg/kg group.

Interpretation: Both doses of cladribine significantly delayed MS diagnosis compared with placebo. The safety profile of cladribine was similar to that noted in a trial in patients with relapsing-remitting MS. Further research could clarify the potential effects of oral cladribine treatment in the early stages of MS.

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CURE-3

Barts-MS rose-tinted-odometer: ★★★★★ (still seeing red, despite Summer having finally arrived)

I am considering retraining as a medical philosopher. The thinking of the MS research community is riddled with fundamental errors that could be sorted out by applying basic philosophical principles. One example is the diagnostic tautology we are wedded to in how we define MS as a disease. Another relates to the classification of categorical MS disease states. Defining an MS cure, etc. I am also being criticised for supporting two conflicting, juxtaposed theories about the potential cause of MS. How can I ‘believe’ MS is caused by EBV and at the same time talk about IRTs (immune reconstitution therapies) potentially curing MS as an autoimmune disease.

The reality is that scientists are not religious and don’t hold beliefs. Scientists put forward hypotheses, which are then tested and refined. Over time hypotheses get rejected and/or evolve and if the experimental evidence becomes overwhelming they enter the canon of human knowledge as facts. In comparison, beliefs are immutable and cannot be challenged. Therefore, I don’t believe EBV is the cause of MS and I don’t believe MS is an autoimmune disease. I hypothesise that EBV is the cause of MS, I hypothesise that MS is an autoimmune disease and I hypothesise that these two theories are not mutually exclusive, i.e. MS can be caused by EBV and still be an autoimmune disease. In other words, EBV is the driver of autoimmunity and by removing EBV from the MS causal pathway you prevent or cure MS. 

To prevent EBV infection we are exploring doing an EBV vaccine trial in people at high risk of MS and then following them to see if they go on to develop MS or not. This experimental paradigm is well-rehearsed and relatively easy to understand. 

What is not easy to understand is how EBV causes MS. One theory is that EBV simply provides autoreactive B-cells and T-cells with a survival advantage and as a result, they persist, expand in numbers and become dysregulated, which tips over into autoimmunity that becomes self-perpetuating. How EBV does this is not known. One mechanism that I have proposed is that because EBV infection causes B-cells and T-cells to hyperproliferative, i.e. go through many cell divisions, they acquire so-called somatic mutations in their genomes that sets the stage for autoimmunity.

There is mounting evidence in MS that the majority of pwMS have somatic (in the body and not in the germline) mutations in T-cells and B-cells (see studies below). These mutations could provide these cells or clones with a survival advantage, based on simple Darwinian selection principles, which explains why they persist and expand in number. Think of these cells as being like a kind of benign tumour. The important thing is that these cells can be killed using aggressive immunodepletion strategies such as AHSCT or alemtuzumab treatment. 

Another thing to remember is that it may not be one but several somatic mutations that are required to trigger autoimmunity. So if you purge the downstream autoimmune clones, but leave the upstream driver clones behind, they may have the potential to acquire new mutations and hence reactivate autoimmunity in the future. This could explain why some people who go into long-term remission after HSCT or alemtuzumab treatment breakthrough many years later with recurrent MS disease activity. 

The two studies below show that pwMS harbour many somatic mutations in their circulating B-cells and T-cells. These data not only underpin the hypotheses presented above, but also support the hypotheses that MS is an autoimmune disease triggered by EBV and that it can be cured by an immune reconstitution therapy. 

So I won’t be deterred by my campaign to define what an MS cure looks like so that we can look for it and claim it as a victory in the management of this awful disease

Yes, I am a big supporter of the hypothesis that MS is a curable disease and this position is absolutely compatible with my positions on the role of EBV and autoimmunity in causing MS. Do you disagree?

The great tragedy is that if IRTs cure MS in a proportion of pwMS, why are we not using IRTs more widely? Now that is the big story that can be told another day.  

Our current approach to treating MS. Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash

van Horebeek et al.  A robust pipeline with high replication rate for detection of somatic variants in the adaptive immune system as a source of common genetic variation in autoimmune disease. Hum Mol Genet. 2019 Apr 15;28(8):1369-1380.

The role of somatic variants in diseases beyond cancer is increasingly being recognized, with potential roles in autoinflammatory and autoimmune diseases. However, as mutation rates and allele fractions are lower, studies in these diseases are substantially less tolerant of false positives, and bio-informatics algorithms require high replication rates. We developed a pipeline combining two variant callers, MuTect2 and VarScan2, with technical filtering and prioritization. Our pipeline detects somatic variants with allele fractions as low as 0.5% and achieves a replication rate of >55%. Validation in an independent data set demonstrates excellent performance (sensitivity > 57%, specificity > 98%, replication rate > 80%). We applied this pipeline to the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis (MS) as a proof-of-principle. We demonstrate that 60% of MS patients carry 2-10 exonic somatic variants in their peripheral blood T and B cells, with the vast majority (80%) occurring in T cells and variants persisting over time. Synonymous variants significantly co-occur with non-synonymous variants. Systematic characterization indicates somatic variants are enriched for being novel or very rare in public databases of germline variants and trend towards being more damaging and conserved, as reflected by higher phred-scaled combined annotation-dependent depletion (CADD) and genomic evolutionary rate profiling (GERP) scores. Our pipeline and proof-of-principle now warrant further investigation of common somatic genetic variation on top of inherited genetic variation in the context of autoimmune disease, where it may offer subtle survival advantages to immune cells and contribute to the capacity of these cells to participate in the autoimmune reaction.

Valori et al. A novel class of somatic mutations in blood detected preferentially in CD8+ cells. Clin Immunol. 2017 Feb;175:75-81.

Somatic mutations have a central role in cancer but their role in other diseases such as autoimmune disorders is poorly understood. Earlier work has provided indirect evidence of rare somatic mutations in autoreactive T-lymphocytes in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients but such mutations have not been identified thus far. We analysed somatic mutations in blood in 16 patients with relapsing MS and 4 with other neurological autoimmune disease. To facilitate the detection of somatic mutations CD4+, CD8+, CD19+ and CD4-/CD8-/CD19- cell subpopulations were separated. We performed next-generation DNA sequencing targeting 986 immune-related genes. Somatic mutations were called by comparing the sequence data of each cell subpopulation to other subpopulations of the same patient and validated by amplicon sequencing. We found non-synonymous somatic mutations in 12 (60%) patients (10 MS, 1 myasthenia gravis, 1 narcolepsy). There were 27 mutations, all different and mostly novel (67%). They were discovered at subpopulation-wise allelic fractions of 0.2%-4.6% (median 0.95%). Multiple mutations were found in 8 patients. The mutations were enriched in CD8+ cells (85% of mutations). In follow-up after a median time of 2.3years, 96% of the mutations were still detectable. These results unravel a novel class of persistent somatic mutations, many of which were in genes that may play a role in autoimmunity (ATM, BTK, CD46, CD180, CLIP2, HMMR, IKFZF3, ITGB3, KIR3DL2, MAPK10, CD56/NCAM1, RBM6, RORA, RPA1 and STAT3). Whether some of this class of mutations plays a role in disease is currently unclear, but these results define an interesting hitherto unknown research target for future studies.

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Am I cured?

Barts-MS rose-tinted-odometer: ★★★★★ (seeing purple; a Sunday morning purple)

Could you imagine if we made the treatment target in MS a cure? This is a very contentious issue; however, based on the current dogma that MS is an autoimmune disease driven by rogue autoreactive cells we should have the ability to either purge these cells from the body or imprison them via tolerance mechanisms indefinitely. Do you agree? 

After being taken to task on using the C-word (see blog post 19-May-21) I am relieved that you readers condone the use of the word. This means we can now hopefully refine the definition of an MS cure, look to see if any pwMS treated with immune reconstitution therapies (IRTs) fulfil the definition of an MS cure. Please be aware that an MS cure doesn’t mean the restoration of lost neurological function; you can be cured of further autoimmune attacks on the nervous system, but the damage that is already done won’t necessarily be repaired as part of the cure. This is why we need to at least offer IRTs as early as possible in the course of the disease, which is why we need to have the option of using IRTs first-line. I hope this makes sense.

Forms response chart. Question title: Do you think it is appropriate to use the word CURE in the context of treating multiple sclerosis?. Number of responses: 170 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: Do you think discussing an MS CURE is raising false hopes?. Number of responses: 170 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: Do you think the term LONG-TERM REMISSION is a better term than CURE to describe the concept of MS going away and never coming back?. Number of responses: 170 responses.

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The C-word

Barts-MS rose-tinted-odometer: zero-★s (seeing red)

After my blog post on potentially curing MS, I have been criticised by several people in the MS community for using the C-word. Do you agree? Have I raised false hopes?

I am of the opinion that unless we define what an MS cure looks like and then look for it we will never find it; i.e. the holy grail will always elude us. Another factor is that if we are really curing some people with MS with IRTs (immune reconstitution therapies) shouldn’t the MS community know about it? Wouldn’t that shift the risk:benefit ratio in favour of the benefits? Just maybe more people will choose to be treated with AHSCT, alemtuzumab or cladribine if there was a small chance of a cure. One commentator has suggested I use the term long-term remission rather than cure. The problem with long-term remission is that it doesn’t quite have the same emotional impact as a cure.

One of my patients with both MS and breast cancer was bowled over by her breast cancer consultant who said to her, “we have an 80% chance of curing you of your breast cancer”. Saying “we have an 80% chance of putting your breast cancer into long-term remission”, just doesn’t quite cut the mustard.

If you have the time can you please respond to this three-question survey, which will take you literally 15 seconds to complete? Thank you.

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Regrets

Barts-MS rose-tinted-odometer: ★★

Shortly after leaving Queen Square to take up my current position at Barts and The London Juliet Solomon, a good friend, and one of the research managers who had an office opposite me on the 6th floor of the Institute of Neurology sent me a signed copy of the ‘The Book of Regrets’ she had compiled as a present. She has asked celebrities to write essays on something they had regretted in their lives. The book has become a bestseller with all the proceeds of the sales going to support the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. This is the kind of thing Juliet does; she has a very big heart. A mensch!

At the time I thought about what I would write if I was asked to contribute a chapter to the next edition of the book. I am still not sure, but from a professional perspective, my biggest regret is not being more proactive in derisking alemtuzumab as a treatment for MS. It has become clear to me that a small proportion of people with MS (pwMS) who are treated with alemtuzumab and HSCT early in the course of their disease are cured of MS when you use a contemporary definition of an MS cure

If the infusion reactions, infections and secondary autoimmunity problems went away who would choose anything but alemtuzumab to treat their MS?

Infusion reactions: Can we reduce the infusion reactions of alemtuzumab? Yes, we can. Pre-treating with steroids starting the night before and moving from the intravenous to the subcutaneous route would make infusion reactions minor. So why hasn’t this been done? Money! MS centres/units make lucre out of infusing patients. I have used the subcutaneous route to avoid a second about of steroid-induced psychosis, to avoid steroid-induced metabolic mayhem in a patient with MS and type 1 diabetes and in a patient who developed avascular necrosis of one hip after his first course of alemtuzumab. It was remarkable; there were no major alemtuzumab infusion reactions despite these three patients being steroid-free. The pharmacodynamic data, i.e. the cell depletion data for the IV and SC routes are identical. The main reasons for us not switching all our patients to subcutaneous alemtuzumab was money, resource and inertia. In the recent past, we used to make money for the unit by giving infusions. Fortunately, with NHS block contracts, this perverse incentive has disappeared. Sanofi-Genzyme also provides contract nurses who come in to give the infusions and monitor the patients. If we converted our entire alemtuzumab administration programme to a subcutaneous route the workload would fall on our overworked nurses. Our nursing lead in our daycare unit reminded me of this. REGRET 1 we didn’t covert to sc alemtuzumab. 

Secondary autoimmunity: What about preventing or reducing the incidence of secondary autoimmunity?

The immune system has many mechanisms in place to prevent autoimmunity. When you learn how the immune system works it is really quite surprising that autoimmunity is so uncommon. What the immunologists tell us is that there must be a series of underlying biological processes that are causing secondary autoimmunity and if we can work out what these are we can intervene and prevent this complication. This is what Joanne Jones and Alasdair Coles tried to do in Cambridge. Their hypothesis was that because the immune system reboots itself from peripheral memory cells it is more likely to result in an aberrant autoimmune response. They tried rebooting the immune system using more naïve cells from the thymus using the hormone palifermin, which stimulates the thymus to produce more naïve T-cells. Sadly it didn’t work, but at least they tried and they should be congratulated for doing this study.  

Interestingly, when you compare cladribine, another IRT, with alemtuzumab you can’t help but notice that the B-cell reconstitution profiles are very different. With alemtuzumab, they come back very quickly and overshoot their baseline values. We, and others, have hypothesised that if you change the profile of the B cell reconstitution with a small dose of the B cell depleting antibody rituximab you may be able to prevent this secondary autoimmunity. We are really talking about a very small dose of rituximab, i.e. 10-20mg, just enough to delay B cell reconstitution by 4-6 months. I proposed this concept to Genzyme 8 or 9 years ago, but without data to support the hypothesis they were not keen to support an exploratory study. Why didn’t I push to get this funded from another source? If we had done this study back then we would have had the results by now. Can you imagine how impactful this could be for pwMS if we could prevent secondary autoimmunity post-alemtuzumab? REGRET 2 no doing alemtuzumab-rituximab trial and not setting up an adaptive trial platform for testing multiple strategies to prevent secondary autoimmunity post-alemtuzumab.  

Infections: One success story has been the derisking of alemtuzumab-associated infections with prophylactic antibiotics and antivirals, and the proactive approach to baseline infectious disease screening and vaccination. SUCCESS 1 reducing alemtuzumab-associated infections. 

Anti-drug antibodies: Another success story has been exposing alemtuzumab’s problems with anti-drug antibodies (ADAs) and the development of an assay to screen for these antibodies. Why use a therapy, at great expense, that is not going to work because of neutralizing anti-drug antibodies. SUCCESS 2, anti-drug antibody screening.

A big problem that emerged was how alemtuzumab was licensed and used in the USA. The FDA has essentially licensed alemtuzumab with hand-cuffs, therefore, alemtuzumab was and is used as the DMT of last resort in the US. This led to it being used in an older more advanced cohort of pwMS who had comorbidities. In this group of patients, a new adverse event profile emerged, particularly vascular complications. This led to a safety review and the license of alemtuzumab’s use was changed and it is now only used infrequently, second or third -line and often in people with more advanced MS.  I was personally involved with the original EMA submission; it was a real uphill battle to get alemtuzumab licensed as first-line therapy. Allowing the EMA to change how we use alemtuzumab, i.e. making pwMS have to wait to become eligible for the therapy is a travesty. We, Genzyme and MS community, should have made a more robust argument to the CHMP not to change alemtuzumab’s label. REGRET 3 not allowing alemtuzumab to be used first-line in active MS; it can only be used as a first-line agent in patients with rapidly evolving severe (RES) MS (two disabling attacks in a 12 month period). The problem is that very few patients have RES MS as they tend to be treated now before they have their second disabling relapse.  

Finally, my colleagues. Apart from a small group of MSologists, and we know who we are, most MSologists don’t prescribe alemtuzumab. They find the therapy too difficult and risky to use. I have tried to educate and get more of my colleagues to at least offer alemtuzumab as an alternative to HSCT, but to no avail.  In the UK, we were all geared up to do a head-2-head study of alemtuzumab vs. AHSCT. However, once ocrelizumab was licensed the MS community said they would not be able to recruit for this trial so it has now been converted into alemtuzumab or ocrelizumab vs. AHSCT trial. In reality, this study is going to be a head-2-head of ocrelizumab vs. AHSCT study. Not getting the wider MS community to understand how effective alemtuzumab is REGRET 4. Instead of success, we have a generation of refuseniks

The question we need to ask ourselves is do we really want to throw the baby out with the bathwater? We have two, and possibly three, treatment strategies that may cure a minority of pwMS of having MS. Yes, CURE. However, alemtuzumab and HSCT are on the fringe of MS treatments. Why? 

I suppose you are asking about the third option. It may be cladribine. The results of the ORACLE trial of cladribine in patients with clinically isolated syndromes (CIS) are quite remarkable. We are trying to recall the patients from the ORACLE study a decade or more later to see how many are still in remission and haven’t converted to MS. The problem we have is that cladribine is not even a treatment option for CIS despite this stunning data, hence we may be denying a large number of people with CIS, a relatively safe immune reconstitution therapy or IRT, that may prevent many of them from developing MS. The downside of this is the depressing fact that many MSologists still don’t treat CIS (see my blog post on watchful waiting).

Perumal et al. Subcutaneous administration of alemtuzumab in patients with highly active multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler. 2012 Aug;18(8):1197-9.

Alemtuzumab is an anti-CD52 monoclonal antibody with remarkable efficacy in relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS). In clinical trials and off-label use in MS, alemtuzumab has been administered intravenously (IV). Alemtuzumab is approved for chronic lymphoid leukemia as IV. Oncology guidelines recommend alemtuzumab subcutaneous (SC) over IV. There is no report of alemtuzumab SC in MS. We report two patients with highly active relapsing MS who were treated with SC alemtuzumab, had significant improvement and tolerated SC alemtuzumab well without the typical infusion-associated adverse events. SC alemtuzumab in MS warrants further studies as this may enhance patient convenience and minimize infusion-associated adverse events.

Leist et al.  Effect of oral cladribine on time to conversion to clinically definite multiple sclerosis in patients with a first demyelinating event (ORACLE MS): a phase 3 randomised trial. Lancet Neurol. 2014 Mar;13(3):257-67. 

Background: Patients who develop relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) present with a first clinical demyelinating event. In this double-blind, multicentre, randomised, phase 3 study we investigated the effect of oral cladribine on conversion to clinically definite MS in patients with a first clinical demyelinating event, when given at the same doses shown to be effective in relapsing-remitting MS.

Methods: Between Oct 21, 2008, and Oct 11, 2010, we recruited patients aged 18-55 years, inclusive, from 160 hospitals, private clinics, or treatment centres in 34 countries. Eligible patients had a first clinical demyelinating event within 75 days before screening, at least two clinically silent lesions of at least 3 mm on a T2-weighted brain MRI scan, and an Expanded Disability Status Scale score of 5.0 or lower. Patients with a first clinical demyelinating event ≤75 days before screening were randomly assigned (1:1:1) to receive cladribine tablets at cumulative doses of 5.25 mg/kg or 3.5 mg/kg or placebo. Randomisation was done with a central web-based randomisation system and was stratified by geographic region. Masking was maintained using a two-physician model. The primary endpoint of this 96-week study was time to conversion to clinically definite MS according to the Poser criteria. This study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT00725985.

Findings: Of 903 participants assessed for eligibility, 616 patients received cladribine 5.25 mg/kg (n=204), cladribine 3.5 mg/kg (n=206), or placebo (n=206). At trial termination on Oct 25, 2011, cladribine was associated with a risk reduction versus placebo for time to conversion to clinically definite MS (hazard ratio [HR] for 5.25 mg/kg=0.38, 95% CI 0.25-0.58, p<0.0001; HR for 3.5 mg/kg=0.33, 0.21-0.51, p<0.0001). Adverse events were reported in 165 (81%) patients in the cladribine 5.25 mg/kg group, 168 (82%) patients in the cladribine 3.5 mg/kg group, and 162 (79%) patients in the placebo group. We noted no increase in risk of adverse events with active treatment versus placebo apart from lymphopenia, which was a severe event in 10 (5%) patients in the 5.25 mg/kg group and four (2%) patients in the 3.5 mg/kg group.

Interpretation: Both doses of cladribine significantly delayed MS diagnosis compared with placebo. The safety profile of cladribine was similar to that noted in a trial in patients with relapsing-remitting MS. Further research could clarify the potential effects of oral cladribine treatment in the early stages of MS.

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General Disclaimer: Please note that the opinions expressed here are those of Professor Giovannoni and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry nor Barts Health NHS Trust.

Curing MS

Barts-MS rose-tinted-odometer: ★★★★★

I have been asked many times if we can cure someone who has MS. I have tried to explain what an MS cure may look like many times on this blog and have actually published articles defending the definition. 

I explained in a previous post that you may be cured of your MS, but still, have worsening or progressive disease. The difference between progressive disease, which is due to previous MS damage and ageing is that the former should burn out, i.e. after a period of time, your worsening disability should eventually stop or flat-line. In comparison, MS-induced premature ageing is unlikely to stop. In comparison defining a cure in people who are young, with reserve capacity, who have been treated earlier is a much easier task. 

From a biological perspective you can be cured but still have neurological deficits from previous damage, which need to be targeted with so-called ‘repair’ and ‘neuroregenerative’ therapies. These are separate processes and are independent of a so-called biological cure. 

Based on our current understanding of MS a cure can only really occur in relation to IRTs (immune reconstitution therapies; e.g. alemtuzumab, cladribine & HSCT), i.e. treatments that are given as short courses that address the underlying ‘cause’ of MS. Maintenance treatments that need to be given continuously can’t cure MS, because when you stop the treatment MS disease activity tends to return and in some cases, particularly with anti-trafficking agents (natalizumab and fingolimod), to a greater extent than before, which we call MS rebound.

For arguments sake let’s say we have treated a group of pwMS early in the course of their disease with an IRT and they have gone into long-term remission with no evident disease activity (NEDA). How long should we wait before declaring a victory over their MS; 10, 15, 20 or 25 years? In the past, we have proposed defining a cure as NEDA at 15 years post-treatment as a starting point (see our MSARD Editorial below). Why 15 years? This is the most commonly accepted time-point used for defining benign MS and therefore it is a standard end-point that could potentially be accepted by the wider MS community. However, this may be wishful thinking many in the field are saying that we can’t cure MS, therefore, we should not even be having this discussion. Do you agree? 

The average time to the onset of secondary progressive MS is ~14-15 years so one would expect to see a significant proportion of people manifesting with SPMS in this 15-year timeframe. If we have gotten the autoimmune hypothesis wrong and IRTs don’t work then I would estimate at least a third of treated subjects should have SPMS at 15 years. The problem with 15 years is that it is a long wait if you have MS. Many pwMS want to know ‘now’ if an IRT offers a cure, therefore we need data to convince the naysayers to support the ‘cure hypothesis’. Hopefully, convincing data, such as the HSCT data below, will change their minds and get them to at least offer IRTs to more of their patients.

In the past, I have proposed a deep phenotyping project to look at pwMS who are NEDA-2 post-IRT to see if we can find any evidence of ongoing inflammatory, or neurodegenerative, MS disease activity. I proposed interrogating them in detail and comparing them to a similar cohort of pwMS who are being treated with maintenance DMTs. Deep phenotyping is simply a term that refers to the interrogation of the CNS to see if the IRT has stopped ongoing damage and protected reserve capacity.

The study that has come closest to reaching this 15-year time point is the Canadian myeloablative HSCT cohort (see below). Mark Freedman, the principal investigator, has told me that all of these patients remain NEDA-2 (no relapses or MRI activity) although some have worsened in relation to their disability, which may be a result of previous damage and not ongoing MS disease activity. However, the most impressive observation is that this cohort of patients, who all had very active MS prior to HSCT, has ‘normalised’ their rate of brain volume loss or atrophy after an initial precipitous drop in brain volume due to pseudoatrophy and/or chemotherapy-induced neurotoxicity. Mark Freedman has also said that about a third of these patients, who have had lumbar punctures, have lost their OCBs (personal communication). However, the spinal fluid analyses have all been done quite early after HSCT hence we don’t know how many subjects who have reached 10 years of follow-up or more have persistent OCBs. Wouldn’t this be an interesting fact to know?

When the 10-year lumbar puncture and spinal fluid analysis was done in a group of Polish subjects treated with intravenous cladribine, 50% had lost their spinal fluid oligoclonal IgG bands (OCBs) at 10 years and this group of OCB-negative patients tended to have stable disease compared to those who hadn’t lost their OCBs. This is why we are doing the SIZOMUS (Ixazomib) and the DODO (high-dose ocrelizumab) studies to try and scrub the CNS clean of pathogenic B-cells and plasma cells that may be driving low-grade smouldering MS. Exciting? You bet! These two studies are one of the reasons I get up in the morning, look at myself in the mirror and say nobody can say Barts-MS isn’t doing innovative MS research. 

The question I am now asking myself is switching a definition of a cure to a biological one a better strategy? This is a new line of thinking that has been brewing in my head for the last 12 months or so. If EBV is the cause of MS can we simply put pwMS into remission and clear them of EBV? This is why I want to do the iTeri and similar studies, i.e. to give an IRT and follow it with a drug that prevents EBV reactivation (antiviral) or scrubs B-cells of EBV (EBNA-1 antagonists). 

I am sure many cynics will be saying no not Prof G thinking aloud. Yes, I am thinking aloud. If only a minority of pwMS treated with IRTs go into long-term remission why can we increase the proportion by using the induction-maintenance approach that targets the cause of MS? What do you think?

If you agree with this strategy I am going to need help to get the iTeri concept study funded.  

DEFINING A CURE:

Banwell et al. Editors’ welcome and a working definition for a multiple sclerosis cure. Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders. 2013; 2(2):65-67.

…. Defining a cure in MS is a difficult task. How long should we wait before declaring a victory; 15, 20 or 25 years? Oncologists have back-tracked on this issue and instead of a cure they now prefer to use the term NEDD, or no evidence of detectable disease, at a specific time-point knowing full well that a limited number of subjects will relapse and present with recurrent disease after this point. We propose using the term NEDA, or no evident disease-activity, at 15 years as a starting point for defining a cure. Why 15 years? This is the most commonly accepted time-point used for defining benign MS and therefore it is a usual endpoint. In addition, the median time to the onset of secondary progressive MS is ~10-11 years (Kremenchutzky, Rice et al. 2006) and is well within the 15-year time window of our proposed definition of a cure. At present NEDA is defined using a composite of a) no relapses, or b) no EDSS progression, or c) no MRI activity (new or enlarging T2 lesions or no Gd-enhancing lesions) (Havrdova, Galetta et al. 2009; Giovannoni, Cook et al. 2011). This description is currently based on data that is routinely collected in contemporary clinical trials (Havrdova, Galetta et al. 2009; Giovannoni, Cook et al. 2011). The definition of NEDA will evolve with technological innovations and clinical practice, and in the future, it will almost certainly include MSer-related outcomes, grey matter disease activity, an index of brain atrophy and hopefully a CSF biomarker profile…..

References:

Giovannoni, G., S. Cook, et al. (2011). “Sustained disease-activity-free status in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis treated with cladribine tablets in the CLARITY study: a post-hoc and subgroup analysis.” Lancet Neurol 10(4): 329-337.

Havrdova, E., S. Galetta, et al. (2009). “Effect of natalizumab on clinical and radiological disease activity in multiple sclerosis: a retrospective analysis of the Natalizumab Safety and Efficacy in Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (AFFIRM) study.” Lancet Neurol 8(3): 254-260

Kremenchutzky, M., G. P. Rice, et al. (2006). “The natural history of multiple sclerosis: a geographically based study 9: observations on the progressive phase of the disease.” Brain 129(Pt 3): 584-594.

THE CURE #1?

Atkins et al. Immunoablation and autologous haemopoietic stem-cell transplantation for aggressive multiple sclerosis: a multicentre single-group phase 2 trial. Lancet. 2016 Aug 6;388(10044):576-85. 

BACKGROUND: Strong immunosuppression, including chemotherapy and immune-depleting antibodies followed by autologous haemopoietic stem-cell transplantation (aHSCT), has been used to treat patients with multiple sclerosis, improving control of relapsing disease. We addressed whether near-complete immunoablation followed by immune cell depleted aHSCT would result in long-term control of multiple sclerosis.

METHODS: We did this phase 2 single-arm trial at three hospitals in Canada. We enrolled patients with multiple sclerosis, aged 18-50 years with poor prognosis, ongoing disease activity, and an Expanded Disability Status Scale of 3.0-6.0. Autologous CD34 selected haemopoietic stem-cell grafts were collected after mobilisation with cyclophosphamide and filgrastim. Immunoablation with busulfan, cyclophosphamide, and rabbit anti-thymocyte globulin was followed by aHSCT. The primary outcome was multiple sclerosis activity-free survival (events were clinical relapse, appearance of a new or Gd-enhancing lesion on MRI, and sustained progression of Expanded Disability Status Scale score). This study was registered at ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT01099930.

FINDINGS: Between diagnosis and aHSCT, 24 patients had 167 clinical relapses over 140 patient-years with 188 Gd-enhancing lesions on 48 pre-aHSCT MRI scans. Median follow-up was 6.7 years (range 3.9-12.7). The primary outcome, multiple sclerosis activity-free survival at 3 years after transplantation was 69.6% (95% CI 46.6-84.2). With up to 13 years of follow-up after aHSCT, no relapses occurred and no GdGd-enhancing lesions or new T2 lesions were seen on 314 MRI sequential scans. The rate of brain atrophy decreased to that expected for healthy controls. One of 24 patients died of transplantation-related complications. 35% of patients had a sustained improvement in their Expanded Disability Status Scale score.

INTERPRETATION: We describe the first treatment to fully halt all detectable CNS inflammatory activity in patients with multiple sclerosis for a prolonged period in the absence of any ongoing disease-modifying drugs. Furthermore, many of the patients had substantial recovery of neurological function despite their disease’s aggressive nature.

THE CURE #2?

Rejdak et al. Cladribine induces long lasting oligoclonal bands disappearance in relapsing multiple sclerosis patients: 10-year observational study. Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2019 Jan;27:117-120. 

Background: There has been long-term interest in cladribine as a drug for the treatment of MS. The current study focused on the effect of cladribine on oligoclonal bands (OCB) expression in the CSF in relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) patients observed over 10 years.

Methods: 29 treatment-naive subjects with RRMS were prospectively enrolled and received induction therapy with subcutaneous parenteral cladribine (at a cumulative dose of 1.8 mg/kg; divided into 6 courses every 5 weeks given for 4-6 days, depending on patients’ body weight). Selected patients received maintenance doses in the follow-up period.

Results: Isoelectric focusing revealed that 55% of patients did not have OCB in CSF after cladribine treatment as compared to baseline testing when 100% of patients were positive for OCB. There were no significant differences in Expanded Disability Status Scale scores at baseline and at the end of treatment cycle between OCB-positive vs. OCB-negative subgroups. At the last follow-up, OCB-negative patients had lower disability compared to OCB-positive patients (p = 0.03).

Conclusion: Cladribine-induced immune reconstitution leads to long lasting suppression of intrathecal humoral response, which might be an additional mechanism that enhances the therapeutic effect on disease progression in RRMS patients.

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General Disclaimer: Please note that the opinions expressed here are those of Professor Giovannoni and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry nor Barts Health NHS Trust. 

Don’t mention the C-word

Don’t mention the C-word as it raises unnecessarily high expectations is what many of my colleagues say. I don’t agree with them. Showing we have cured, or not cured, MS is how we will ultimately test the hypothesis that MS is an autoimmune disease. 

People with MS (pwMS) want a cure. However, even if we have an MS cure in hand we may not prevent or reverse progressive disease.  Focal inflammation damages nerves in two ways. It can shred and destroy nerve fibres as part of the initial inflammatory stage (acute neurodegeneration) or inflammation sets up processes that result in delayed worsening. The acute inflammatory MS lesion also damages axons and neurons but they manage to remain functioning albeit in a vulnerable state. However, this damage primes these axons and nerves to die off in the future. I like to call this delayed post-inflammatory neurodegeneration.

The mechanisms that result in delayed neurodegeneration of nerves or smouldering MS are many and include innate immunity (hot microglia), energy deficits (mitochondrial dysfunction), excitotoxicity (calcium overload), free radicals (oxygen and nitrogen radicals), premature ageing, intrathecal plasma cell production of pathogenic autoantibodies, persistent viral infection, etc.

Clearly, anti-inflammatory drugs that prevent new lesion formation, such as natalizumab, alemtuzumab and ocrelizumab, will not be able to prevent the delayed neurodegeneration from previous inflammatory lesions. What has happened in the past has happened; i.e. the water under the bridge analogy. So if you have relapsing MS and have had a lot of inflammatory activity in the past that have damaged many nerve fibres, even if you go onto a highly effective DMT that renders you NEDA, it is not going to prevent the ongoing loss of nerve fibres that are primed to die off from previous inflammation in the future. This is why did the PROXIMUS trial and are promoting the OXO trial; add-on neuroprotective drug to try and modify the primed but delayed die-off of neurons and axons in the future.

What protects you from entering the “clinically-apparent” secondary progressive phase of the disease is your reserve capacity, i.e. the surviving healthy nerve fibres in nerve pathways keep you functioning normally. I suspect that pwMS, who have been treated with highly-effective DMTs and who have now become secondary progressive, had a low reserve capacity and a large number of damaged nerve fibres that had been primed to die off. In other words, they were treated with DMTs too late to prevent SPMS in the vanguard pathway (the neuronal pathway with the most damage). This is why I keep pushing the message ‘early effective treatment’ is the only way to prevent secondary progressive MS. 

The same processes happen in PPMS the only difference is pwPPMS don’t have the earlier relapses that bring them to the attention of the medical profession in the initial stages of the disease. 

There are two conclusions to be drawn from these observations; (1) it is best to have your MS treated effectively early in the disease course to maximise your reserve capacity, and (2) we need additional add-on neuroprotective, remyelinating and neurorestorative therapies to target the delayed neurodegenerative processes referred to above. 

In addition to this, we need to avoid and/or reverse any other factors that prematurely age the nervous system. The ageing hypothesis of progressive MS is a major factor that underpins our Brain Health campaign, which targets non-specific factors that have been associated with more rapid progression in MS (smoking, co-morbidities, lack of exercise, infections, etc.). Common to all these factors is that they reduce your reserve and hence bring forward and speed up progressive MS.

So unless you are rendered NEDA early in the course of your disease it may not prevent you from entering the progressive phase of the disease, i.e. it will not be the panacea you want. In addition, our licensed DMTs don’t kill long-lived plasma cells that continue to make intrathecal (within the CNS) antibodies that may drive progressive MS. The exceptions may be natalizumab and cladribine. 

There are several reports of pwMS on natalizumab losing their OCBs (oligoclonal bands or antibody bands). It now emerges that plasma cells live in a ‘niche’ or home and that to keep them in the niche they use the VCAM-1-VLA-4 adhesion molecule interaction. Natalizumab disrupts this interaction and hence it is plausible that natalizumab may reduce the life expectancy of intrathecal (inside the CNS) plasma cells. If this proves to be the case natalizumab may still have the edge on the other DMTs in this regard.

A recent report from Poland showed that about 50% of pwMS treated with intravenous cladribine more than 10-years ago had lost their oligoclonal IgG bands and were more likely to be stable than the those who have not lost their OCBs. There is old and new data emerging suggesting that the immunoglobulin is present in the cerebrospinal fluid of pwMS is toxic to oligodendrocytes (cells that make myelin) and can stimulate microglia. Just maybe the immunoglobulins are responsible for the slowly expanding lesions (SELs) or the subpial grey matter lesions that are such an important part of progressive MS

To target plasma cells, which are long-lived, we will need add-on therapies. This is high on our list of priorities and we are starting the SIZOMUS trial, COVID-19 permitting, to test a therapy for myeloma (malignant plasma cells) in MS. We are also looking at the effects of cladribine in a similar way (CLADRI–PLUS and CLAD-B studies) and we also want to look at the impact of very early treatment of MS with natalizumab as well (ATTACK-MS study). We also have a longish list of other potential therapies we would like to try as well, but we need help with this, i.e. funding, colleagues to share the workload and potential Pharma interest to give us access to some of the compounds we have identified as potentially promising. 

Our challenge and objective are to scrub the MS brain free of B-cells and plasma cells!

Some people don’t buy into this hypothesis, but it is also supported by the observation that pwMS who receive higher doses of ocrelizumab do better than those receiving lower doses. I think that this may be related to more CNS penetration of ocrelizumab and is why I have proposed that Roche do a double-dose or DODO study. In relation to the DODO study, it is not necessarily about giving double-dose ocrelizumab indefinitely, but only early on as induction therapy and then to explore post-induction safer maintenance therapies (BTKi or teriflunomide). Please see the iTeri and iBruT studies in the slide show below. I can’t stress how important these observations are and they have made me question whether or not we have optimised the dose of both ocrelizumab and rituximab and other emerging anti-CD20 therapies. 

 

So yes, we may be able to cure you of MS with IRTs but you may not realise it depending on when in your course you are treated. So as you can see we as an MS community have a lot still to do when it comes to improving disease outcomes of people with MS and yes we need to mention the C-word. We need to define what a cure means and how to look for it so that we can declare victory or not. 

CoI: multiple

PS there is quite a lot chatter going on Twitter in relation to this post.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

HSCT is shifting the Bell curve

Barts-MS rose-tinted-odometer  ★ ★ ★

The good news is that the use of autologous HSCT to treat autoimmune diseases rose (by 19%) in the European Bone Marrow Transplant registry in 2018. Importantly, this rise was predominantly due to HSCT treatment for multiple sclerosis. This would indicate that at least at the very right of the bell curve there is increasing use of a more aggressive approach to treating MS. If this indicates that the bell curve has shifted to the right it means that more pwMS are being treated with highly effective treatments and I suspect that many are getting onto these as first-line therapies. 

What will this mean at a population level? I suspect that over time the prognosis of MS will improve and an increasing number of patients treated with IRTs (cladribine, alemtuzumab and HSCT) will be rendered free of detectable disease in the longterm. If and whether we will be able to claim that a proportion of these pwMS are cured of having MS will depend on the MS community coming up with a widely accepted definition of what an MS cure looks like. 

How IRTs actually work will remain a moot point. Immunologists will claim that they deplete pathogenic autoimmune T and B lymphocytes and reset regulatory immunological networks. Proponents of the EBV hypothesis will claim they all work by targeting pathogenic memory B cells that harbour EBV. Sorting out these competing theories will really require targeted EBV studies, the sort that has been developed by Atara Bio. Another strategy will be using anti-viral agents active against EBV; this will include both existing and new anti-EBV therapies. 

If I have to bet on the outcome I would favour the EBV hypothesis. There are simply too many holes in the autoimmune theory of MS and the epidemiology backing EBV as the cause of MS is now so overwhelming that the wider MS community is finally getting behind EBV vaccination as a possible preventive strategy. I hope you agree.

Passweg et al. and the European Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT). The EBMT activity survey on hematopoietic-cell transplantation and cellular therapy 2018: CAR-T’s come into focus. Bone Marrow Transplant. 2020 Feb 17. 

Hematopoietic-cell transplantation (HCT) is widely used for acquired and congenital disorders of the hematopoietic system. Number of transplants performed in Europe and associated countries continues to rise with 47,468 HCT in 42,901 patients [19,630 allogeneic (41%) and 27,838 autologous (59%)] reported by 701 centers in 50 countries in 2018. Main indications were myeloid malignancies 10,679 (25%; 97% allogeneic), lymphoid malignancies 27,318 (64%; 20% allogeneic), solid tumors 1625 (4%; 2.9% allogeneic), and nonmalignant disorders 3063 (7%; 81% allogeneic). This year’s analysis focuses on cellular therapies with the marked growth in CAR T-cell therapies from 151 in 2017 to 301 patients reported in 2018. Other cellular therapy numbers show less significant changes. Important trends in HCT include a 49% increase in allogeneic HCT for chronic phase CML (although transplant numbers remain low) and a 24% increase in aplastic anemia. In autologous HCT, there is an ongoing increase in autoimmune diseases (by 19%), predominantly due to activity in multiple sclerosis. This annual report reflects current activity and highlights important trends, useful for health care planning.

CoI: multiple

Curing MS

How close are we to offering some people with MS a cure?

I am speaking at the Imperial College Neuroscience Society this morning on ‘how close we are to curing MS’. I think we are very close; in fact some of the longterm follow-up data of IRT (immune reconstitution therapies), in particular, alemtuzumab, non-myeloablative HSCT and myeloablative HSCT looks very promising. I suspect that when we complete our long-term follow-up of cladribine -treated patients we will find a similar story.

If you want to have any chance of potentially curing yourself of MS you have to be treated early, as early as possible, with an IRT preferably with one of the big guns. The problem you will have is finding a neurologist who agrees with this treatment strategy.