MS Good News Report: The Latest Research through November 2020

Research news with a positive angle.


The NMSS seeks pandemic protective measures for people with MS

If you feel as if people with MS have been left out of decision-making attached to pandemic protocols, there’s good news.

Joining more than 30 other patient advocacy organizations, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) has joined in policy discussions to ask for specific measures to protect people with MS during and after the current pandemic.1

Two complementary sets of recommendations have been forwarded to the incoming Biden-Harris COVID 19 Advisory Board that include measures needed to provide adequate affordable health insurance coverage for people with MS.

The NMSS is also advocating for other specific federal policies that can improve on protections for people with disabilities during the pandemic.


People with MS may not be at a higher risk for certain kinds of cancer

Canadian researchers examined the health records of more than 50,000 people with MS across two provinces to determine if there were meaningful increases in cancer incidence in this population. Good news: They discovered that rates of both breast and colorectal cancers were not higher in people with MS.2

Why do researchers study links between MS and cancer?

Links between MS and cancer are frequently studied because both conditions share an abnormal immune response within the central nervous system (CNS).

Many studies looking for these links have been inconclusive so far, but some previous research has suggested an increased risk for breast and colorectal cancers. The Canadian study was created to investigate these associations further, and what they found disagreed with prior research.

Because of the complexity of studying cancer incidence in people with chronic illness, these Canadian scientists encourage more research to take place to confirm their findings.


New research shows neurostimulation can help MS-related bowel problems

Many people with MS experience neurogenic bowel dysfunctions (NBDs)—common forms include fecal incontinence and constipation. Sixty people with MS who face these specific symptoms were studied to see how they responded to a neurostimulation device to help treat their NBDs.3

Percutaneous posterior tibial nerve stimulation (PTNS) is a non-invasive treatment traditionally used for bladder and pelvic floor conditions. Using electrodes, the therapy stimulates the tibial nerve through applied electrical impulses.4

Did PTNS help with constipation?

In this study, PTNS was used as a potential treatment for NBDs. More than half of the people tested found some relief and were satisfied enough with the therapy to continue PTNS. A small number of them were able to eliminate their constipation, and none of the subjects developed new problems with constipation during the research period.

PTNS involves sitting in a reclined position with an elevated and supported leg, then attaching an electrode on the skin near the tibial nerve. For maximum effectiveness, PTNS may require weekly half-hour treatments over 12 weeks.4


Newly diagnosed people with MS can improve their future income with early treatment

Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institutet studied people with MS to determine whether the timing of their treatment following diagnosis had an impact on their ability to earn future income. The underlying purpose of the research? To determine how disability and clinical progression in MS might predict future income levels by looking at statistics on employment and disability benefit usage through the lens of treatment timing.5

More than 3,600 people with MS were divided into two groups: those who started disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) within two years of disease onset, and those who delayed DMTs until two years had passed.

Which DMTs were studied?

The DMTs studied in the research included alemtuzumab (Lemtrada), dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera), fingolimod (Gilenya), glatiramer acetate (Copaxone), interferon beta, mitoxantrone, natalizumab (Tysabri), rituximab (Rituxan), and teriflunomide (Aubagio).

Results showed that those who initiated treatment within the first two years following diagnosis enjoyed better socioeconomic outcomes—including higher incomes and less need for requesting disability benefits—than those who delayed treatment.

While some of the researchers involved in this study have ties to drug manufacturers, the data itself confirm prior independent research supporting early treatment in those with MS who want to both remain employed and avoid future disability.


MS drug research updates, in brief

COVID-19 has slowed a lot of drug research, but there are some good news stories nonetheless:6-8

  • November 2: Ocrevus found to slow progression sustainably in PPMS
  • November 3: Phase 3 trials for nabiximol cannabinoids to treat MS spasticity launched after COVID-19 delays
  • November 9: High blood pressure drug, guanabenz, could be repurposed to repair MS demyelination

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