MAR 25, 2018 8:10 PM PDT

New Drug 'Siponimod' Seeks to Treat Secondary Progressive MS

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system where the affected individual’s immune system cells eradicate the myelin coating protecting its nerve fibers. The damage to the myelin coating sheath leads to nerve-damage related symptoms such as issues with balance and vision.



Most patients experience MS symptoms that come and go which is known as “relapsing remitting MS”. However, after a long period of time affected individuals will eventually develop permanent disabilities, which is known as “secondary progressive MS”. Unfortunately, there are few treatment options for the stage of MS which aren’t very effective.

Now, results of a large clinical trial shows the latest treatment for multiple sclerosis that seeks to deter symptoms of secondary progression for which current effective treatments have failed. The research included around 1,650 people with a progressive from of MS who were randomly selected and administered a placebo or the latest treatment ‘siponimod’.

Siponimod is believed to reduce the harmful effects of damaging immune system activity, particularly on the spinal cord and brain nerves. Over a course of 3 months, roughly a third of the participants given the placebo had worsening symptoms that progressed to advanced stage MS in comparison with only a quarter of the participants that were given siponimod. However, there were side effects with the new drug including a slower heart rate and low leukocytes (white blood cells) count. Nevertheless, the results has supported siponimod, which is currently being manufactured by Novartis Pharma, to be considered as a treatment option for secondary progressive MS.

The clinical study was conducted by investigators from the University of Basel in Switzerland, the University of Pennsylvania in the US, McGill University in Canada, the University of London, and other institutions across North America and Europe.

The study was a randomized controlled trial (RCT) that tested to see if siponimod could slow secondary progression MS. This is especially important since most of MS-modifying treatments available for individuals during the relapse period aren’t successful in slowing the disease progression in an individual with secondary progressive MS.

Siponimod works by binding itself to different receptor forms present on lymphocytes and other cell types, which in turn blocks the transportation of lymphocytes to the inflamed location. In other words, siponimod works to contain the body’s damaging white blood cells.

Overall, the investigators concluded that siponimod decreased the risk of disability symptoms in relation to MS disease progression. Siponimod had the same drug safety profile to other treatment of a similar type. Further research is needed to monitor the side effect from siponimod treatment and to assess the long-term effects on individuals with secondary progressive MS. Researchers hope that this may bring siponimod one step closer to be approved as an effective and safe treatment for advanced stage MS.

Sources: BBC, ReliaWire, Multiple Sclerosis Society

About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
Nouran is a scientist, educator, and life-long learner with a passion for making science more communicable. When not busy in the lab isolating blood macrophages, she enjoys writing on various STEM topics.
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