- Multiple sclerosis is a serious neurological disease affecting sufferers with a wide range of symptoms.
- There are very few treatments for the progressive form of the disease, which is the most disabling form.
- During the last edition of ACTRIMS-ECTRIMS, the largest gathering of MS experts in the world, new avenues have been highlighted.
- Including the promising masitinib.
The ACTRIMS-ECTRIMS international conference, the largest gathering of specialists and researchers in the world focused on multiple sclerosis (MS), was recently held between 11th and 13th of September. Given the complications of the current sanitary crisis, the event was made virtual in order to maintain its schedule. For the conference, medical and scientific experts and innovators met online to discuss the most cutting-edge advances in the fight against MS.
Multiple sclerosis is a serious neurological disease affecting sufferers with a wide range of symptoms. Individuals are generally diagnosed between 20 and 50 years old, with the condition advancing at different rates towards worsening levels of disability. In the most rapid and/or advanced courses of the disease, progressive forms, sufferers can quickly become unable to work, their mobility — particularly walking — can become problematic, and they can suffer gastrointestinal issues and fatigue. Progressive MS is characterised by steadily worsening levels of disability.
The disease can severely impact an individual’s quality of life, affecting their independence and touching the lives of those closest to them — which is why there remains such a high unmet need for effective treatment within the MS community.
A potential breakthrough
One of the companies which spoke at the virtual conference was AB Science, a French pharmaceutical developer. The company used the event as an opportunity to share news about a recent study completed on its proprietary molecule, masitinib. Researchers believe that masitinib is a strong candidate as a new treatment for primary progressive (PPMS) and non-active secondary progressive (nSPMS) MS.
The study coordinator, Professor Patrick Vermersch outlined the positive results, which suggest that the drug could be a breakthrough treatment for progressive MS. The FDA and the EMA both sanctioned further investigation into masitinib as an MS treatment, and these results are the most recent positive indicator of its potential.
“This is the first time that we have seen significant activity in slowing disability in a population of nonactive primary progressive and secondary progressive MS,” Prof. Vermersch said to media.
“There are no drugs available for these patients, which make up the vast majority of progressive MS patients, so these results are impressive. They are definitely a big deal,” he said.
The results might gather particular attention from doctors and patients, as masitinib’s pharmacological action is unique in the treatment of progressive MS, and it is the first drug of this category to affect a net slowdown in the progression of disease symptoms. Masitinib is an inhibitor of protein kinases modulating the activity of microglia and mast cells in the brain. Studies on the drug suggest that there is no evidence of increased risk of infection for patients, likely thanks to the drug’s mechanism of action. This gives masitinib a safety profile suitable for long-term treatment of progressive forms of MS.
At present, there is only one product registered for the treatment of PPMS, ocrelizumab, produced by Roche. Unfortunately, this drug is only suitable for patients with active forms of the disease.