Some MS patients experience 'natural' improvements in disability

October 18, 2012

(Medical Xpress)—Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients sometimes experience "natural" improvements in disability at least over the short term, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute.

The study, published this month in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal, is the first to quantify improvements in disability in patients who are not taking immunomodulatory drugs such as drugs or glatiramer acetate.

"Many people assume that experience only and an increasing disability," says Helen Tremlett, the study's lead author, an associate professor in the UBC Faculty of Medicine. "While we did observe that no change or a worsening in disability was most common, up to 30 per cent of patients did experience an improvement, and this was often sustained over one to two years."

While there were some patient characteristics more associated with a greater chance of improvement – including being female, younger, and having the relapse-remitting form of the disease – a wide spectrum of patients experienced episodes of improvement.

"To date, no disease modifying drugs for MS that have gained licensed approval for specifically improving or reducing disability in MS," adds Prof. Tremlett, who is also a member of the Brain Research Centre at UBC and VCH Research Institute. "However, we know that these drugs can be very helpful in reducing , so our research provides additional important context for interpreting the findings of clinical trials."

Further research is needed to understand the underlying these improvements in order to pinpoint possible , and to determine the potential capacity for to enhance and prolong this natural, innate improvement for the benefit of patients.

Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world. MS can cause a , impaired speech, , and vision problems, among other symptoms. There are four types of disease progression in MS, which can be characterized as relapsing remitting, primary progressive, secondary progressive, or progressive relapsing.

Anonymized clinical data of 2961 patients with MS residing in British Columbia who visited a B.C. MS clinic between 1980 and 2004 were accessed. Disability in MS patients is measured by the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) in eight functional systems, including sensory, visual, and cerebellar systems. Consecutive immunomodulatory drug-free EDSS scores one and two years apart were examined. EDSS scores were assessed and recorded after a face-to-face consultation with an MS specialist neurologist. EDSS scores were excluded once an immunomodulatory, immunosuppressant, or MS clinical trial drug was started, or if the score was recorded within one month post-relapse ('attack').

In this study, published first online in June, improvements in disability were measured on the EDSS scale and classified in three ways: any improvement greater than or equal to 0.5 points; an improvement greater than or equal to 1 point; and an improvement greater than or equal to 2 points.

Explore further: Widely prescribed multiple sclerosis treatment with interferon beta may not slow progression of disease: study

Related Stories

Widely prescribed multiple sclerosis treatment with interferon beta may not slow progression of disease: study

July 17, 2012
Researchers with the UBC Hospital MS Clinic and Brain Research Centre at Vancouver Coastal Health and the University of British Columbia have published important data in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) ...

Pregnancy in women with two types of MS may mitigate MS progression

May 4, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Pregnancy appears to have a positive effect on long-term disability in women with two types of multiple sclerosis, indicating that reproductive hormones may play a protective role in MS progression, neurology ...

Lifestyle study highlights key differences in relapsing and progressive onset MS

March 19, 2012
Patients with relapsing onset Multiple Sclerosis (MS) who consumed alcohol, wine, coffee and fish on a regular basis took four to seven years longer to reach the point where they needed a walking aid than people who never ...

Multiple sclerosis patients have lower risk of cancer: research

June 21, 2012
Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients appear to have a lower cancer risk, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health.

Recommended for you

Now you like it, now you don't: Brain stimulation can change how much we enjoy and value music

November 20, 2017
Enjoyment of music is considered a subjective experience; what one person finds gratifying, another may find irritating. Music theorists have long emphasized that although musical taste is relative, our enjoyment of music, ...

Deletion of a stem cell factor promotes TBI recovery in mice

November 20, 2017
UT Southwestern molecular biologists today report the unexpected finding that selectively deleting a stem cell transcription factor in adult mice promotes recovery after traumatic brain injury (TBI).

MRI uncovers brain abnormalities in people with depression and anxiety

November 20, 2017
Researchers using MRI have discovered a common pattern of structural abnormalities in the brains of people with depression and social anxiety, according to a study presented being next week at the annual meeting of the Radiological ...

Brain cell advance brings hope for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

November 20, 2017
Scientists have developed a new system to study Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the laboratory, paving the way for research to find treatments for the fatal brain disorder.

Neuroscience research provides evidence the brain is strobing, not constant

November 17, 2017
It's not just our eyes that play tricks on us, but our ears. That's the finding of a landmark Australian-Italian collaboration that provides new evidence that oscillations, or 'strobes', are a general feature of human perception.

Brain activity buffers against worsening anxiety

November 17, 2017
Boosting activity in brain areas related to thinking and problem-solving may also buffer against worsening anxiety, suggests a new study by Duke University researchers.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.