Current and future disease-modifying therapies in multiple sclerosis


  • Disclosure CSC has received research support, consultancy fees, travel support or speaker fees from Teva, Biogen Idec, Bayer Schering, Centocor, Merck-Serono, and GlaxoSmithKline, Roche, UCB, GW Pharmaceuticals, and Cephalon. SYL has been supported by an unrestricted grant from Teva.

Professor Cris S. Constantinescu, Division of Clinical Neurology, B Floor, Medical School, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK
Tel.: + 44 115 975 4598
Fax: + 44 115 970 9738


The development of disease-modifying therapies (DMT) in multiple sclerosis (MS) has rapidly evolved over the last few years and continues to do so. Prior to the United States Food and Drug Administration approval of the immunomodulatory agent, interferon-β1b in 1993, no other drug had been shown to alter the course of the disease in a controlled study of MS. At present, there are five licenced disease-modifying agents in MS – interferon-β1b, interferon-β1a, glatiramer acetate, natalizumab and mitoxantrone. All have shown significant therapeutic efficacy in large controlled trials. However, current therapies are only partially effective and are not free from adverse effects. Moreover, available DMTs are overwhelmingly biased in favour of those with relapsing-remitting disease. Effective treatment for progressive MS is severely limited, with only interferon-β1b and mitoxantrone having licenced use in secondary progressive, but not primary progressive disease. Monoclonal antibodies, such as natalizumab selectively target immune pathways involved in the pathogenic process of MS. Alemtuzumab, daclizumab and rituximab are other notable monoclonal antibodies currently undergoing phase II and III trials in MS. Alemtuzumab has so far shown promising therapeutic benefit in relapsing disease, although immunological adverse effects have been a problem. Oral therapies have the benefit of improved tolerability and patient compliance compared with current parenteral treatments. Cladribine and fingolimod (FTY720) have shown encouraging results in their phase III clinical trials. It is also worth noting the evidence for starting DMT in patients with clinically isolated syndrome, whereby early treatment has shown to delay the onset of clinically definite MS in separate phase III studies.