20 Apr ESSEX WOMAN FIRST TO JOIN MS TRIAL THAT WILL TEST A DIABETES DRUG AND AN ANTIHISTAMINE TOGETHER
A woman from Essex is the first person to join a new multiple sclerosis (MS) clinical trial that will test a combination of two drugs that are used for other conditions.
Funded by the MS Society, and carried out by researchers at the University of Cambridge, the trial will test whether metformin, a diabetes drug, and clemastine, an antihistamine, can repair myelin – the protective coating around nerves, which gets damaged in MS. The researchers hope that together these treatments will be safe and effective at repairing myelin in people living with MS – something that hasn’t yet been shown in a trial – and could provide a way to slow or prevent disability progression in the condition.
More than 130,000 people live with MS in the UK. While there are over a dozen licensed disease modifying treatments (DMTs) for people with relapsing MS, and some emerging for active progressive MS, tens of thousands of people remain without effective treatment. Those drugs that do exist only work on one aspect of the condition – the immune system. There are currently no treatments to repair myelin in MS, despite researchers believing this is crucial to stopping disability worsening.
Annabelle Stigwood, 39, from Essex was diagnosed with relapsing MS in 2011 and lives with daily chronic fatigue. Having read about the clinical trial online, she didn’t hesitate to apply.
She says: “Before I was diagnosed with MS I used to run seven miles, four times a week. Now, 11 years on, I can walk only half a mile before my symptoms start. The MS is slowly chipping away at me. When I told the neurologist I was deteriorating he said there was nothing more I could do. Being told that felt like a bereavement and I couldn’t talk about it for weeks. I couldn’t bear the thought of not being able to drop my children off at school. After that, I became really motivated to do everything I possibly can for my overall health.
“I was so inspired when I saw the clinical trial and signed up straight away. When I heard I was eligible my husband and I celebrated with a glass of champagne! I completely understand there’s a 50% chance that I could be on a placebo, but just a few months ago I was told there was nothing I could do – now I’m the first participant on a new trial! It’s given me so much hope.”
The trial follows promising results from laboratory studies at the MS Society Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair in October 20191 – which showed the drug metformin, which mimics the effects of fasting, was able to return cells to a “more youthful state”, and encourage the re-growth of myelin.
Evidence from animal studies also shows that metformin enhances the effect of clemastine on myelin repair, but the two drugs have never been tested together. This trial will be the first to test the effect of metformin on myelin repair in people with MS.
Professor Alasdair Coles, co-Director of the MS Society Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair, who is leading the trial, says: “Today represents progress towards finding drugs to stop progression. For the last thirty years, we have focused on drugs to stop inflammation in the brain. Now we have achieved this, we need to repair the damage this inflammation does. The main way to do this is to encourage the brain’s stem cells to repair myelin. Several drugs can do this in laboratory experiments.
“We are now testing whether two of these drugs will help people with MS. The recruitment of our first participant is a huge milestone. We’re another step closer to a time where a person with MS will be given a handful of treatments to tackle all the different elements of MS, so that their life will be minimally affected by the condition.”
Dr Clare Walton, Head of Research at the MS Society, says: “More than 130,000 people live with MS in the UK, and while there are over a dozen licensed treatments for people with relapsing forms of MS, there are still lots of people without treatment. Finding treatments to stop MS progression is our number one priority, and to do that we need ways to protect nerves from damage and repair lost myelin.
“We’re incredibly grateful to Annabelle for committing her time and energy to the trial. This new research really is a major milestone in our plan to stop MS and we’re excited to get the results.”
Participants need to live closer than two hours from Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge, and have relapsing-remitting MS. They should be able to walk at least 100 yards, and be stable on a standard DMT. Please contact Alasdair Coles for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org