World-first multi-arm multi-stage trial for progressive MS opens

04 Apr 2023

Photography with one of the researchers in the Octopus trial team at UCLH taking a blood sample of MS patient
Dr Sean Apap Mangion, one of the researchers in the Octopus trial team at UCLH, with MS patient Ailsa Guidi. Credit: MS Society

Octopus, a world-first multi-arm multi-stage (MAMS) trial for people living with progressive multiple sclerosis (MS), has opened for participants in the UK.

The trial will use a MAMS platform design to transform the way treatments for progressive MS are tested. It will work up to three times faster than traditional clinical trials. The same MAMS approach has improved the way men with prostate cancer around the world are treated, testing eight different treatments in just 15 years, rather than more than 50 it would have taken using a traditional design. 

More than 130,000 people live with MS in the UK, and tens of thousands have progressive MS. Progressive MS develops when your immune system attacks a substance called myelin, which protects the nerve cells. This process can result in direct damage to the nerve cells. Currently, there is no effective treatment to stop MS from getting worse in those living with progressive MS.

To address this gap in treatment, a group of world-renowned scientific and clinical experts, as well as people living with MS, have reviewed, and ranked potential treatments over the last few years. They have focused on existing drugs with the potential to protect nerves from further damage and promote the repair of myelin. The top two candidates, R/S alpha lipoic acid and metformin, were selected by the trial team as the first two drugs to test in Octopus.

Participants are now being screened at the first open clinical trial site at UCLH in London. There will eventually be up to 30 more sites around the UK, including in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Yorkshire, the West Midlands, and the South of England.

The opening of Octopus marks the start of a new journey to develop treatments for progressive MS, a major milestone for MS research.

Octopus is funded by the MS Society and is being led by researchers from the Queen Square MS Centre and MRC Clinical Trials Unit at UCL


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