John Corboy, MD
John Corboy, MD

John Corboy, MD, professor of neurology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and co-director of the Rocky Mountain MS Center at CU Anschutz, was awarded $6.7 million from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) in 2015 to determine the length of time someone living with multiple sclerosis should be on a disease modifying therapy. Now, the National MS Society is supporting this study with a $326,000 grant to expedite research.

The study seeks to answer whether a population of MS patients exists in whom it is safe to discontinue their disease modifying therapy as they age. Disease modifying therapies are used to reduce the number of relapses in people living with MS, slowing down the progression of the disease. Currently, these therapies are used chronically, with no clear knowledge of when these therapies should be discontinued for best results.

“It’s fairly clear that these medicines give the greatest benefit to people when they are younger,” Corboy said. “Then the question becomes: As people age, is there a point when the risk of new inflammatory disease activity becomes so low that any benefit achieved by therapy is outweighed by the cost, risk, side effects and hassle involved with taking medication on a regular basis?”

This study will collect data from 300 participants, age 55 and older, randomly chosen to continue or discontinue their therapy. Researchers will then examine how this affects the risk of new relapses, disease activity on MRI scans, disability progression and quality of life. It will provide the rigorous data necessary to allow medical professionals to determine when it may be appropriate to stop a MS therapy.

The $326,000 commitment by the MS Society allows the study to be expanded to 15 sites, decreasing the number of participants each site needs to recruit, thus expediting the research. Corboy’s team expects to start participant enrollment in early 2017.

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS.