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UHCW launches new trial testing drugs for multiple sclerosis treatment

A pioneering study looking to uncover new treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS) has been launched at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) NHS Trust.

UHCW is taking part in Octopus, a trial funded by the MS Society aiming to find treatments that can slow down, or even stop, progression of disability in secondary and primary progressive MS.

This multi-arm, multi-stage (MAMS) trial will work up to three times faster than traditional studies.

If a treatment shows potential, it moves on to the second stage which runs for several years and involves more participants. If a treatment doesn’t show promise in the first stage, it can be dropped and new drugs slotted in.

Octopus is testing drugs already shown to be safe, which have shown potential to protect nerves.

Dr Tarunya Arun, Consultant Neurologist and Principal Investigator (PI) for the UHCW trial, said: "We are incredibly proud to run three MS Society-funded trials (Octopus, CHARIOT-MS and MS-STAT2) for progressive MS here at UHCW.

“Treatment for progressive MS is a significant area of unmet need as there are very few licensed treatments available for this form. We are hopeful that through our efforts we will find new treatments."

Tony Sibley, 64, was diagnosed with relapsing MS in May 1990 and now lives with the progressive form.

Before being accepted on to Octopus at UHCW, he was part of another trial which tested if cholesterol drug simvastatin can slow progression in secondary progressive MS.

He said: “Being able to access trials like this gives you so much hope. I’m excited to see what might happen over the next three to five years.

“My wife Gael does so much for me now and I feel very guilty that I must rely on her more and more for my everyday needs.

“My wife and I are so thankful to the team at University Hospital, Coventry – they are brilliant, so supportive and just an awesome team.”

More than 130,000 people live with MS in the UK. Disability progression is caused by degeneration of nerves in the brain – something that happens to all of us as we age, but more quickly in MS and other neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Funded by the MS Society, Octopus is being led by researchers from the Queen Square MS Centre and MRC Clinical Trials Unit at University College London (UCL).

R/S alpha lipoic acid and metformin were selected by the trial team as the first two drugs to test in the ‘arms’ of Octopus.

There will eventually be up to 30 Octopus sites around the UK. UHCW has been selected as one of four 'hub' sites, giving the region further support to recruit participants.

Dr Clare Walton, Joint Head of Research at the MS Society, said: “We’re delighted the Coventry Octopus site is up and running.

“It's thanks to wonderful participants like Tony that we’re able to say we’re closer than ever before to developing treatments to slow or stop progression for everyone living with MS.”

Patients aged between 25 and 70 with a diagnosis of primary or secondary progressive MS can go to to register their interest in taking part in the trial.

Pictured, from left: MS Consultant Dr Sarmad Al Araji, Consultant Neurologist Dr Tarunya Arun, Tony Sibley and Neurology Research Sister Kelly Westwood

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