Brain Sciences


Full steam ahead with ‘mega-trial’ for progressive MS

26 March 2021

A group of UCL researchers have announced plans for a ‘mega-trial’ that will speed up the development of treatments for progressive multiple sclerosis (MS).

images of brains

The mega-trial now named OCTOPUS will be delivered by Professors Jeremy Chataway (Chief Investigator, UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology) and Mahesh Parmar (Director of the MRC Clinical Trials Unit, Faculty of Population Health Sciences) alongside the UK MS society.

After a number of years of planning, the ambition to speed up clinical trials for progressive MS has become a reality, and by 2025 researchers hope to be in the later stages of testing treatments to slow or stop progression for everyone with MS.

The OCTOPUS trial will use a multi-arm, multi-stage (MAMS) platform design – the first time this has even been done in Progressive MS. MAMS trials make it possible to test new treatments up to three times faster by testing multiple drugs at once – and comparing them with a single control group; using brain MRI to get initial evidence of whether a  particular drug has the potential to effect on disability progression; the flexibility to drop drugs that don’t look promising, and slot in new drugs as they’re discovered.

Professor Jeremy Chataway said: “This is the cumulation of many years of work, by many people working on, and those living with, Progressive MS. We are delighted to now start this journey to trial promising treatments in those affected.

Professor Mahesh Parmar said: “This efficient design, pioneered by the MRC CTU, is the best way in which we can assess whether a wide range of drugs is useful for people with Progressive MS. The design has already proved its huge value in major studies in Prostate Cancer such as STAMPEDE and in Covid-19 such as RECOVERY.”

Professor Alan Thompson, Faculty Dean, said: “We are thrilled to see UCL researchers are set to launch world-first innovative clinical trial platform to assess whether drugs already on the market can prevent multiple sclerosis (MS) from worsening and even reversing disabilities. It aligns very well with the important initiative of the Progressive MS Alliance (PMSA).”

The aim is to finalise which treatments OCTOPUS will test first, by the summer. And later in the year, people with progressive MS should be able to register their interest in participating.