Young patient in a wheelchair with health professional

Ground-breaking major trial for multiple sclerosis launches in London

A ground-breaking trial for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) is recruiting its first patients, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) has announced.

Funded by the MS Society and led by University College London, Octopus will take the form of a multi-arm, multi-stage platform trial in a bid to transform the way treatments for progressive MS are evaluated, with the study expected to be completed three times faster than its more traditional counterparts.

With more than 130,000 people living with MS in the UK, a group of people with lived experience of the disease in conjunction with world-leading subject matter experts investigated a range of existing drugs used for other conditions and ranked the viability of using them for MS.

The group settled on alpha lipoic acid and metformin as the first two drugs to test within Octopus at up to 30 sites across the UK expected to be involved in the trial as the first recruits are selected in London.

UCLH neurologist and Professor at University College London, Jeremy Chataway, is leading the study and said: “The multi-arm, multi-stage approach to trialling emerging medications has been utterly transformative in other conditions, so I’m thrilled we’re now able to apply it to progressive MS. Ultimately, Octopus will lead to more treatments for progression becoming available to people living with MS sooner.”

The MS Society’s Assistant Director of Research, Dr Emma Gray, described the launch of Octopus as a “momentous milestone” before lauding the innovative approach as a way to fast-track new treatments and “change the clinical trials landscape around the world.”

University College London’s Professor Max Parmar will be co-leading the trial following his work spearheading the development of the first major clinical trial to take up the multi-arm, multi-stage approach, STAMPEDE, which was for prostate cancer.

“Octopus will use the innovative aspects of STAMPEDE plus some even more advanced features,” he said. “The key thing about STAMPEDE is that we’re getting answers to our questions decades faster than we would with any other approach. To find treatments for everyone with MS, we need trials to be as inclusive as possible and produce results much faster. This is what we want Octopus to achieve.”

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