Groundbreaking MS trial for WA

The first-ever adaptive clinical trial for Australians living with multiple sclerosis will be launched in WA, seeking to reverse neurological damage caused by progressive disease.

With an initial $4 million in funding, the trial, starting next month, will enable researchers to investigate the potential benefits of several medications simultaneously, expanding the limited range of treatment options available to people living with one of the most debilitating forms of MS. 

Progressive MS is characterised by a worsening of symptoms and disability without periods of recovery, and while this complex autoimmune and neurodegenerative condition manifests differently in people over time, without treatment its impact steadily accumulates. 

Working with a national and international group of clinicians and researchers, the multi-arm, multi-stage trial design, known as PLATYPUS (PLatform Adaptive Trial for remYelination and neuroProtection in mUltiple Sclerosis), will test two repurposed drugs simultaneously, providing more timely results about whether the treatments are working. 

MSWA is the leading funder of the trial having contributed $3 million, and its CEO Melanie Kiely said the organisation hoped the project would transform the way researchers tested treatments for progressive MS. 

“PLATYPUS has the potential to deliver a significant breakthrough, as we aim to provide real-life outcomes which positively impact the lives of people living with progressive MS – which is always our focus,” she said. 

“By testing two repurposed drugs, we hope to find a treatment which can be quick to market for the people we support.” 

MS Australia CEO Rohan Greenland said that despite several traditional clinical trials for progressive MS in Australia, there was currently no treatment that could effectively repair the damage caused by the condition.  

“With an estimated 40% or around 13,000 people living with progressive MS, the launch of PLATYPUS today is a major milestone, the first adaptive clinical trial for MS in Australia. This will ensure a treatment opportunity for people with progressive MS, the greatest unmet need in the MS landscape,” Mr Greenland said. 

PLATYPUS is an extension of the OCTOPUS (Optimal Clinical Trials Platform for Multiple Sclerosis) clinical trial, funded by the UK MS Society and launched April 2023. 

Professor of Neurology, Dr Simon Broadley, from Griffith University’s School of Medicine and Dentistry and Chief Investigator of PLATYPUS, said the WA trial would evaluate metformin, typically used to treat type 2 diabetes, and alpha-lipoic acid which is a health food supplement. 

“These therapies have shown promise in promoting neuroprotection and/or myelin repair in MS,” Professor Broadley said. “These multi-arm, multi-stage trials will require less time and fewer participants to assess the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of these treatments.” 

The PLATYPUS trial will be rolled out across Australia through a collaboration of 20 academic and healthcare institutions and aims to recruit more than 250 participants.