MS-SMART: a new clinical trial

17 July 2013

We are very pleased to announce our part in a new clinical trial for secondary progressive MS.

The Multiple Sclerosis - Secondary Progressive Multi-Arm Randomisation Trial (MS-SMART) will test the effects of three known drugs (ibudilast, riluzole and amiloride) versus placebo in secondary progressive MS. These drugs are already used to treat motor neurone disease (MND), heart disease or asthma.

The trial is being run by the University of Edinburgh and University College London and is supported by the MS Society. Up to 15 UK trial sites have been identified, to compare these already licensed drugs against a placebo in 440 patients with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. Participants, who have a late-stage progressive form of multiple sclerosis, will be monitored for two years.

This is a landmark study that seeks to not only test three potential treatments but also showcase a new approach to clinical trials for progressive neurological conditions.

Professor Siddharthan Chandran, Director of the Anne Rowling Clinic


Researchers will use MRI scans and other clinical measures to test for signs of MS disease progression. If successful, the drugs will be the first ever disease modifying treatment for people with secondary progressive MS.

The three drugs for the trial were identified after a systematic review of previously published research of potentially neuro-protective treatments. Research funded by the MS Society developed methods and techniques for the trial.

All MRI scans carried out during the trial will be analysed at the MS Society-supported NMR Research Unit at UCL’s Institute of Neurology, led by Professor David Miller. Biomarker studies for the trial will be led by Professor Gavin Giovannoni (Bart’s and the London School of Medicine, Queen Mary University of London).

Dr Susan Kohlhaas, Head of Biomedical Research at the MS Society, said: “People with MS have lived for years in hope that one day we will find an effective treatment for secondary progressive MS; this trial, although still early stage, takes us one step closer to make that hope a reality.”

While there are an increasing number of treatments for MS that can reduce the frequency or severity of MS relapses, there’s nothing that can stop the rapid accumulation of disability in people with secondary progressive MS; it’s a huge unmet need in the treatment of the condition, and despite many clinical trials, scientists have so far failed to find anything that works.

Dr Jeremy Chataway, Consultant Neurologist at University College London


MS-SMART is an investigator-led project sponsored by University College London (UCL). This independent research is awarded by the Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation Programme (EME) and funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the MS Society.

It is managed by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) on behalf of the MRC-NIHR partnership.

Two commercial companies, Medicinova (ibudilast) and Genzyme Therapeutics Ltd (riluzole), are also supporting the study by donating the supply of the drugs ibudilast and riluzole for use in this trial only.

Trial recruitment will begin in the autumn. For more information visit

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