A Biomarker, an App, and Real-World Data: How Biogen is Trying to Improve Treatment for Patients With Multiple Sclerosis

As part of their work to support the treatment of patients with multiple sclerosis, Biogen has been investigating a potential new biomarker for the disease called serum neurofilament light (sNfL), as well as a tool to measure cognitive changes in patients, and collecting more data into the effects of long-term use of tecfidera® and tysabri®. You can read more about this at Biogen’s press release, here, at Globe Newswire.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a lifelong condition that can affect the brain and spinal cord. It’s an autoimmune condition, caused by the body’s immune system mistakenly attacking the myelin sheath that covers and protects nerves. Damage to the myelin sheath and nerves can leave scars, and disrupt the messages sent along the nerves. Many of the symptoms of MS depend on which nerves have been most affected, so the condition is different for everyone. However, many people experience fatigue, difficulty walking, muscle stiffness, and problems with learning and planning. Although there isn’t currently a cure for MS, there are treatments that may help, and research into the condition is progressing quickly.

 sNfL as a Biomarker

One line of research that Biogen is working on is the potential of sNfL, a protein thought to reflect neuronal damage, as a biomarker for MS. People with MS have high levels of sNfL in their blood, and recent evidence has found that sNfL can be used to measure disease activity and predict a patient’s response to treatment. Certain therapies were also found to reduce the levels of sNfL in the blood, and a larger reduction was linked to improved treatment outcomes. These conclusions, based on a retrospective analysis of over 1,000 patients, may be useful for patients and doctors for guiding treatment decisions.

Biogen, in collaboration with Siemens Healthineers, has also made steps towards using these promising findings in a clinical setting. The two companies have been developing a sNfL blood test, which may provide another tool for monitoring MS.

Measuring Cognitive Changes

According to Biogen’s article, more than half of people living with MS are affected by cognitive deficits, and these can significantly affect people’s daily lives. However, measuring this can be difficult and doctors may not carry out evaluations regularly. To address this, Biogen has created a free app called CogEval, which healthcare providers in the US, Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand can use as a way to measure cognitive changes in patients. It’s an iPad-based assessment that measures cognitive function in two minutes through attention, visual processing, working memory, and psychomotor speed.

Real-World Data For Tecfidera and Tysabri

Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate) and tysabri (natalizumab) are two therapies for MS, and Biogen has now shared more information about the effects these drugs have in patients outside of a clinical study. Data from two studies, tecfidera’s ‘Endorse’ and the Tysabri Observational Program (TOP), both support the effectiveness of the drugs in the ‘real world’. Endorse found that tecfidera was able to produce, and maintain for as long as nine years, a reduction in MS relapses and progression of disability in newly diagnosed patients. Over 90% of patients maintained their walking abilities. TOP also used long-term data to support the safety and effectiveness of tysabri in patients, and in particular, patients who received fewer disease-modifying therapies before being given tysabri.


Anna Hewitt

Anna Hewitt

Anna is from England and recently finished her undergraduate degree. She has an interest in medicine and enjoys writing. In her spare time she likes to cook, hike, and hang out with cats.

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