Barts to start recruiting for clinical trial aimed at helping people with multiple sclerosis

The trial is being run from The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. Picture: Adam Scott

The trial is being run from The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. Picture: Adam Scott - Credit: Archant

The first multiple sclerosis clinical trial to focus only on people in wheelchairs is to start recruiting at Barts Health NHS Trust.

Professor Klaus Schmierer, a consultant neurologist at The Royal London Hospital and the clinical and research lead for...

Professor Klaus Schmierer, a consultant neurologist at The Royal London Hospital and the clinical and research lead for BartsMS, is leading the trial. Picture: Daniel K Clarke - Credit: Daniel K Clarke

The trial is being run from The Royal London Hospital and will test whether cladribine tablets, already licensed for certain forms of multiple sclerosis (MS), can slow the rate of upper limb disability.

Professor Klaus Schmierer, a consultant neurologist at The Royal London Hospital and the clinical and research lead for BartsMS, is leading the trial.

Klaus, who is also a professor of neurology at Queen Mary University of London, said:

“Finding ways to maintain people’s upper limb function is essential to quality of life, but until now walking ability has been the only official measurement of whether or not an MS treatment is effective.


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“This has excluded people who depend on a wheelchair from taking part in trials and, as a result, from accessing effective treatment that will help maintain their hand and arm function.”

From January 2021, ChariotMS will recruit 200 people with the condition who can walk only a short distance with two crutches, or are unable to walk at all but still have some upper limb function.

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The trial, led by charity the MS Society, is the first with no upper age limit.

MS is a condition that can affect the brain and spinal cord, causing a wide range of possible symptoms, including problems with vision, arm or leg movement.

Until now, clinical trials for MS have not included people who are reliant on a wheelchair and therefore on maintaining their upper limb function.

To date, drugs have only been licensed if they improve walking ability.

This means there are currently no disease modifying therapies available for the 35-40 per cent of people with MS who need help walking.

If successful, the trial could change that and lead to the first MS drug that protects upper limb function, which is essential for those who rely on using a wheelchair.

Participants in the trial will be placed into a treatment arm or a placebo, control arm.

The treatment group will receive cladribine tablets for two years and the placebo group will receive “dummy” tablets.

The trial is being funded by Barts Charity and the Efficacy and Evaluation Mechanism Programme.

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