THE BLOG

Millions to Be Spent on Progressive MS Research in Global Project

12/09/2014 16:42 BST | Updated 12/11/2014 10:59 GMT

There are more than one million people living in the world with a progressive form of multiple sclerosis, but no treatments have yet been found that can stop the condition from getting worse.

I started working for the MS Society in September last year and one of the first things I did was to get out and speak to people living with the condition. It remains important to me to hear first-hand what living with MS is like, and how it affects people's lives.

I've heard many things about life with MS: how unpredictable or unrelenting the symptoms can be, how challenging and worrisome changes to the welfare system are, and how much people want us to find better treatments and care for the condition.

There are three main types of MS, which affects more than 100,000 people in the UK. The majority live with one of the two progressive forms of the condition - known as primary progressive MS and secondary progressive MS - in both, symptoms gradually get worse with no let up.

Relapsing remitting MS is the other form of the condition, where symptoms flare up, and then slowly fade away. Unlike progressive MS, there are currently 11 licensed medicines (10 of which have been approved for use on the NHS) that can work to reduce how frequently, and severely, these relapses occur.

But for people with progressive MS, the treatment landscape couldn't be more different. There is nothing that can stop their MS from getting worse, nothing to stop it progressing. All people can hope for is that they can gain access to a handful of licensed symptom relief medicines on the NHS, but without NICE approval, access to these medicines is patchy at best and the majority of people are forced to pay privately.

We know people desperately want us to find treatments that can slow, stop or reverse progression in MS, so news released last night, should be welcome.

The UK MS Society, together with the MS International Federation and MS charities in USA, Australia, Italy and Canada, with additional support from charities in Spain and Denmark, has invested more than €22million (or around £17.5million) over the next five years, the first tranche of which will be spent on funding 22 research projects aimed at finding effective treatments for people with progressive MS.

Under the banner of the Progressive MS Alliance we're working together to fund the best research in the world and by doing this, we'll be able to fund bigger projects, avoid duplication and get answers to crucial questions quicker.

I'm particularly pleased to see four of the projects will be carried out, or led from, the UK. But, in total, scientists based in nine countries around the world have received funding for their work, which is due to start over the coming months, and which, if successful, could benefit the global MS community.

This is a major step forward in research for the condition, and it gives me a lot of hope that an answer for how we stop MS from progressing, can at last be found.

For more information on MS, go to www.mssociety.org.uk/future. For the work of the Progressive MS Alliance, go to www.EndProgressiveMS.org.