Conference Coverage

Spinal cord atrophy found to be accelerated in subset of RRMS patients



– The rate of spinal cord atrophy at the C1 level is promising as a prognostic biomarker for the future conversion to secondary progressive disease in patients with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS), results from a novel, single-center study suggest.

Dr. Antje Bischof of the University of California, San Francisco

Dr. Antje Bischof

“Among all magnetic resonance imaging measures, spinal cord area shows the strongest correlations with MS disability and has been shown to discriminate progressive from relapsing remitting disease subtypes,” lead study author Antje Bischof, MD, said in an interview in advance of the meeting held by the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis. “In our work, we used a novel method to accurately measure upper cervical cord area at C1 vertebral level from brain MRI. This enabled us to show for the first time that spinal cord atrophy rates are faster in relapsing remitting MS patients who later converted to secondary progressive disease, compared to a matched group of patients who remained relapsing remitting MS over 2 decades.”

Dr. Bischof, a postdoctoral research fellow in the department of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco, and her colleagues matched 54 RRMS patients who converted to secondary progressive MS (SPMS) during the 12-year observation period with 54 RRMS patients who remained RRMS during the observation period, based on demographic and clinical criteria. Additionally, they evaluated 54 age- and sex-matched healthy controls at baseline. From routine T1-weighted brain MRI, they analyzed brain measures and spinal cord area at C1 level over 12 years to evaluate their potential to discriminate between the two matched groups during the preconversion period.

Subjects who developed SPMS showed higher rates of spinal cord atrophy (–2.2% per year; standard error, 0.2) before conversion to a secondary progressive course, compared with their RRMS matches who did not convert to SPMS (–0.7% per year; SE, 0.2; P less than .0001). Their data suggest that this difference exists at least 4 years before conversion to SPMS. “None of the commonly used measures of the brain including global brain volumes like white matter and gray matter, regional brain volumes like thalamus, and MS lesion volumes, discriminated between the patients with relapsing remitting MS who later converted to secondary progressive disease and the patients who remained RRMS,” Dr. Bischof said.

She acknowledged certain limitations of the study, including the small sample size and the fact that the results require confirmation in a second MS cohort in order to be generalizable. “These results suggest cervical cord atrophy rate at C1 level as a prognostic biomarker for the conversion to secondary progressive MS and could be useful for treatment decisions early in the disease course, and for the study of genetic, epidemiologic, and immune variables in MS,” Dr. Bischof concluded.

She reported having no financial disclosures.

SOURCE: Bischof A et al. ACTRIMS Forum 2019, Abstract P157.

Next Article: