Conference Coverage

Study launched to further evaluate the central vein sign in MS



A multicenter, prospective study is underway to determine if the central vein sign can be incorporated into existing multiple sclerosis diagnostic criteria.

At the meeting held by the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis, Daniel Ontaneda, MD, said that up to 20% of individuals referred for a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) are incorrectly diagnosed with the disease, and about two-thirds of misdiagnosed patients are exposed to unnecessary and sometimes life-threatening risks associated with disease-modifying therapies. “MRI is a sensitive tool for diagnosis of MS and is an integral component of the diagnostic criteria for MS,” said Dr. Ontaneda, a neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic Mellen Center for Multiple Sclerosis Treatment and Research. “However, there are problems with its implementation. Approximately half of individuals referred to an MS clinic present with atypical symptoms [fatigue, cognitive disturbance, pain] and not typical syndromes [unilateral optic neuritis, brain stem syndromes, partial myelitis]. Increasing diagnostic sensitivity may have come at the price of decreased specificity. MRI criteria have a specificity of 32% for dissemination in space and 42% for dissemination in time.”

While misdiagnosis appears to be mainly caused by overinterpretation of abnormal MRI findings, the central vein sign (CVS) is an effective method to overcome such challenges. Recent studies have demonstrated that CVS may help to identify MS, as 85% of white matter lesions in MS have a central vein, compared with only 8% of small vessel ischemic disease, 34% of migraine, and 14% of other inflammatory or autoimmune diseases.

“We think there is a significant and unmet need for more specific and accurate diagnostic tests to facilitate early confirmation of a diagnosis of MS,” Dr. Ontaneda said. “We propose a prospective evaluation of the central vein sign, which we hypothesize will reduce misdiagnosis, hasten early diagnosis, and simplify clinical decision making.”

With funding from the Race to Erase MS Foundation, he and his associates have designed CAVS-MS (Central Vein Sign in MS), a multicenter, prospective, observational trial being conducted at 10 sites. The first phase of the study is a cross-sectional pilot at the 10 sites. The primary objective is to establish the contrast-to-noise ratio of lesion to normal-appearing white matter and central vein to lesion across the 10 sites using 3-tesla FLAIR imaging in subjects with a clinical or radiologic suspicion of MS. The secondary objectives are to investigate the difference in contrast-to-noise ratio identified in the primary objective between pre- and postcontrast FLAIR imaging to identify whether gadolinium injection improves central vein detection, to determine the reproducibility of different methods for detection of positive CVS across sites, and to determine the sensitivity and specificity of the different methods for the diagnosis of MS, compared with the McDonald 2010 MS criteria.

The study population will consist of 100 individuals referred to an MS center based on clinical or radiologic suspicion of MS; 30 participants are currently enrolled. The 10 sites include the Cleveland Clinic; Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore; the University of California, San Francisco; the University of Texas, Houston; the University of Toronto; the University of Vermont, Burlington; the University of Southern California, Los Angeles; Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles; Yale University, New Haven, Conn.; and the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

CAVS-MS includes development of a software platform for rating of central veins through an imaging software partner, QMENTA. “We are going to have the individual clinicians at each site rate the lesions, so we will have information from 10 different raters,” Dr. Ontaneda said. The study will be coordinated at the Cleveland Clinic, central image analysis will be conducted at the National Institutes of Health, and statistical analysis will be performed at the University of Pennsylvania.

The researchers also hope to perform a prospective study with three objectives. The first is to determine if incorporation of CVS for the diagnosis of MS improves diagnostic accuracy and hastens diagnosis in individuals presenting with typical first clinical events. The second objective “is to determine if incorporation of CVS for the diagnosis of MS improves specificity among individuals presenting with atypical syndromes,” Dr. Ontaneda said. “The third aim is to look at central vein volume as a predictor of clinical/MRI disease activity associated with disability in MS.”

He concluded his remarks by describing the CVS as “a tool that offers promise both for increasing specificity and perhaps enabling earlier diagnosis of MS. Studies will determine if the central vein sign can be incorporated into the diagnostic criteria. The NIH is working with MRI manufacturers to make sequences available for disseminated clinical use.”

Dr. Ontaneda reported that he has received grant support from the National Institutes of Health, the Race to Erase MS Foundation, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Genentech, Genzyme, and Novartis. He has also received consulting fees from Biogen, Genentech, and Novartis.

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