Johns Hopkins Professors Receive $13.4M Grant to Study Best Approach to Treating RRMS

Johns Hopkins Professors Receive $13.4M Grant to Study Best Approach to Treating RRMS

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) has awarded $13.4 million to two scientists at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University (JHU) to study how best to treat newly diagnosed patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS).

The study will be led by Dr. Ellen Mowry, an associate professor of neurology and epidemiology at JHU, and by Dr. Scott Newsome, an associate professor of neurology. Both belong to the Johns Hopkins Precision Medicine Center of Excellence for Multiple Sclerosis team, which will use clinical trials to discover and test new prognostic factors in MS.

“This PCORI project will be a tremendous step forward for improving the understanding of how to best approach the treatment of MS,” Mowry said in a press release.

The $13.4 million award will be used in clinical trials to compare two treatment approaches. The JHU trials will focus on randomizing treatment of about 900 patients with a recent RRMS diagnosis. Some will receive a new generation of stronger drugs, while others will get  the standard treatment.

This is important because doctors still don’t know the long-term effects of treatment with these newer drugs. It has not yet been established whether RRMS patients have a real long-term advantage in receiving these drugs at the time of diagnosis or later in the disease’s progression. This award can substantially increase knowledge about this issue.

“It is difficult to know whether a group of newer medications that may be more likely to reduce early, episodic MS symptoms actually leads to a meaningful reduction in the long-term risk of more permanent disability,” Mowry said. “Since the newer medications come with substantially more risks, it’s important to determine if people with MS should be offered such medications at the time of diagnosis or if it’s appropriate to start with older medications, changing to the newer therapies only if the disease remains active despite the treatment.”


  1. Why not invest at least some of this money in looking at lower risk, non-pharmaceutical interventions? Diet and exercise need to be thoroughly researched for doctors to fully embrace their therapeutic benefits because many neurologists still discount the efficacy of these approaches. In addition, technology based approaches, like near infrared light therapies and the PoNS Device, show promise for neuroprotection and neuroplasticity.

    So many MS symptoms parallel those in other neurological diseases that it makes sense to study cognitive decline, fatigue, headache, motor function loss, etc., outside of a specific illness so that any resulting therapy will have broad application.

    Sandra Birrell, PhD
    Canadian Neurovascular Health Society

  2. JR Hardenburgh says:

    Why is PCORI spending $13.4M on how best to treat newly diagnosed RRMS patients? This is something every good MS neurologist knows already (answer- early, aggressive DMT treatments). Seems to be a big waste of money that could be used on patient’s symptom management and QOL endeavors.

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