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Changes in brain networks may predict MS worsening



Structural and functional network MRI measures may predict long-term clinical worsening in patients with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a study described at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.

Neurologists do not have reliable biomarkers to predict disease evolution in the medium or long term for patients with MS. The ability to predict disease evolution accurately could aid in the choice of treatment.

Maria Assunta Rocca, MD, head of the Neuroimaging of CNS White Matter Unit, Department of Neurology, Institute of Experimental Neurology, Scientific Institute Ospedale, San Raffaele, Milan, Italy, and colleagues sought to evaluate structural and functional network MRI measures as predictors of clinical deterioration over 6.5 years. They obtained conventional, 3D, T1-weighted, diffusion-weighted MRI, and resting-state functional MRI images at baseline from 233 patients with MS and 77 healthy controls. Patients underwent a neurologic examination at baseline and after a median follow-up period of 6.5 years. At follow-up, the researchers classified patients as clinically stable or worsened, according to their change in Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) score. They also evaluated conversion to secondary progressive MS among patients with relapsing remitting MS at baseline.

To identify the main large-scale resting state functional connectivity networks, Dr. Rocca and colleagues applied spatial independent component analysis to resting state functional MRI data. They applied the same technique to gray matter probability maps and fractional anisotropy maps to identify the corresponding structural gray matter and white matter networks.

At follow-up, 105 patients with MS (45%) had significant EDSS worsening. Of 157 patients with relapsing remitting MS, 26 (16%) converted to secondary progressive MS. The multivariable model, after adjustment for follow-up duration, identified baseline EDSS score (odds ratio, 1.59), normalized gray matter volume (OR, 0.99), and abnormally high baseline resting state functional connectivity of the left precentral gyrus in the sensorimotor network (OR, 1.67) as predictors of EDSS worsening. These variables remained significant after the researchers adjusted for treatment effect. Independent variables associated with conversion to secondary progressive MS included baseline EDSS score (OR, 2.8) and atrophy of gray matter networks associated with sensory (OR, 0.5) and motor (OR, 0.4) functions.

Dr. Rocca received personal compensation from Biogen Idec, Novartis, Genzyme, Sanofi-Aventis, Teva, Merck Serono, and Roche. Coauthors reported research support from Biogen, Merck Serono, Novartis, Teva, and Roche..

SOURCE: Filippi M et al. AAN 2019, Abstract S49.004.

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