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1.  Radiologically Isolated Syndrome: 5-Year Risk for an Initial Clinical Event 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e90509.
Objective
To report the 5-year risk and to identify risk factors for the development of a seminal acute or progressive clinical event in a multi-national cohort of asymptomatic subjects meeting 2009 RIS Criteria.
Methods
Retrospectively identified RIS subjects from 22 databases within 5 countries were evaluated. Time to the first clinical event related to demyelination (acute or 12-month progression of neurological deficits) was compared across different groups by univariate and multivariate analyses utilizing a Cox regression model.
Results
Data were available in 451 RIS subjects (F: 354 (78.5%)). The mean age at from the time of the first brain MRI revealing anomalies suggestive of MS was 37.2 years (y) (median: 37.1 y, range: 11–74 y) with mean clinical follow-up time of 4.4 y (median: 2.8 y, range: 0.01–21.1 y). Clinical events were identified in 34% (standard error = 3%) of individuals within a 5-year period from the first brain MRI study. Of those who developed symptoms, 9.6% fulfilled criteria for primary progressive MS. In the multivariate model, age [hazard ratio (HR): 0.98 (95% CI: 0.96–0.99); p = 0.03], sex (male) [HR: 1.93 (1.24–2.99); p = 0.004], and lesions within the cervical or thoracic spinal cord [HR: 3.08 (2.06–4.62); p = <0.001] were identified as significant predictors for the development of a first clinical event.
Interpretation
These data provide supportive evidence that a meaningful number of RIS subjects evolve to a first clinical symptom. An age <37 y, male sex, and spinal cord involvement appear to be the most important independent predictors of symptom onset.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0090509
PMCID: PMC3943959  PMID: 24598783
2.  Improving the Characterization of Radiologically Isolated Syndrome Suggestive of Multiple Sclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(4):e19452.
Objective
To improve the characterization of asymptomatic subjects with brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) abnormalities highly suggestive of multiple sclerosis (MS), a condition named as “radiologically isolated syndrome” (RIS).
Methods
Quantitative MRI metrics such as brain volumes and magnetization transfer (MT) were assessed in 19 subjects previously classified as RIS, 20 demographically-matched relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) patients and 20 healthy controls (HC). Specific measures were: white matter (WM) lesion volumes (LV), total and regional brain volumes, and MT ratio (MTr) in lesions, normal-appearing WM (NAWM) and cortex.
Results
LV was similar in RIS and RRMS, without differences in distribution and frequency at lesion mapping. Brain volumes were similarly lower in RRMS and RIS than in HC (p<0.001). Lesional-MTr was lower in RRMS than in RIS (p = 0.048); NAWM-MTr and cortical-MTr were similar in RIS and HC and lower (p<0.01) in RRMS. These values were particularly lower in RRMS than in RIS in the sensorimotor and memory networks. A multivariate logistic regression analysis showed that 13/19 RIS had ≥70% probability of being classified as RRMS on the basis of their brain volume and lesional-MTr values.
Conclusions
Macroscopic brain damage was similar in RIS and RRMS. However, the subtle tissue damage detected by MTr was milder in RIS than in RRMS in clinically relevant brain regions, suggesting an explanation for the lack of clinical manifestations of subjects with RIS. This new approach could be useful for narrowing down the RIS individuals with a high risk of progression to MS.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0019452
PMCID: PMC3084867  PMID: 21559385
3.  MxA mRNA Quantification and Disability Progression in Interferon Beta-Treated Multiple Sclerosis Patients 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e94794.
Even though anti-interferon beta (IFNβ) antibodies are the main determinants of IFNβ bioactivity loss and Myxovirus-resistance protein A (MxA) is the most established marker of IFNβ biological activity in IFNβ-treated multiple sclerosis patients, their usefulness in the routine clinical practice is still debated. Therefore, 118 multiple sclerosis patients naïve for treatment were enrolled for a 3-year longitudinal observational study mimicking the conditions of a real-world setting. In order to evaluate the kinetics of bioactivity loss in blood samples obtained every 6 months after therapy initiation, MxA and interferon receptor isoform/subunit mRNA were quantified by real-time PCR, anti-IFNβ binding antibodies were detected by radioimmunoprecipitation, and neutralizing antibodies by cytopathic effect inhibition assay. Clinical measures of disease activity and disability progression were also obtained at all time points. We found that, at the individual-patient level, the response to IFNβ therapy was extremely heterogeneous, including patients with stable or transitory, early or late loss of IFNβ bioactivity, and patients with samples lacking MxA mRNA induction in spite of absence of antibodies. No interferon receptor isoform alterations that could explain these findings were found. At the group level, none of these biological features correlated with the measures of clinical disease activity or progression. However, when MxA mRNA was evaluated not at the single time point as a dichotomic marker (induced vs. non-induced), but as the mean of its values measured over the 6-to-24 month period, the increasing average MxA predicted a decreasing risk of short-term disability progression, independently from the presence of relapses. Therefore, a more bioactive treatment, even if unable to suppress relapses, reduces their severity by an amount that is proportional to MxA levels. Together with its feasibility in the routine laboratory setting, these data warrant the quantification of MxA mRNA as a primary tool for a routine monitoring of IFNβ therapy.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094794
PMCID: PMC3986392  PMID: 24733382
4.  Subcutaneous Interferon β-1a May Protect against Cognitive Impairment in Patients with Relapsing–Remitting Multiple Sclerosis: 5-Year Follow-up of the COGIMUS Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e74111.
Objective
To assess the effects of subcutaneous (sc) interferon (IFN) -1a on cognition over 5 years in mildly disabled patients with relapsing–remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS).
Methods
Patients aged 18–50 years with RRMS (Expanded Disability Status Scale score ≤4.0) who had completed the 3-year COGIMUS study underwent standardized magnetic resonance imaging, neurological examination, and neuropsychological testing at years 4 and 5. Predictors of cognitive impairment at year 5 were identified using multivariate analysis.
Results
Of 331 patients who completed the 3-year COGIMUS study, 265 participated in the 2-year extension study, 201 of whom (75.8%; sc IFN β-1a three times weekly: 44 µg, n = 108; 22 µg, n = 93) completed 5 years' follow-up. The proportion of patients with cognitive impairment in the study population overall remained stable between baseline (18.0%) and year 5 (22.6%). The proportion of patients with cognitive impairment also remained stable in both treatment groups between baseline and year 5, and between year 3 and year 5. However, a significantly higher proportion of men than women had cognitive impairment at year 5 (26.5% vs 14.4%, p = 0.046). Treatment with the 22 versus 44 µg dose was predictive of cognitive impairment at year 5 (hazard ratio 0.68; 95% confidence interval 0.48–0.97).
Conclusions
This study suggests that sc IFN β-1a dose-dependently stabilizes or delays cognitive impairment over a 5-year period in most patients with mild RRMS. Women seem to be more protected against developing cognitive impairment, which may indicate greater response to therapy or the inherently better prognosis associated with female sex in MS.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0074111
PMCID: PMC3796707  PMID: 24137499
5.  Relevance of Brain Lesion Location to Cognition in Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e44826.
Objective
To assess the relationship between cognition and brain white matter (WM) lesion distribution and frequency in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RR MS).
Methods
MRI-based T2 lesion probability map (LPM) was used to assess the relevance of brain lesion location for cognitive impairment in a group of 142 consecutive patients with RRMS. Significance of voxelwise analyses was p<0.05, cluster-corrected for multiple comparisons. The Rao Brief Repeatable Battery was administered at the time of brain MRI to categorize the MS population into cognitively preserved (CP) and cognitively impaired (CI).
Results
Out of 142 RRMS, 106 were classified as CP and 36 as CI. Although the CI group had greater WM lesion volume than the CP group (p = 0.001), T2 lesions tended to be less widespread across the WM. The peak of lesion frequency was almost twice higher in CI (61% in the forceps major) than in CP patients (37% in the posterior corona radiata). The voxelwise analysis confirmed that lesion frequency was higher in CI than in CP patients with significant bilateral clusters in the forceps major and in the splenium of the corpus callosum (p<0.05, corrected). Low scores of the Symbol Digit Modalities Test correlated with higher lesion frequency in these WM regions.
Conclusions
Overall these results suggest that in MS patients, areas relevant for cognition lie mostly in the commissural fiber tracts. This supports the notion of a functional (multiple) disconnection between grey matter structures, secondary to damage located in specific WM areas, as one of the most important mechanisms leading to cognitive impairment in MS.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044826
PMCID: PMC3489883  PMID: 23144775
6.  Early prediction of the long term evolution of multiple sclerosis: the Bayesian Risk Estimate for Multiple Sclerosis (BREMS) score 
Aim
To propose a simple tool for early prediction of unfavourable long term evolution of multiple sclerosis (MS).
Methods
A Bayesian model allowed us to calculate, within the first year of disease and for each patient, the Bayesian Risk Estimate for MS (BREMS) score that represents the risk of reaching secondary progression (SP).
Results
The median BREMS scores were higher in 158 patients who reached SP within 10 years compared with 1087 progression free patients (0.69 vs 0.30; p<0.0001). The BREMS value was related to SP risk in the whole cohort (p<0.0001) and in the subgroup of 535 patients who had never been treated with immune therapies, thus reasonably representing the natural history of the disease (p<0.000001).
Conclusions
The BREMS score may be useful both to identify patients who are candidates for early or for more aggressive therapies and to improve the design and analysis of clinical therapeutic trials and of observational studies.
doi:10.1136/jnnp.2006.107052
PMCID: PMC2117665  PMID: 17220286
7.  The brief international cognitive assessment for multiple sclerosis (BICAMS): normative values with gender, age and education corrections in the Italian population 
BMC Neurology  2014;14(1):171.
Background
BICAMS (Brief International Cognitive Assessment for Multiple Sclerosis) has been recently developed as brief, practical and universal assessment tool for cognitive impairment in MS subjects. It includes the Symbol Digit Modalities Test (SDMT), the California Verbal Learning Test-2 (CVLT2) and the Brief Visuospatial Memory Test–Revised (BVMT-R) . In this study we aimed at gathering regression based normative data for the BICAMS battery in the Italian population.
Methods
Healthy subjects were consecutively recruited among patient friends and relatives. Corrections for demographics were calculated using multivariable linear regression models. Test-retest reliability was assessed using the Pearson correlation coefficient.
Results
The BICAMS battery was administered to 273 healthy subjects (180 women, mean age 38.9 ± 13.0 years, mean education 14.9 ± 3.0 years). Test-retest reliability was good for all the tests.
Conclusions
The study provided normative data of the BICAMS for the Italian population confirming good test-retest reliability which can facilitate the use of the battery in clinical practice, also for longitudinal patient assessments.
doi:10.1186/s12883-014-0171-6
PMCID: PMC4172942  PMID: 25204350
Multiple sclerosis; Cognitive impairment; Assessment tool; Italian normative values
8.  Paternal therapy with disease modifying drugs in multiple sclerosis and pregnancy outcomes: a prospective observational multicentric study 
BMC Neurology  2014;14:114.
Background
Most of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients undergo disease modifying drug (DMD) therapy at childbearing age. The objective of this prospective, collaborative study, was to assess outcomes of pregnancies fathered by MS patients undergoing DMD.
Methods
Structured interviews on pregnancies fathered by MS patients gathered in the Italian Pregnancy Dataset were collected; pregnancies were divided according to father exposure or unexposure to DMD at time of procreation. Treatment were compared with multivariable logistic and linear models.
Results
Seventy-eight pregnancies fathered by MS patients were tracked. Forty-five patients were taking DMD at time of conception (39 beta-interferons, 6 glatiramer acetate), while 33 pregnancies were unexposed to DMD. Seventy-five pregnancies ended in live-births, 44 in the exposed and 31 in the unexposed group. No significant differences between the two groups were found in the risk of spontaneous abortion or malformations (p > 0.454), mean gestational age (p = 0.513), frequency of cesarean delivery (p = 0.644), birth weight (p = 0.821) and birth length (p = 0.649). In comparison with data of the Italian general population, the proportion of spontaneous abortion and caesarean delivery in exposed pregnancies fell within the estimates, while the proportion of pre-term delivery in the exposed group was higher than expected.
Conclusions
Our data indicate no association between paternal DMD exposure at time of conception and risk of spontaneous abortion, adverse fetal outcomes and congenital malformations. Further studies clarifying the role of DMD fathers intake prior and during pregnancy are desirable, to supply guidelines for clinical practice.
doi:10.1186/1471-2377-14-114
PMCID: PMC4059028  PMID: 24884599
Multiple sclerosis; Paternity; Pregnancy; Interferon beta; Glatiramer acetate
9.  International Pediatric MS Study Group Clinical Trials Summit 
Neurology  2013;80(12):1161-1168.
Objective:
Pediatric studies for new biological agents are mandated by recent legislation, necessitating careful thought to evaluation of emerging multiple sclerosis (MS) therapies in children with MS. Challenges include a small patient population, the lack of prior randomized clinical trials, and ethical concerns. The goal of this meeting was to assess areas of consensus regarding clinical trial design and outcome measures among academic experts involved in pediatric MS care and research.
Methods:
The Steering Committee of the International Pediatric MS Study Group identified key focus areas for discussion. A total of 69 meeting attendees were assembled, including 35 academic experts. Regulatory and pharmaceutical representatives also attended, and provided input, which informed academic expert consensus decisions.
Results:
The academic experts agreed that clinical trials were necessary in pediatric MS to obtain pharmacokinetic, safety and efficacy data, and regulatory approval allowing for greater medication access. The academic experts agreed that relapse was an appropriate primary outcome measure for phase III pediatric trials. An international standardized cognitive battery was identified. The pros and cons of various trial designs were discussed. Guidelines surrounding MRI studies, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, and registries were developed. The academic experts agreed that given the limited subject pool, a stepwise approach to the launch of clinical trials for the most promising medications is necessary in order to ensure study completion. Alternative approaches could result in unethical exposure of patients to trial conditions without gaining knowledge.
Conclusion:
Consensus points for conduct of clinical trials in the rare disease pediatric MS were identified amongst a panel of academic experts, informed by regulatory and industry stakeholders.
doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e318288694e
PMCID: PMC3662305  PMID: 23509048
10.  Increased CD8+ T cell responses to apoptotic T cell-associated antigens in multiple sclerosis 
Background
Here, we evaluated the hypothesis that CD8+ T cell responses to caspase-cleaved antigens derived from effector T cells undergoing apoptosis, may contribute to multiple sclerosis (MS) immunopathology.
Methods
The percentage of autoreactive CD8+ T effector cells specific for various apoptotic T cell-associated self-epitopes (apoptotic epitopes) were detected in the peripheral blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) by both enzyme-linked immunospot and dextramers of class I molecules complexed with relevant apoptotic epitopes. Moreover, the capacity of dextramer+ CD8+ T cells to produce interferon (IFN)-γ and/or interleukin (IL)-17 in response to the relevant apoptotic epitopes was evaluated by the intracellular cytokine staining. Cross-presentation assay of apoptotic T cells by dendritic cells was also evaluated ex vivo.
Results
We found that polyfunctional (IFN-γ and/or IL-17 producing) autoreactive CD8+ T cells specific for apoptotic epitopes were represented in MS patients with frequencies significantly higher than in healthy donors. These autoreactive CD8+ T cells with a strong potential to produce IFN-γ or IL-17 in response to the relevant apoptotic epitopes were significantly accumulated in the CSF from the same patients. In addition, the frequencies of these autoreactive CD8+ T cells correlated with the disease disability. Cross-presentation assay revealed that caspase-cleaved cellular proteins are required to activate apoptotic epitope-specific CD8+ T cells ex vivo.
Conclusion
Taken together, these data indicate that apoptotic epitope-specific CD8+ T cells with strong inflammatory potential are recruited at the level of the inflammatory site, where they may be involved in MS immunopathology through the production of high levels of inflammatory cytokines.
doi:10.1186/1742-2094-10-94
PMCID: PMC3734107  PMID: 23890271
Apoptosis; CD8+ T cells; Multiple sclerosis
11.  Persistence on Therapy and Propensity Matched Outcome Comparison of Two Subcutaneous Interferon Beta 1a Dosages for Multiple Sclerosis 
Kalincik, Tomas | Spelman, Timothy | Trojano, Maria | Duquette, Pierre | Izquierdo, Guillermo | Grammond, Pierre | Lugaresi, Alessandra | Hupperts, Raymond | Cristiano, Edgardo | Van Pesch, Vincent | Grand’Maison, Francois | La Spitaleri, Daniele | Rio, Maria Edite | Flechter, Sholmo | Oreja-Guevara, Celia | Giuliani, Giorgio | Savino, Aldo | Amato, Maria Pia | Petersen, Thor | Fernandez-Bolanos, Ricardo | Bergamaschi, Roberto | Iuliano, Gerardo | Boz, Cavit | Lechner-Scott, Jeannette | Deri, Norma | Gray, Orla | Verheul, Freek | Fiol, Marcela | Barnett, Michael | van Munster, Erik | Santiago, Vetere | Moore, Fraser | Slee, Mark | Saladino, Maria Laura | Alroughani, Raed | Shaw, Cameron | Kasa, Krisztian | Petkovska-Boskova, Tatjana | den Braber-Moerland, Leontien | Chapman, Joab | Skromne, Eli | Herbert, Joseph | Poehlau, Dieter | Needham, Merrilee | Bacile, Elizabeth Alejandra Bacile | Arruda, Walter Oleschko | Paine, Mark | Singhal, Bhim | Vucic, Steve | Cabrera-Gomez, Jose Antonio | Butzkueven, Helmut | Roger, Elaine | Despault, Pierre | Marriott, Mark | Van der Walt, Anneke | King, John | Kilpatrick, Trevor | Buzzard, Katherine | Jokubaitis, Vilija | Byron, Jill | Morgan, Lisa | Skibina, Olga | Haartsen, Jodi | De Luca, Giovanna | Di Tommaso, Valeria | Travaglini, Daniela | Pietrolongo, Erika | di Ioia, Maria | Farina, Deborah | Mancinelli, Luca | Paolicelli, Damiano | Iaffaldano, Pietro | Ignacio Rojas, Juan | Patrucco, Liliana | Roullet, Etienne | Correale, Jorge | Ysrraelit, Celica | Elisabetta, Cartechini | Pucci, Eugenio | Williams, David | Dark, Lisa | Shaygannejad, Vahid | Zwanikken, Cees | Vella, Norbert | Sirbu, Carmen-Adella
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63480.
Objectives
To compare treatment persistence between two dosages of interferon β-1a in a large observational multiple sclerosis registry and assess disease outcomes of first line MS treatment at these dosages using propensity scoring to adjust for baseline imbalance in disease characteristics.
Methods
Treatment discontinuations were evaluated in all patients within the MSBase registry who commenced interferon β-1a SC thrice weekly (n = 4678). Furthermore, we assessed 2-year clinical outcomes in 1220 patients treated with interferon β-1a in either dosage (22 µg or 44 µg) as their first disease modifying agent, matched on propensity score calculated from pre-treatment demographic and clinical variables. A subgroup analysis was performed on 456 matched patients who also had baseline MRI variables recorded.
Results
Overall, 4054 treatment discontinuations were recorded in 3059 patients. The patients receiving the lower interferon dosage were more likely to discontinue treatment than those with the higher dosage (25% vs. 20% annual probability of discontinuation, respectively). This was seen in discontinuations with reasons recorded as “lack of efficacy” (3.3% vs. 1.7%), “scheduled stop” (2.2% vs. 1.3%) or without the reason recorded (16.7% vs. 13.3% annual discontinuation rate, 22 µg vs. 44 µg dosage, respectively). Propensity score was determined by treating centre and disability (score without MRI parameters) or centre, sex and number of contrast-enhancing lesions (score including MRI parameters). No differences in clinical outcomes at two years (relapse rate, time relapse-free and disability) were observed between the matched patients treated with either of the interferon dosages.
Conclusions
Treatment discontinuations were more common in interferon β-1a 22 µg SC thrice weekly. However, 2-year clinical outcomes did not differ between patients receiving the different dosages, thus replicating in a registry dataset derived from “real-world” database the results of the pivotal randomised trial. Propensity score matching effectively minimised baseline covariate imbalance between two directly compared sub-populations from a large observational registry.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063480
PMCID: PMC3660604  PMID: 23704913
12.  Epidural analgesia and cesarean delivery in multiple sclerosis post-partum relapses: the Italian cohort study 
BMC Neurology  2012;12:165.
Background
Few studies have systematically addressed the role of epidural analgesia and caesarean delivery in predicting the post-partum disease activity in women with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
The objective of this study was to assess the impact of epidural analgesia (EA) and caesarean delivery (CD) on the risk of post-partum relapses and disability in women with MS.
Methods
In the context of an Italian prospective study on the safety of immunomodulators in pregnancy, we included pregnancies occurred between 2002 and 2008 in women with MS regularly followed-up in 21 Italian MS centers. Data were gathered through a standardized, semi-structured interview, dealing with pregnancy outcomes, breastfeeding, type of delivery (vaginal or caesarean) and EA. The risk of post-partum relapses and disability progression (1 point on the Expanded Disability Status Sclae, EDSS, point, confirmed after six months) was assessed through a logistic multivariate regression analysis.
Results
We collected data on 423 pregnancies in 415 women. Among these, 349 pregnancies resulted in full term deliveries, with a post-partum follow-up of at least one year (mean follow-up period 5.5±3.1 years). One hundred and fifty-five patients (44.4%) underwent CD and 65 (18.5%) EA. In the multivariate analysis neither CD, nor EA were associated with a higher risk of post-partum relapses. Post-partum relapses were related to a higher EDSS score at conception (OR=1.42; 95% CI 1.11-1.82; p=0.005), a higher number of relapses in the year before pregnancy (OR=1.62; 95% CI 1.15-2.29; p=0.006) and during pregnancy (OR=3.07; 95% CI 1.40-6.72; p=0.005). Likewise, CD and EA were not associated with disability progression on the EDSS after delivery. The only significant predictor of disability progression was the occurrence of relapses in the year after delivery (disability progression in the year after delivery: OR= 4.00; 95% CI 2.0-8.2; p<0.001; disability progression over the whole follow-up period: OR= 2.0; 95% CI 1.2-3.3; p=0.005).
Conclusions
Our findings, show no correlation between EA, CD and postpartum relapses and disability. Therefore these procedures can safely be applied in MS patients. On the other hand, post-partum relapses are significantly associated with increased disability, which calls for the need of preventive therapies after delivery.
doi:10.1186/1471-2377-12-165
PMCID: PMC3544735  PMID: 23276328
Epidural analgesia; Caesarean delivery; Multiple sclerosis; Pregnancy
13.  Geographical Variations in Sex Ratio Trends over Time in Multiple Sclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e48078.
Background
A female/male (F/M) ratio increase over time in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients was demonstrated in many countries around the world. So far, a direct comparison of sex ratio time-trends among MS populations from different geographical areas was not carried out.
Objective
In this paper we assessed and compared sex ratio trends, over a 60-year span, in MS populations belonging to different latitudinal areas.
Methods
Data of a cohort of 15,996 (F = 11,290; M = 4,706) definite MS with birth years ranging from 1930 to 1989 were extracted from the international MSBase registry and the New Zealand MS database. Gender ratios were calculated by six decades based on year of birth and were adjusted for the F/M born-alive ratio derived from the respective national registries of births.
Results
Adjusted sex ratios showed a significant increase from the first to the last decade in the whole MS sample (from 2.35 to 2.73; p = 0.03) and in the subgroups belonging to the areas between 83° N and 45° N (from 1.93 to 4.55; p<0.0001) and between 45° N to 35° N (from 1.46 to 2.30; p<0.05) latitude, while a sex ratio stability over time was found in the subgroup from areas between 12° S and 55° S latitude. The sex ratio increase mainly affected relapsing-remitting (RR) MS.
Conclusions
Our results confirm a general sex ratio increase over time in RRMS and also demonstrate a latitudinal gradient of this increase. These findings add useful information for planning case-control studies aimed to explore sex-related factors responsible for MS development.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048078
PMCID: PMC3485003  PMID: 23133550
14.  Pregnancy and fetal outcomes after Glatiramer Acetate exposure in patients with multiple sclerosis: a prospective observational multicentric study 
BMC Neurology  2012;12:124.
Background
Only few studies have assessed safety of in utero exposure to glatiramer acetate (GA). Following a previous study assessing the safety of interferon beta (IFNB) pregnancy exposure in multiple sclerosis (MS), we aimed to assess pregnancy and fetal outcomes after in utero exposure to GA, using the same dataset, with a specific focus on the risk of spontaneous abortion.
Materials and methods
We recruited MS patients, prospectively followed-up in 21 Italian MS Centres, for whom a pregnancy was recorded in the period 2002–2008. Patients were divided into 2 groups: drug-exposed pregnancies (EP: suspension of the drug less than 4 weeks from conception); non-exposed pregnancies (NEP: suspension of the drug at least 4 weeks from conception or never treated pregnancies). All the patients were administered a structured interview which gathered detailed information on pregnancy course and outcomes, as well as on possible confounders. Multivariate logistic and linear models were used for treatment comparisons.
Results
Data on 423 pregnancies were collected, 17 were classified as EP to GA, 88 as EP to IFNB, 318 as NEP. Pregnancies resulted in 16 live births in the GA EP, 75 live births in the IFNB EP, 295 live births in the NEP. GA exposure was not significantly associated with an increased risk of spontaneous abortion (OR = 0.44;95% CI 0.044-4.51;p = 0.49). Mean birth weight and length were not significantly different in pregnancies exposed to GA than in non exposed pregnancies (p = 0.751). The frequency of preterm delivery, observed in 4 subjects exposed to GA (25% of full term deliveries), was not significantly higher in pregnancies exposed to GA than in those non exposed (p > 0.735). These findings were confirmed in the multivariate analysis. There were neither major complications nor malformations after GA exposure.
Conclusions
Data in our cohort show that mother’s GA exposure is not associated with a higher frequency of spontaneous abortion, neither other negative pregnancy and fetal outcomes. Our findings point to the safety of in utero GA exposure and can support neurologists in the therapeutic counselling of MS women planning a pregnancy.
doi:10.1186/1471-2377-12-124
PMCID: PMC3487812  PMID: 23088447
Glatiramer acetate; Multiple sclerosis; Pregnancy; Pregnancy outcome; In utero exposure
15.  Brief International Cognitive Assessment for MS (BICAMS): international standards for validation 
BMC Neurology  2012;12:55.
An international expert consensus committee recently recommended a brief battery of tests for cognitive evaluation in multiple sclerosis. The Brief International Cognitive Assessment for MS (BICAMS) battery includes tests of mental processing speed and memory. Recognizing that resources for validation will vary internationally, the committee identified validation priorities, to facilitate international acceptance of BICAMS. Practical matters pertaining to implementation across different languages and countries were discussed. Five steps to achieve optimal psychometric validation were proposed. In Step 1, test stimuli should be standardized for the target culture or language under consideration. In Step 2, examiner instructions must be standardized and translated, including all information from manuals necessary for administration and interpretation. In Step 3, samples of at least 65 healthy persons should be studied for normalization, matched to patients on demographics such as age, gender and education. The objective of Step 4 is test-retest reliability, which can be investigated in a small sample of MS and/or healthy volunteers over 1–3 weeks. Finally, in Step 5, criterion validity should be established by comparing MS and healthy controls. At this time, preliminary studies are underway in a number of countries as we move forward with this international assessment tool for cognition in MS.
doi:10.1186/1471-2377-12-55
PMCID: PMC3607849  PMID: 22799620
16.  Impact of Natalizumab on Cognitive Performances and Fatigue in Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis: A Prospective, Open-Label, Two Years Observational Study 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35843.
Background and Objectives
Natalizumab reduces the relapse rate and magnetic resonance imaging activity in patients with Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS). So far the influence of natalizumab on cognitive functions and fatigue in MS remains uncertain. The aim of this prospective, open-label, observational study was to evaluate the possible effects of natalizumab on cognition and fatigue measures in RRMS patients treated for up to two years.
Methods
Cognitive performances were examined by the Rao's Brief Repeatable Battery (BRB), the Stroop test (ST) and the Cognitive Impairment Index (CII), every 12 months. Patients who failed in at least 3 tests of the BRB and the ST were classified as cognitively impaired (CI). Fatigue Severity Scale (FSS) was administered every 12 months to assess patient's self-reported fatigue. One hundred and 53 patients completed 1 and 2 year-natalizumab treatment, respectively.
Results
After 1 year of treatment the percentage of CI patients decreased from 29% (29/100) at baseline to 19% (19/100) (p = 0.031) and the mean baseline values of CII (13.52±6.85) and FSS (4.01±1.63) scores were significantly reduced (10.48±7.12, p<0.0001 and 3.61±1.56, p = 0.008). These significant effects were confirmed in the subgroup of patients treated up to two years.
Conclusions
These results demonstrate that a short-term NTZ treatment may significantly improve cognitive performances and fatigue in RRMS patients.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0035843
PMCID: PMC3338465  PMID: 22558238
17.  Changes in magnetic resonance imaging disease measures over 3 years in mildly disabled patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis receiving interferon β-1a in the COGnitive Impairment in MUltiple Sclerosis (COGIMUS) study 
BMC Neurology  2011;11:125.
Background
Conventional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has improved the diagnosis and monitoring of multiple sclerosis (MS). In clinical trials, MRI has been found to detect treatment effects with greater sensitivity than clinical measures; however, clinical and MRI outcomes tend to correlate poorly.
Methods
In this observational study, patients (n = 550; 18-50 years; relapsing-remitting MS [Expanded Disability Status Scale score ≤4.0]) receiving interferon (IFN) β-1a therapy (44 or 22 µg subcutaneously [sc] three times weekly [tiw]) underwent standardized MRI, neuropsychological and quality-of-life (QoL) assessments over 3 years. In this post hoc analysis, MRI outcomes and correlations between MRI parameters and clinical and functional outcomes were analysed.
Results
MRI data over 3 years were available for 164 patients. T2 lesion and T1 gadolinium-enhancing (Gd+) lesion volumes, but not black hole (BH) volumes, decreased significantly from baseline to Year 3 (P < 0.0001). Percentage decreases (baseline to Year 3) were greater with the 44 μg dose than with the 22 μg dose for T2 lesion volume (-10.2% vs -4.5%, P = 0.025) and T1 BH volumes (-7.8% vs +10.3%, P = 0.002). A decrease in T2 lesion volume over 3 years predicted stable QoL over the same time period. Treatment with IFN β-1a, 44 μg sc tiw, predicted an absence of cognitive impairment at Year 3.
Conclusion
Subcutaneous IFN β-1a significantly decreased MRI measures of disease, with a significant benefit shown for the 44 µg over the 22 µg dose; higher-dose treatment also predicted better cognitive outcomes over 3 years.
doi:10.1186/1471-2377-11-125
PMCID: PMC3214173  PMID: 21999142
18.  Evolving expectations around early management of multiple sclerosis 
Multiple sclerosis is a progressive inflammatory disease of the central nervous system. With prevention or at least delay of disease progression as a key target in the management of multiple sclerosis, current opinion on treatment encourages early intervention with well-tolerated disease-modifying treatments in order to optimize long-term clinical outcomes. Patients presenting with a clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) may progress to clinically definite multiple sclerosis, and clinical trials have demonstrated that early treatment with interferon beta can reduce the conversion rate. Cognitive impairment may already be present in patients with CISs. Today there is evolving evidence that cognitive impairment may be relevant for prognosis and that early treatment with interferon beta may also have a protective effect on the cognitive function. As an accumulation of neuronal loss is now considered to underlie the development of persistent disability in multiple sclerosis, it is crucial that treatment can protect against neuronal damage. In addition to its anti-inflammatory activity, interferon beta may have direct and indirect neuroprotective effects, and several studies have explored the role of interferon beta in regulating neuroprotective factors. With over 15 years of clinical experience as evidence, the long-term safety and efficacy of interferon beta treatment is unquestionable. Results from the CIS studies have demonstrated the high percentage of patients converting to clinically definite multiple sclerosis without treatment and the short- and long-term benefits of an early use of disease-modifying treatments. These findings support starting disease-modifying treatment as soon as the diagnosis of MS is reasonably formulated.
doi:10.1177/1756285610385608
PMCID: PMC3002639  PMID: 21179596
clinically isolated syndrome; cognition; disease-modifying treatments; early treatment; interferon beta; multiple sclerosis
19.  Immunoproteasome LMP2 60HH Variant Alters MBP Epitope Generation and Reduces the Risk to Develop Multiple Sclerosis in Italian Female Population 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(2):e9287.
Background
Albeit several studies pointed out the pivotal role that CD4+T cells have in Multiple Sclerosis, the CD8+ T cells involvement in the pathology is still in its early phases of investigation. Proteasome degradation is the key step in the production of MHC class I-restricted epitopes and therefore its activity could be an important element in the activation and regulation of autoreactive CD8+ T cells in Multiple Sclerosis.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Immunoproteasomes and PA28-αβ regulator are present in MS affected brain area and accumulated in plaques. They are expressed in cell types supposed to be involved in MS development such as neurons, endothelial cells, oligodendrocytes, macrophages/macroglia and lymphocytes. Furthermore, in a genetic study on 1262 Italian MS cases and 845 controls we observed that HLA-A*02+ female subjects carrying the immunoproteasome LMP2 codon 60HH variant have a reduced risk to develop MS. Accordingly, immunoproteasomes carrying the LMP2 60H allele produce in vitro a lower amount of the HLA-A*0201 restricted immunodominant epitope MBP111–119.
Conclusion/Significance
The immunoproteasome LMP2 60HH variant reduces the risk to develop MS amongst Italian HLA-A*02+ females. We propose that such an effect is mediated by the altered proteasome-dependent production of a specific MBP epitope presented on the MHC class I. Our observations thereby support the hypothesis of an involvement of immunoproteasome in the MS pathogenesis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009287
PMCID: PMC2823778  PMID: 20174631
20.  Subcutaneous Interferon Beta-1a Has a Positive Effect on Cognitive Performance in Mildly Disabled Patients with Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis 
The effect of interferon (IFN) beta-1a (44 and 22 μg subcutaneously [sc] three times weekly [tiw]) on cognition in mildly disabled patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (McDonald criteria; Expanded Disability Status Scale =4.0) was assessed by validated neuropsychological testing at baseline and at regular intervals for up to 2 years in this ongoing open-label, 3-year study. Year-2 data were available for 356 patients (22 μg, n = 175; 44μg, n = 181). The proportion of patients with impaired cognitive function was stable during the study: 21.4% at baseline and 21.6% at 2 years. At 2 years, the proportion of patients with =3 impaired cognitive tests was significantly lower in the 44 μg treatment group (17.0%) compared with the 22 μg group (26.5%; p = 0.034), although there was already a trend towards a higher proportion of patients with cognitive impairment in the 22 μg group at baseline. Factors associated with impairment in = three cognitive tests after 2 years were age (odds ratio [OR]: 1.05; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.00-1.09), verbal intelligence quotient (OR: 0.95; 95% CI: 0.92-0.98), and having = three impaired cognitive tests at baseline (OR: 11.60; 95% CI: 5.94-22.64). These interim results show that IFN beta-1a sc tiw may have beneficial effects on cognitive function as early as 2 years after treatment initiation, but the final 3-year data of the study are required to confirm these results.
doi:10.1177/1756285608101379
PMCID: PMC3002625  PMID: 21180642
cognitive function; cognitive impairment; interferon beta-1a; relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis

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