Background: In progressive multiple sclerosis (PMS), disease-modifying therapies have not been shown to reduce disability progression.
Objective: The impact from immunosuppressive therapy in PMS was explored by analyzing cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers of axonal damage (neurofilament light protein, NFL), astrogliosis (glial fibrillary acidic protein, GFAP), and B-cell regulation (CXCL13).
Methods: CSF was obtained from 35 patients with PMS before and after 12-24 months of mitoxantrone (n=30) or rituximab (n=5) treatment, and from 14 age-matched healthy control subjects. The levels of NFL, GFAP, and CXCL13 were determined by immunoassays.
Results: The mean NFL level decreased by 51% (1781 ng/l, SD 2018 vs. 874 ng/l, SD 694, p=0.007), the mean CXCL13 reduction was 55% (9.71 pg/ml, SD 16.08, vs. 4.37 pg/ml, SD 1.94, p=0.008), while GFAP levels remained unaffected. Subgroup analysis showed that the NFL reduction was confined to previously untreated patients (n=20) and patients with Gd-enhancing lesions on magnetic resonance imaging (n=12) prior to study baseline.
Conclusions: Our data imply that 12-24 months of immunosuppressive therapy reduces axonal damage in PMS, particularly in patients with ongoing disease activity. Determination of NFL levels in CSF is a potential surrogate marker for treatment efficacy and as endpoint in phase II trials of MS.
Keywords: CXCL13; Multiple sclerosis; axonal damage; biomarkers; cerebrospinal fluid; glial fibrillary acidic protein; immunosuppressive therapy; mitoxantrone; neurofilament light protein; rituximab.