Background: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is characterised by inflammatory lesions of the central nervous system. Interferon beta-1b (IFNB-1b) has been shown to improve clinical and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measures for patients with MS.
Objective: To evaluate whether IFNB-1b in patients presenting with clinically isolated syndromes (CIS) prevented persisting T1 hypointensities on MRI (persistent black holes (PBHs)).
Methods: In the placebo-controlled phase, patients (n = 468) were initially randomised to IFNB-1b (n = 292) or placebo (n = 176) for two years or clinically definite MS (CDMS). In the open-label phase (n = 418), both groups were offered IFNB-1b for up to five years. Lesions were classified as PBHs if T1 hypointensity persisted throughout the last available scan (minimum time one year).
Results: A total of 435 patients were evaluable for analysis. The number of PBHs/patient was lower in the early rather than the delayed treatment arm during both phases (.42 vs .71, p = .0102 and .70 vs 1.17, p = .0121). Exploratory analyses identified baseline characteristics that affected rate of conversion.
Conclusions: Although the rate of lesions that converted to PBH showed no significant differences between groups, the numbers of PBHs per patient out of new lesions was significantly lower in IFNB-1b patients compared to patients on placebo.
Trial registration number: NCT00544037.
Keywords: Interferon beta-1b; MRI; T1 hypointensity; black holes.