Monitoring of radiologic disease activity by serum neurofilaments in MS

Neurol Neuroimmunol Neuroinflamm. 2020 Apr 9;7(4):e714. doi: 10.1212/NXI.0000000000000714. Print 2020 Jul.


Objective: To determine whether serum neurofilament light chain (sNfL) levels are associated with recent MRI activity in patients with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS).

Methods: This observational study included 163 patients (405 samples) with early RRMS from the Study of Early interferon-beta1a (IFN-β1a) Treatment (SET) cohort and 179 patients (664 samples) with more advanced RRMS from the Genome-Wide Association Study of Multiple Sclerosis (GeneMSA) cohort. Based on annual brain MRI, we assessed the ability of sNfL cutoffs to reflect the presence of combined unique active lesions, defined as new/enlarging lesion compared with MRI in the preceding year or contrast-enhancing lesion. The probability of active MRI lesions among patients with different sNfL levels was estimated with generalized estimating equations models.

Results: From the sNfL samples ≥90th percentile, 81.6% of the SET (OR = 3.4, 95% CI = 1.8-6.4) and 48.9% of the GeneMSA cohort samples (OR = 2.6, 95% CI = 1.7-3.9) was associated with radiological disease activity on MRI. The sNfL level between the 10th and 30th percentile was reflective of negligible MRI activity: 1.4% (SET) and 6.5% (GeneMSA) of patients developed ≥3 active lesions, 5.8% (SET) and 6.5% (GeneMSA) developed ≥2 active lesions, and 34.8% (SET) and 11.8% (GeneMSA) showed ≥1 active lesion on brain MRI. The sNfL level <10th percentile was associated with even lower MRI activity. Similar results were found in a subgroup of clinically stable patients.

Conclusions: Low sNfL levels (≤30th percentile) help identify patients with MS with very low probability of recent radiologic disease activity during the preceding year. This result suggests that in future, sNfL assessment may substitute the need for annual brain MRI monitoring in considerable number (23.1%-36.4%) of visits in clinically stable patients.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Disease Progression*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / blood*
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / diagnosis*
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / pathology*
  • Neurofilament Proteins / blood*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Young Adult


  • Neurofilament Proteins
  • neurofilament protein L