MRI biomarkers of disease progression and conversion to secondary-progressive multiple sclerosis

Expert Rev Neurother. 2020 Aug;20(8):821-834. doi: 10.1080/14737175.2020.1757435. Epub 2020 May 3.


Introduction: Conventional imaging measures remain a key clinical tool for the diagnosis multiple sclerosis (MS) and monitoring of patients. However, most measures used in the clinic show unsatisfactory performance in predicting disease progression and conversion to secondary progressive MS.

Areas covered: Sophisticated imaging techniques have facilitated the identification of imaging biomarkers associated with disease progression, such as global and regional brain volume measures, and with conversion to secondary progressive MS, such as leptomeningeal contrast enhancement and chronic inflammation. The relevance of emerging imaging approaches partially overcoming intrinsic limitations of traditional techniques is also discussed.

Expert opinion: Imaging biomarkers capable of detecting tissue damage early on in the disease, with the potential to be applied in multicenter trials and at an individual level in clinical settings, are strongly needed. Several measures have been proposed, which exploit advanced imaging acquisitions and/or incorporate sophisticated post-processing, can quantify irreversible tissue damage. The progressively wider use of high-strength field MRI and the development of more advanced imaging techniques will help capture the missing pieces of the MS puzzle. The ability to more reliably identify those at risk for disability progression will allow for earlier intervention with the aim to favorably alter the disease course.

Keywords: Biomarkers; MRI; disability; disease progression; imaging; multiple sclerosis; secondary progressive MS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers*
  • Disease Progression*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Progressive / diagnostic imaging*


  • Biomarkers