Elizabeth, 28, is referred by her family practitioner with a note that her MRI report is suggestive of MS. She is married with two children and is currently employed as a middle school teacher. She has a history of episodic migraine but is otherwise healthy. She reports no neurological symptoms. There is no history of recreational drug use. There is no family history of demyelinating diseases including MS. Elizabeth tells you she has a maternal aunt with fibromyalgia.
The neurological examination is normal. A non-contrast MRI brain shows approximately 15 T2 hyperintense lesions: four periventricular, two juxtacortical, two in the corpus callosum, one in the middle cerebellar peduncle and the rest in the subcortical white matter.
Jim is a 26-year-old firefighter who presents with an episode of mild leg weakness, sensory level at T6 and moderate bladder symptoms.
At presentation his EDSS score is 3.0, with leg weakness, spasticity and sensory changes. Baseline brain MRI reveals several (10) lesions including brain and brainstem. Spinal MRI shows a gadolinium-enhancing lesion at T2, and another lesion which does not enhance at C3.
He is treated with steroids with a good response. Serum is negative for anti-AQP4 antibodies and anti-MOG antibodies, and CSF is positive for oligoclonal banding. All other preliminary investigations are unremarkable and the MRI looks characteristic for multiple sclerosis.
At 3-month follow-up, Jim still has sensory and bladder symptoms. EDSS score is 2.0 (sensory 2, bowel 1, bladder 1).
The survey is now closed. We received 26 responses. See below for a summary of the answers you provided.
Question 1: Do you consider Jim to have aggressive RRMS?
Most respondents (82%) considered Jim to have aggressive RRMS due to a significant motor relapse with incomplete recovery and MRI lesions in the brain and spinal cord.
Question 2: What feature in this case do you find most worrisome?
The most worrisome feature was early disability (EDSS 3.0) (36% of responses) and the presence of spinal cord lesions (36%).
Question 3: In general, what clinical/radiological finding would be most likely to prompt you to initiate treatment with a higher-efficacy DMT?
The most common reasons cited for starting with a higher-efficacy DMT were ≥ 2 relapses in the previous year (27%), high T2 burden of disease (14%) and incomplete recovery at 3-6 months (14%).
Question 4: What would be your preferred starting therapy for this patient?
The preferred starting treatment was an anti-CD20 agent, such as ocrelizumab (55%) or ofatumumab (32%). Some respondents selected natalizumab (9%) or cladribine (5%).
Question 5: Despite counselling, Jim refuses to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. What would be your preferred starting therapy now?
There was a substantial shift away from anti-CD20 therapies in a COVID-19 vaccine refuser. The preferred starting therapy in these circumstances was natalizumab (32%), followed by ocrelizumab (27%) and ofatumumab (14%). A total of 14% of respondents opted for a platform therapy (DMF or glatiramer acetate).
View the video commentary by Dr. Courtney Casserly.