Striving to find answers to the mystery of MND

15 Sep 2017

Public awareness of Motor Neurone Disease (MND) has increased significantly throughout the world in recent years and this has dramatically stimulated philanthropic activity to help accelerate research to and a cure for the neurodegenerative disorder. This was the message conveyed by Sydney professor Matthew Kiernan at the 2017 Dare Shott Lecture in Launceston. The annual public lecture is organised by the Clifford Craig Foundation and focusses on a specifc topic of medicine each year.

A highly acclaimed researcher of Motor Neurone Disease, Professor Kiernan holds the Bushell Chair of Neurology at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. He runs the multidisciplinary Motor Neurone Disease Clinic at Sydney University Brain and Mind Centre and he is Chairman of the MND Research Institute.

Current trials

Prof Kiernan told the audience that, whilst there are currently no cures for MND, intensive research is occurring throughout the world, including clinical trials in Australia. This includes the “Lighthouse Project” which is the first Phase 2 clinical trial in the world. Using the Triumeq drug, it is a modern combination anti-retroviral therapy in patients with MND and aims to determine if the therapy is able to slow down the progression of the disease. “This trial is being funded by MND Australia and Neil Daniher’s Cure for MND Foundation. The trial is fully enrolled and we hope to present results by early next year,” he said.

French biotech company AB Science recently announced the results of a phase 2/3 study which showed that Masitinib, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor drug, was able to slow the progression of symptoms in patients. Prof Kiernan explained, “they will be running a larger phase 3 and 4 study here in Australia and this should be another treatment we will be able to introduce within the next calendar year.”

Professor Kiernan also told the audience, “there are two major stem cell therapy trials underway in the United States which are showing promising results and it is hoped to bring the technology to Australia to allow participation in these studies.”

“After decades of research, we now have a much better understanding of the disease and are ever closer to guring out how to effectively treat it. We have some new diagnostic approaches and two new treatments on the cusp of release,” he said.

More than 2000 people in Australia have Motor Neurone Disease and each day two more people are diagnosed with the condition, which has seen the rising incidence of MND almost double in Australia during the past decade.

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Medical Research