Objective To compare the efficacy of fingolimod and natalizumab in preventing regional grey matter (GM) and white matter (WM) atrophy in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) over 2 years.
Methods Patients with RRMS starting fingolimod (n=25) or natalizumab (n=30) underwent clinical examination and 3T MRI scans at baseline (month (M) 0), M6, M12 and M24. Seventeen healthy controls were also scanned at M0 and M24. Tensor-based morphometry and SPM12 were used to assess the longitudinal regional GM/WM volume changes.
Results At M0, no clinical or GM/WM volume differences were found between treatment groups. At M24, both drugs reduced relapse rate (p<0.001 for both) and stabilised disability. At M6 vs M0, both groups experienced significant atrophy of several areas in the cortex, deep GM nuclei and supratentorial WM. Significant bilateral cerebellar GM and WM atrophy occurred in fingolimod patients only. At M12 vs M6 and M24 vs M12, further supratentorial GM and WM atrophy occurred in both groups. Bilateral GM/WM cerebellar atrophy continued to progress in fingolimod patients only. Compared with natalizumab, fingolimod-treated patients showed a significant cerebellar GM/WM atrophy, mainly at M6 vs M0, but still occurring up to M24. Compared with fingolimod, natalizumab-treated patients had a small number of areas of GM atrophy in temporo-occipital regions at the different time-points.
Conclusions Natalizumab and fingolimod are associated with heterogeneous temporal and regional patterns of GM and WM atrophy progression. Compared with natalizumab, fingolimod-treated patients experience accelerated GM and WM atrophy in the cerebellum, while both drugs show minimal regional volumetric differences in supratentorial regions.
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