Pioneering motor neurone disease trial starts in Southampton


Researchers at University Hospital Southampton, led by Dr Ashwin Pinto, have recruited their first patient to MND-SMART, a national trial of new treatments that could improve the quality of life and increase the lifespan of patients diagnosed with motor neuron disease (MND).

Southampton has recruited their first patient to MND-SMART, a pioneering clinical trial recruiting hundreds of people living with MND across the UK to take part in tests of potential treatments.

Finding drugs faster

Unlike typical clinical trials which test a single treatment at a time, MND-SMART is testing multiple drugs in parallel and so aims to speed up the time it takes to find medicines that can slow, stop, or reverse the progression of MND.

Dr Ashwin Pinto, consultant neurologist, is leading the study at UHS. The trial team will contact people with MND who live in the Southampton and surrounding Wessex region and have already registered online interest in the trial over the coming months to discuss taking part.

“As a clinician reviewing patients with MND, I am acutely aware of patients’ keen interest to take part in clinical trials that we all hope will lead to significant advances in the treatment of MND,” Dr Pinto. 

“I am delighted that Southampton has been invited to join with the network of centres across the UK to offer local patients with MND the opportunity to join the MND SMART clinical trial.”

Continuing through the pandemic

MND is a life-shortening disease that progressively gets worse. There is no cure, and current treatments only extend lifespan by three months. This means that patients with MND do not have time to wait for the COVID-19 pandemic to end.

Messages along the motor neurones gradually stop reaching the muscles, causing them to weaken, stiffen and waste. It can affect walking, talking, eating and drinking, and breathing, and in some cases causes changes to thinking and behaviour.

Whilst working to open new sites as quickly as possible, ensuring the safety of people taking part in MND-SMART is the trial teams’ highest priority. The trial sponsor and local research and development teams have carefully reviewed the impact of Covid-19 and have provided clear guidance that recruitment to MND-SMART may continue in line with the ongoing delivery of essential healthcare. The pandemic will however have an impact on the pace of recruitment to the trial.

Led by the Euan MacDonald Centre for MND Research at the University of Edinburgh, MND-SMART launched in January 2020 and is already open in centres in Edinburgh, Dundee, Glasgow, Salford and Aberdeen. It is funded by the Euan MacDonald Centre, substantial private donations, MND Scotland and the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, and was developed by people with MND and clinical trial experts from across the UK.

Posted on Friday 5 March 2021