World-first Multiple Sclerosis clinical trial brings hope

26 November 2019


Life changed quickly for Louise Remmerswaal after a shock multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis in her early thirties. It was not long before the progressive illness took her movement, independence and quality of life. 

She dared to dream she would be there for life’s biggest milestones, like watching her daughter walk down the aisle or nursing a grandchild for the first time.  

Now, a clinical trial of a new cellular immunotherapy has made this a reality.

“The three most debilitating conditions I suffered from were vertigo, fatigue and incontinence,” Ms Remmerswaal recalls.

“Normal things, like being able to go outside and talk to people, to make eye contact or sit in a chair and look up, would make me feel dizzy and physically sick.

“That has completely gone away after the trial.”

The treatment targets the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), and is based on a theory formulated by University of Queensland and Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH) researcher Professor Michael Pender.

Philanthropic gifts and donations from MS Queensland enabled the trial to proceed.

Gerard Menses, CEO of MS Queensland, Louise Remmerswaal, patient and Professor Michael Pender. 

“Without the tireless support and funding from MS Queensland, the Phase 1 clinical trial would not have happened,” Professor Pender explains.

“The funding allows us to have full-time, specialist staff on-hand to assist patients as they are going through the trial.

“You never know how a patient is going to respond to treatment. In this case there were no significant adverse effects, but these patients still need comprehensive clinical care.

“We want to conduct the best research and have the patients’ best interests at heart.”

For over 22 years, MS Queensland has supported the work of Professor Pender and his team to improve the treatment, prognosis and overall quality of life for people living with the disease.

Thanks to this funding, Professor Pender and his team will be able to participate in an international Phase 2 clinical trial scheduled to commence in late 2019.