100th patient enrolled in multiple sclerosis study

Published 12:30 am Thursday, January 22, 2015

By Emily Ford 
For the Duke Translational Medicine Institute

A Raleigh medical practice has enrolled its 100th patient into a Duke University health research project working to end multiple sclerosis.

Raleigh Neurology Associates recently reached the 100-patient milestone for the MURDOCK Multiple Sclerosis Study, a long-term health research project based at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis. Raleigh Neurology partnered with Duke in July 2014 to help recruit 1,000 people with multiple sclerosis and 100 people with Primary Progressive MS.

Dr. Simon Gregory is principal investigator for the MURDOCK Multiple Sclerosis Study and associate professor at the Duke Molecular Physiology Institute at Duke University School of Medicine. He and his team are working to identify the genetic underpinnings of complex diseases like MS and understand disease development and progression at the molecular level.

While Duke recruits MS patients at several locations in North Carolina, Raleigh Neurology is the only independent enrollment site for the MURDOCK Study and enrolls between six and eight patients per week.

“It has been a wonderful partnership to work with Raleigh Neurology. They have not only helped us spread the word about the important MS research we are doing with Duke, but they have greatly increased the number of participants who have enrolled into this project as well,” said Sarah Maichle, the Duke clinical research coordinator who oversees enrollment in the Raleigh-Durham area. “We have been so excited at the opportunity to work with this prestigious practice, and we look forward to reaching our enrollment goal of 1,000 participants later this year.”

The sixth largest MS practice in the country, Raleigh Neurology has even a hired a new part-time coordinator dedicated to MURDOCK Study enrollment.

“Working with Duke and the MURDOCK Study team has been truly exciting for Raleigh Neurology Associates and our patients. We currently have dozens of late-phase clinical research ongoing, so being involved in genetic, molecular level research is exciting — especially with Duke University,” said Sean Walsh, director of Clinical Research for Raleigh Neurology. “Through this partnership, our patients have been able to easily participate in Dr. Gregory’s research, which we hope will lead to groundbreaking discoveries to enhance the quality of life for future generations.”

Together, Raleigh Neurology and Maichle, who enrolls people with MS at the Duke Center for Living Campus in Durham, have recruited more than 200 participants to the study. Total enrollment has reached 659 people with multiple sclerosis and eight people with Primary Progressive MS. Volunteers contribute small samples of blood and urine, as well as two questionnaires related to medical history, demographics and MS diagnosis.

Without a cure or diagnostic test, multiple sclerosis remains a mysterious and unpredictable disease affecting as many as 400,000 people in the United States who suffer symptoms ranging from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. When someone has MS, his or her own immune system directs an abnormal response against the central nervous system.

Although scientists have known about multiple sclerosis for centuries, researchers still do not understand how the disease progresses and why certain people respond to treatment while others do not. Gregory’s team wants to generate biomarkers — measurable molecular indicators in the body — that would allow researchers to reclassify MS and lead to the development of tests that physicians would use to diagnose the disease and determine which treatments are best based on a patient’s genetic profile.

Gregory’s work in genetics opened up a new field of research into how the IL7R gene contributes to the development of MS after he and his collaborators identified the gene’s association with the disease, forming the basis of ongoing study to understand the mechanism and signaling of IL7R.

To learn more or start the enrollment process, call Raleigh Neurology at 919-782-3456. In the Durham area, call Sarah Maichle at 919-695-6413. In the Charlotte area, call 704-250-5861 or visit www.murdock-study.org. This is not a drug study, so participants will not receive any form of treatment. Enrollment takes about 90 minutes, and volunteers are compensated.