Debra-Smith-with-daughter-SofiaDebra Smith first learned about BRI when a friend invited her to the Boeing Classic Golf Tournament in the early 2010s. BRI’s work became personal when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2013.

“Not long after, my then 28-year-old daughter Sofia was also diagnosed with MS, and I was absolutely shattered,” Debra says.

Though owning and running a real estate company keeps her busy around the clock, Debra did what she could by making financial donations to BRI. Then she started volunteering with BRI in 2020, helping rally support as part of our ambassador council. Her motivation to give back is simple: Our groundbreaking science gives her hope.

“I remember being at Illuminations with my husband when it was in person — he kept giving me this look when I raised my paddle again and again,” she says. “I just told him, ‘this is for Sofia.’ I don’t know how much this research will help me, but I firmly believe that it will help my daughter.”

BEAT-MS Trial Tests Promising New Approach to Treatment

Jerry-Nepom-in-LabThe Immune Tolerance Network (ITN), a global research consortium led by BRI, recently launched a trial called BEAT-MS, evaluating a potentially groundbreaking new way to treat relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS).

The research team will examine whether an autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplant (AHSCT), a type of stem cell transplant that uses a patient’s own cells, can provide a new approach for patients with relapsing/remitting MS. This trial involves over 20 different academic centers. Patients with MS will be randomized to receive either AHSCT or the best available alternative therapy—immunomodulatory drugs that are FDA-approved for MS. Subjects in the trial will be studied over several years for clinical symptoms, radiological and laboratory changes, and quality of life assessments.

“The purpose of AHSCT is to ‘reboot’ a person’s immune system,” says ITN Director Jerry Nepom, MD, PhD. “The prospect of successful AHSCT also offers the possibility of avoiding the need to take drugs long-term.”

This study is building on the success of other trials — including the ITN’s HALT-MS trial — that showed the promise of this approach in a smaller group of patients.

“In HALT-MS, a large proportion of subjects completed the five-year trial without any episodes of MS relapses or evidence of disease progression by MRI scans,” Dr. Nepom says. “The BEAT-MS trial is positioned to provide the type of convincing evidence we need to make this treatment available to large numbers of patients.”

Originally printed in the the Summer issue of the Powering Possibility Newsletter

Fighting Diseases

June 15, 2021

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