Evolution of visual outcomes in clinical trials for multiple sclerosis disease-modifying therapies

Rachel C. Nolan, Omar Akhand, John Ross Rizzo, Steven L. Galetta, Laura J. Balcer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The visual pathways are increasingly recognized as an ideal model to study neurodegeneration in multiple sclerosis (MS). Low-contrast letter acuity (LCLA) and optical coherence tomography (OCT) are validated measures of function and structure in MS. In fact, LCLA was the topic of a recent review by the Multiple Sclerosis Outcome Assessments Consortium (MSOAC) to qualify this visual measure as a primary or secondary clinical trial endpoint with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other regulatory agencies. This review focuses on the use of LCLA and OCT measures as outcomes in clinical trials to date of MS disease-modifying therapies. Methods: A Pubmed search using the specific key words "optical coherence tomography," "low-contrast letter acuity," "multiple sclerosis," and "clinical trials" was performed. An additional search on the clinicaltrials.gov website with the same key words was used to find registered clinical trials of MS therapies that included these visual outcome measures. Results: As demonstrated by multiple clinical trials, LCLA and OCT measures are sensitive to treatment effects in MS. LCLA has been used in many clinical trials to date, and findings suggest that 7 letters of LCLA at the 2.5% contrast level are meaningful change. Few clinical trials using the benefits of OCT have been performed, although results of observational studies have solidified the ability of OCT to assess change in retinal structure. Continued accrual of clinical trial and observational data is needed to validate the use of OCT in clinical trials, but preliminary work suggests that an intereye difference in retinal nerve fiber layer thickness of 5-6 |xm is a clinically meaningful threshold that identifies an optic nerve lesion in MS. Conclusions: Visual impairment represents a significant component of overall disability in MS. LCLA and OCT enhance the detection of visual pathway injury and can be used as measures of axonal and neuronal integrity. Continued investigation is ongoing to further incorporate these vision-based assessments into clinical trials of MS therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)202-209
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neuro-Ophthalmology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Clinical Neurology


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