Short-term brain volume change in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis: Effect of glatiramer acetate and implications

Marco Rovaris, Giancarlo Comi, Maria A. Rocca, Jerry S. Wolinsky, Massimo Filippi, D. Guillaume, J. B. D'Harcour, C. J.M. Sindic, T. P.J. Duprez, L. Truyen, G. Nagels, P. M. Parizel, E. A.C.M. Sanders, R. J. Versteylen, G. Rice, K. Kennedy, L. Metz, D. Patry, M. Yeung, A. DavisS. Curtis, G. Francis, D. L. Arnold, G. Leroux, O. Lyon-Caen, A. Tourbah, M. Bataillard, I. R. Kraehenbuhl, E. A. Cabanis, S. Bracard, M. Debouverie, R. Anxionnat, B. Storch-Hagenlocher, K. Sartor, W. Gehlen, A. Schmidt, C. Weiller, W. Behrendt, M. Zaffaroni, C. Fieschi, S. Bastianello, R. Capra, R. Gasparotti, G. L. Mancardi, M. Inglese, F. Sardanelli, V. Cosi, C. Uggetti, F. Zappoli, C. P. Hawkins, N. Haq, D. Barnes, A. Clifton, D. Bates, A. Coulthard, G. Perkin, I. Colquhoun, C. A. Young, T. Nixon, D. Francis, D. Yates, D. Neary, A. Jackson, L. D. Blumhardt, T. Jaspan, R. Brenner, A. Valentine, I. Pye, G. Cherryman

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147 Scopus citations


The assessment of brain volume change with serial MRI provides an objective measure of an important component of the pathology of multiple sclerosis. Glatiramer acetate (GA) has a beneficial effect on clinical and MRI measures of disease activity and burden in patients with relapsing-remitting (RR) multiple sclerosis. This study investigated the impact of GA treatment on the development of brain atrophy in RR multiple sclerosis patients. The study consisted of a 9-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase followed by a 9-month open-label phase. Patients were randomized to receive either 20 mg GA or placebo by daily subcutaneous injections and underwent brain MRI scans every month during the first phase, and every 3 months during the second phase of the study. Using a semi-automated segmentation technique based on local thresholding, brain volume was measured from seven contiguous periventricular slices from the scans obtained at baseline, the end of the double-blind phase and the end of the study. From the original trial cohort, image sets from 113 out of 119 patients randomized to GA, and 114 out of 120 randomized to placebo treatment were evaluated. Brain volume was significantly correlated with patients' disability at each time-point. No significant differences between placebo- and GA-treated patients were found for baseline brain volume and rate of brain volume change over the study, even though a possible late trend for treatment with GA to retard the loss of brain volume was observed. There was a significant, but modest, correlation between MRI activity during the double-blind phase, and brain volume change over the entire study among patients originally treated with placebo. The modest correlation between enhancement frequency and brain atrophy loss indicates that the suppression of inflammatory activity in RR multiple sclerosis patients is not fully and rapidly associated with a similar effect on the global neurodegenerative processes. This study also suggests that any effect of GA in preventing brain volume decrease is not evident early following institution of treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1803-1812
Number of pages10
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2001


  • Brain volume
  • Clinical trial
  • Glatiramer acetate
  • MRI
  • Multiple sclerosis


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