Defining Disease Activity and Response to Therapy in MS
Disease activity in multiple sclerosis (MS) has classically been defined by the occurrence of new neurological symptoms and the rate of relapses. Definition of disease activity has become more refined with the use of clinical markers, evaluating ambulation, dexterity, and cognition. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has become an important tool in the investigation of disease activity. Number of lesions as well as brain atrophy have been used as surrogate outcome markers in several clinical trials, for which a reduction in these measures is appreciated in most treatment studies. With the increasing availability of new medications, the overall goal is to minimize inflammation to decrease relapse rate and ultimately prevent long-term disability. The aim of this review is to give an overview on commonly used clinical and imaging markers to monitor disease activity in MS, with emphasis on their use in clinical studies, and to give a recommendation on how to utilize these measures in clinical practice for the appropriate assessment of therapeutic response.