Award for UCL/UCLH researcher to apply machine learning to predict MS treatment response

A researcher at UCL/UCLH has received a 5 year NIHR Research Professorship to optimise the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) through the use of machine learning.

Professor Olga Ciccarelli, from the UCL Institute of Neurology, and her NIHR-funded team will develop a computer tool which predicts which drugs a patient with MS will respond to.

There are many drugs licensed for MS, but doctors and researchers currently cannot predict which will work best for an individual.

As a result, the choice about which medication to start is based on personal preference.

Professor Ciccarelli’s team will collect all the information which makes up the ‘profile’ of patients with MS, including age, gender, genetic factors, diet, scans and other health conditions patients may have.

The new computer tool will be able to predict which treatments work best for different patient profiles.

This means that in future, when a patient presents with a particular profile, clinicians will know which treatments are likely to be most effective and therefore should be recommended. This will mean in practice that MS patients start the drugs most suited to them as early as possible.

The accuracy of the computer tool will increase over time, as it ‘learns’ from data added on an ongoing basis.

Professor Ciccarelli, who is supported by the BRC, said:

‘The tool we develop will increase the personalisation of care for MS patients. Every patient is different, and by considering a person’s particular set of characteristics and features, we will be able to select the medications most likely to work for them, without wasting time trying medications which do not work and cause unnecessary side effects.’

Further reading

Read more about MS research supported by the NIHR University College London Hospitals Biomedical Research Centre.