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Neurofilaments in progressive multiple sclerosis: a systematic review

Journal article
Authors T. Williams
Henrik Zetterberg
J. Chataway
Published in Journal of Neurology
ISSN 0340-5354
Publication year 2020
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry
Language en
Subject categories Neurosciences


Background Neurofilament proteins have been extensively studied in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, where they are promising biomarkers of disease activity and treatment response. Their role in progressive multiple sclerosis, where there is a particularly urgent need for improved biomarkers, is less clear. The objectives of this systematic review are to summarise the literature on neurofilament light and heavy in progressive multiple sclerosis, addressing key questions. Methods A systematic search of PubMed, Embase, Web of Science and Scopus identified 355 potential sources. 76 relevant sources were qualitatively reviewed using QUADAS-2 criteria, and 17 were identified as at low risk of bias. We summarise the findings from all relevant sources, and separately from the 17 high-quality studies. Results Differences in neurofilament light between relapsing-remitting and progressive multiple sclerosis appear to be explained by differences in covariates. Neurofilament light is consistently associated with current inflammatory activity and future brain atrophy in progressive multiple sclerosis, and is consistently shown to be a marker of treatment response with immunosuppressive disease-modifying therapies. Associations with current or future disability are inconsistent, and there is no evidence of NFL being a responsive marker of purportedly neuroprotective treatments. Evidence on neurofilament heavy is more limited and inconsistent. Conclusions Neurofilament light has shown consistent utility as a biomarker of neuroinflammation, future brain atrophy and immunosuppressive treatment response at a group level. Neither neurofilament light or heavy has shown a consistent treatment response to neuroprotective disease-modifying therapies, which will require further data from successful randomised controlled trials.

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