Background and purpose: In the REFLEX trial (ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT00404352), patients with a first clinical demyelinating event (FCDE) displayed significantly delayed onset of multiple sclerosis (MS; McDonald criteria) when treated with subcutaneous interferon beta-1a (sc IFN β-1a) versus placebo. This post hoc analysis evaluated the effect of sc IFN β-1a on spatio-temporal evolution of disease activity, assessed by changes in T2 lesion distribution, in specific brain regions of such patients and its relationship with conversion to MS. Methods: Post hoc analysis of baseline and 24-month magnetic resonance imaging data from FCDE patients who received sc IFN β-1a 44 μg once or three times weekly, or placebo in the REFLEX trial. Patients were grouped according to McDonald MS status (converter/non-converter) or treatment (sc IFN β-1a/placebo). For each patient group, a baseline lesion probability map (LPM) and longitudinal new/enlarging and shrinking/disappearing LPMs were created. Lesion location/frequency of lesion occurrence were assessed in the white matter. Results: At Month 24, lesion frequency was significantly higher in the anterior thalamic radiation (ATR) and corticospinal tract (CST) of converters versus non-converters (p < 0.05). Additionally, the overall distribution of new/enlarging lesions across the brain at Month 24 was similar in placebo- and sc IFN β-1a-treated patients (ratio: 0.95). Patients treated with sc IFN β-1a versus placebo showed significantly lower new lesion frequency in specific brain regions (cluster corrected): ATR (p = 0.025), superior longitudinal fasciculus (p = 0.042), CST (p = 0.048), and inferior longitudinal fasciculus (p = 0.048). Conclusions: T2 lesion distribution in specific brain locations predict conversion to McDonald MS and show significantly reduced new lesion occurrence after treatment with sc IFN β-1a in an FCDE population.
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