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Applying causal models to explore the mechanism of action of simvastatin in progressive multiple sclerosis

Eshaghi, A; Kievit, RA; Prados Carrasco, F; Sudre, C; Nicholas, J; Cardoso, MJ; Chan, D; ... Ciccarelli, O; + view all (2019) Applying causal models to explore the mechanism of action of simvastatin in progressive multiple sclerosis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of The United States of America (PNAS) , 116 (22) 10.1073/pnas.1818978116. Green open access

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Abstract

Understanding the mode of action of drugs is a challenge with conventional methods in clinical trials. Here, we aimed to explore whether simvastatin effects on brain atrophy and disability in secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS) are mediated by reducing cholesterol or are independent of cholesterol. We applied structural equation models to the MS-STAT trial in which 140 patients with SPMS were randomized to receive placebo or simvastatin. At baseline, after 1 and 2 years, patients underwent brain magnetic resonance imaging; their cognitive and physical disability were assessed on the block design test and Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS), and serum total cholesterol levels were measured. We calculated the percentage brain volume change (brain atrophy). We compared two models to select the most likely one: a cholesterol-dependent model with a cholesterol-independent model. The cholesterol-independent model was the most likely option. When we deconstructed the total treatment effect into indirect effects, which were mediated by brain atrophy, and direct effects, simvastatin had a direct effect (independent of serum cholesterol) on both the EDSS, which explained 69% of the overall treatment effect on EDSS, and brain atrophy, which, in turn, was responsible for 31% of the total treatment effect on EDSS [β = −0.037; 95% credible interval (CI) = −0.075, −0.010]. This suggests that simvastatin’s beneficial effects in MS are independent of its effect on lowering peripheral cholesterol levels, implicating a role for upstream intermediate metabolites of the cholesterol synthesis pathway. Importantly, it demonstrates that computational models can elucidate the causal architecture underlying treatment effects in clinical trials of progressive MS.

Type: Article
Title: Applying causal models to explore the mechanism of action of simvastatin in progressive multiple sclerosis
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1818978116
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1818978116
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2019 National Academy of Sciences. Online ISSN 1091-6490. This open access article is distributed under Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 (CC BY).
Keywords: causal modeling, multiple sclerosis, clinical trial, structural equation modeling, progressive MS
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Institute of Ophthalmology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Brain Repair and Rehabilitation
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Neuroinflammation
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Cardiovascular Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Cardiovascular Science > Population Science and Experimental Medicine
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Cardiovascular Science > MRC Unit for Lifelong Hlth and Ageing
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Computer Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Med Phys and Biomedical Eng
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10072647
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