A motor neurone disease clinical drugs trial, MND-SMART, has opened to participants – and St George’s Hospital, Tooting is the first trial centre in London.

MND, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, is an incurable progressive condition that causes muscle to waste away. It occurs when nerve cells called motor neurons, which send messages from the brain and spinal cord to the body’s muscles, stop working properly.

More than 1500 people are diagnosed with MND in the UK each year. There is no cure and half of people die within two years of diagnosis.

MND-SMART launched in January 2020. The trial is recruiting people living with MND across the UK to take part in tests of potential treatments.

Unlike typical clinical trials which test a single treatment at a time, MND-SMART is testing multiple drugs and so aims to speed up the time it takes to find effective medicines that can slow the progression of motor neurone disease (MND).

Dr Pablo Garcia-Reitboeck, Consultant Neurologist and Principal Investigator for the study at St George’s, said: “This is St George’s first ever drug trial for patients with motor neurone disease. What excites me most about the trial is the innovative design and the fact that multiple drugs can be tested over time.

“It’s a much quicker way of helping us to find a treatment for the condition, compared to a traditional trial design which would test one drug at a time. My hope is that it brings us one step closer to finding a treatment for motor neurone disease.”

Eoin Egan, 39, from Wandsworth, is one of the first patients to be taking part in the trial at St George’s. Eoin was referred to St George’s neurology team in 2019 after experiencing persistent twitching in his arms and legs.

Eoin had also developed foot drop, which is a muscular weakness or paralysis that makes it difficult to lift the front part of your foot and toes. Following various tests, Dr Pablo Garcia-Reitboeck diagnosed Eoin with MND.

“I was immediately very keen to take part in the MND-SMART trial when I was invited. I understand that people need to do these trials in order to progress a solution to MND. And I’m very happy and proud to be a part of trying to do that.”

“The sheer quantity of trials and research that is happening right now is far more than has happened throughout history,” said Eoin. “Even though there is no guarantee, I do pick up on a lot of hope in the medical research community.

People with MND can register their interest to take part in the trial at www.mnd-smart.org