woman and child on a swing

Overcoming multiple sclerosis

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation seeks a cure and improved quality of life for those who are affected by multiple sclerosis (MS).

Over five decades, we have awarded over $18 million in grants to researchers and healthcare practitioners in hopes of discovering its cause, exploring ways in which it might be prevented, developing effective treatments, improving the quality of life for those who suffer its debilitating effects, and finding a cure.

Marilyn Hilton MS Achievement Center at UCLA

A partnership between the UCLA Department of Neurology and Southern California Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Marilyn Hilton MS Achievement Center was developed with funds from the Hilton Foundation. Opened in 2001, the Center provides comprehensive wellness services for people with MS. In addition to these services, the Center strives to develop innovative programs for replication across the country.

The Center is named in honor of Marilyn Hilton, the late wife of Barron Hilton. Mrs. Hilton died at age 76 from complications associated with MS.

People living with MS have varying degrees of independence and ability. Accordingly, services offered by the MS Achievement Center cater to a wide range of physical, social, and emotional wellness needs. The Center also offers recreation and health education.

Results

A 2009 case study developed as part of the Multiple Sclerosis Adult Day Program Evaluation for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society attributed the following benefits to the MS Achievement Center:

  • Social support and improved quality of life
  • Empowerment
  • Better maintenance of functioning
  • Staff with extensive MS expertise
  • Early detection of medical problems
  • Improved access to medical treatment and coordination of care
  • Respite and support for family members

Expansion Efforts

The Mercy Foundation to establish and run a MS Achievement Center in the Sacramento area modeled on the Marilyn Hilton MS Achievement Center at UCLA.

The Kansas University Endowment Association to expand and run a MS Achievement Center at the University of Kansas Medical Center modeled on the Marilyn Hilton MS Achievement Center at UCLA.

Resources

Marilyn Hilton Award for Innovation in MS Research

In 2014, we launched the Marilyn Hilton Award for Innovation in MS Research with the goal of stimulating innovative and potentially paradigm-shifting research in the field of progressive MS. For the initial funding round, the Foundation committed roughly $4.5 million in grant funding to be distributed over a four‐year period. The Foundation plans to fund another round of research proposals, hopefully in 2016.We received more than 75 outstanding proposals from some of the world's top research institutions and chose our finalists with the help of a respected Scientific Advisory Panel of leading researchers in the field.

The six recipients of the 2014 Marilyn Hilton Award for Innovation in MS Research and their research projects were:

Dr. Peter Calabresi, Johns Hopkins University
To develop blood and cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers of demyelination and remyelination that would facilitate identification of these processes in people with MS, as well as provide a better understanding of the pathogenesis of progressive MS, and that could be used as surrogate measures in screening for efficacy of therapeutic interventions.

Dr. Anne Cross, Washington University in St. Louis
To derive quantitative central nervous system measures of R2* relaxation rates, including R2* of regional cortical gray matter, in order to identify imaging characteristics that distinguish progressive MS from non-progressive MS using gradient echo plural contrast imaging (GEPCI) imaging technique. The second main objective is to test the ability of GEPCI to concurrently measure and predict imaging changes due to non-relapse-related progression, information which is needed to power future clinical trials in progressive MS.

Dr. Eitan Akirav, Winthrop University Hospital
To develop a minimally invasive DNA-based biomarker assay for the detection of cell loss in autoimmune diseases by examining the use of circulating methylated DNA as a biomarker of cell loss in Primary and Secondary Progressive MS.

Dr. Fred Gage, Salk Institute for Biological Studies
To identify phenotypical, genetic or molecular markers present on neural cells from Relapsing, Remitting and Primary Progressive MS patients that would result in markers predictive of clinical course, novel treatment targets and a model using human cells for high throughput drug screening to discover new therapies.

Dr. Katerina Akassoglou, Gladstone Institutes
To explore the potential of the coagulation cascade as a unique niche for biomarkers, imaging tools, and therapeutic targets in progressive MS. This collaboration between the Gladstone Institutes and the University of California, San Francisco includes both biomarker discovery in the EPIC cohort of MS patients and pre-clinical studies in mice to evaluate FDA-approved therapeutics in progressive MS.

Dr. Bill Rooney, Oregon Health & Science University
To map human brain metabolic activity in MS using novel magnetic resonance techniques and determine if metabolic deficits predict brain tissue loss. The ability to map metabolic activity at high spatial resolution will allow improved determination of disease progression and assessment of new therapies.

Thank you to all of the participants in this year's award process who submitted great proposals. Ultimately, we're hopeful this research will lead to innovative developments in the field that will improve the lives of people living with MS.

Investments in research

The Hilton Foundation supports research into the cause, prevention, and treatment of multiple sclerosis.  Research grants have gone to:

The UCLA Office of Contracts & Grants to establish a disability specific pipeline to develop generic, inexpensive neuroprotective drugs to halt progression of specific disabilities related to MS.

The Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute for research into the role of serum Vitamin A in halting disease progression in Relapsing-Remitting MS and its role as a factor in promoting remyelination.

The University of California, San Francisco for a digital portal that manages, accesses, and displays multi-dimensional patient information in a tablet application that quantifies clinical outcomes and predicts disease trajectories for MS patients.

The Mayo Clinic to develop the first drug designed to treat the brain and spinal cord of patients with MS. This drug is currently awaiting FDA approval for clinical trial. If successful, this exploration could lead to advances in treating many types of neurologic disease, including MS.

The UCLA MS Program to fund the clinical and pre-clinical studies in support of obtaining FDA approval to use an oral estriol treatment for relapsing remitting MS.

The Myelin Repair Foundation to advance research in the field by creating systems with which to test myelin repair in human brain cells.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society to conduct research into three strategic areas -- finding treatments for progressive MS, research into the effectiveness of assistive walking aids, and research into possible causes of MS.