Publications & Posters

Implications of extreme serum neurofilament light chain levels for the management of patients with relapsing multiple sclerosis

Theapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders | April 20, 2021

Engel S, Protopapa M, Steffen F, Papanastasiou V, Nicolaou C, Protopapas M, Zipp F, Bittner S and Luessi F

Therapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders. 2021;14:17562864211001977




Serum neurofilament light chain (sNfL) is a promising biomarker to complement the decision-making process in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. However, although sNfL levels are able to detect disease activity and to predict future disability, the growing evidence has not yet been translated into practicable recommendations for an implementation into clinical routine.


The observation of a patient with extensive inflammatory activity in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) along with an extremely high sNfL level in the absence of any clinical symptoms prompted us to investigate common characteristics of our MS patients with the highest sNfL levels in a retrospective cohort study. The 97.5th percentile was chosen as a cut-off value because the mean sNfL level of the resulting extreme neurofilament light chain (NfL) cohort corresponded well to the sNfL level of the presented case. Patient characterization included clinical and MRI assessment with a focus on disease activity markers. sNfL levels were determined by single molecule array.


The 97.5th percentile of our MS cohort (958 sNfL measurements in 455 patients) corresponded to a threshold value of 46.1 pg/ml. The mean sNfL level of the extreme sNfL cohort (n = 24) was 95.6 pg/ml (standard deviation 68.4). Interestingly, only 15 patients suffered from a relapse at the time point of sample collection, whereas nine patients showed no signs of clinical disease activity. sNfL levels of patients with and without relapse did not differ [median 81.3 pg/ml (interquartile range [IQR] 48.0–128) versus 80.2 pg/ml (IQR 46.4–97.6), p = 0.815]. The proportion of patients with contrast-enhancing lesions was high and also did not differ between patients with and without relapse (92.9% versus 87.5%, p = 0.538); 78.9% of the patients not receiving a high-efficacious therapy had ongoing disease activity during a 2-year follow-up.


Extremely high sNfL levels are indicative of subclinical disease activity and might complement treatment decisions in ambiguous cases.

This study was performed using the Quanteix HD-1 Analyzer.