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Cancer Drug Helps Hard-to-Treat MS

Treatment Slows Disease Progression, Improves Physical Function

Treatment Targets Inflammation continued...

In the newly reported study, Kerr and colleagues from the Johns Hopkins University examined the effectiveness of high-dose cyclophosphamide alone, without bone marrow transplant, in six men and three women with rapidly progressing MS.

The thinking was that cyclophosphamide would slow or halt disease progression by calming the inflammation that destroys myelin.

The patients were treated intravenously over four consecutive days, then given another medication to boost new immune cell production. They were followed for an average of 23 months after treatment.

No deaths or unexpected serious adverse events from the treatment were reported. At follow-up, brain imaging showed a reduction in the average number of MS-related brain lesions from 6.5 to 1.2.

New MS Treatments Needed

Most of the patients showed significant improvement in physical abilities following treatment, although four patients showed evidence of disease reactivation over the two years of follow-up.

The study appears in the August issue of the journal Archives of Neurology.

"These patients were still much better than they were at the beginning of the study when controlled on other medicines, but the MS was not completely kicked," Kerr says.

The Johns Hopkins researchers hope to conduct larger studies that include patients with less aggressive MS.

They also want to include other drugs in the regimen that might solve the problem of disease reactivation.

National MS Society Vice President of Biomedical Research Patricia O'Looney, MD, tells WebMD that treatment options for patients with the most aggressive forms of multiple sclerosis are badly needed.

"This could prove to be an effective treatment for patients who don't respond to current drugs," she says. "But because of the small number of patients, it is still too early to draw too many conclusions about cyclophosphamide's role in the treatment of MS."

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