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Leukaemia Drug Alemtuzumab Treats Multiple Sclerosis

  • Published: 2009-01-03 (Revised/Updated 2009-03-13) : Author: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: Scientists have discovered alemtuzumab a drug used to treat leukaemia is effective in combating multiple sclerosis and is more effective than interferon beta-1a.

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Scientists have discovered alemtuzumab, a drug used to treat leukaemia, is effective in combating multiple sclerosis and is more effective than interferon beta-1a.

Medical scientists have discovered that a drug used to treat leukaemia is effective in combating the debilitating neurological disease multiple sclerosis.

A study, led by Cambridge University, has found alemtuzumab, a humanized monoclonal antibody that targets CD52 on lymphocytes and monocytes designed to treat a form of leukaemia, not only stops MS from advancing in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) but may also restore lost function.

About 1 million people worldwide have multiple sclerosis, in which the body's defense mechanisms mistakenly attack the protective coating around nerves. This causes injury to the nerves, which can eventually damage coordination, strength and vision, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Symptoms of MS include loss of physical skills, sensation, vision, bladder control and intellectual abilities.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine led by Cambridge researchers found a drug called alemtuzumab can stop MS advancing in patients in the early stages of the condition.

Dr Alasdair Coles, lecturer at the university's Department of Clinical Neurosciences, said: "The ability of an MS drug to promote brain repair is unprecedented. We are witnessing a drug which, if given early enough, might effectively stop the advancement of the disease and also restore lost function by promoting repair of the damaged brain tissue."

The three-year trial of alemtuzumab on MS patients showed it can restore lost function, reversing some of the effects of the condition.

Researchers found patients treated with alemtuzumab were 74 per cent less likely to experience relapses than those taking the leading treatment interferon beta-1a. In patients with early, relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, alemtuzumab was more effective than interferon beta-1a.

The risk of disability was reduced by 71 per cent among those given the new drug, suggesting alemtuzumab may allow damaged brain tissue to repair itself and restore lost nerve function.

Lee Dunster, head of research at the MS Society, said: "This is the first drug that has shown the potential to halt and even reverse the debilitating effects of MS and this news will rightly bring hope to people living with the condition day in, day out."

During the three-year trial, 20 per cent of people treated with alemtuzumab developed an over or under-active thyroid gland, while 3 per cent developed a low platelet count, a complication that led to one fatality. Researchers said these complications can be easily treated if caught early.

Another drug called Naltrexone shows anecdotal evidence that it works, and; it works well - BUT, sufferers can't get it.

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