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07:44 PM

Researchers Report Exciting Developments that May Improve MS Treatment

The recent MSBoston 2014 joint meeting of the ACTRIMS and ECTRIMS professional multiple sclerosis (MS) research organizations revealed many exciting developments that may improve MS treatment. Shepherd Center neurologist Guy Buckle, M.D., MPH, director of neuroimaging research in the Andrew C. Carlos MS Institute at Shepherd Center, attended the meeting and compiled this list of important news stories based on research presented there.

Generic Copaxone for Multiple Sclerosis Passes Clinical Test
A “biosimilar” version of the multiple sclerosis (MS) drug Copaxone, known generically as glatiramer acetate, performed similarly to the original product on MRI scans in a large head-to-head phase II clinical trial, possibly paving the way for it to win regulatory approval as a generic drug. This will likely be the first generic disease-modifying therapy to win FDA approval, unless the FDA requires an additional, large phase III clinical trial, which would take several years to complete.

Novel Investigational Drug for MS Appears Free of Cardiac Side Effects
An investigational oral drug for multiple sclerosis (MS) with the same mechanism as the approved product fingolimod (Gilenya) was highly effective in a phase II trial with seemingly fewer side effects than the earlier drug, researchers said. Specifically, drops in heart rate (bradycardia) were much less significant with the first dose than what is seen with the currently approved drug, which could lead to less required monitoring.

Novel Drug Beats Avonex for MS Efficacy, Safety Still a Worry
Daclizumab HYP cut relapse rates and disability progression in multiple sclerosis patients more effectively than interferon beta-1a (Avonex) in a phase III trial, but the liver toxicity and rashes seen in earlier studies with the interleukin-2 inhibitor remained an issue, researchers said.

Another Cell Therapy for MS Proves Safety
A closely watched phase I trial of autologous mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) for multiple sclerosis proved that the treatment was safe, with some hints that it might have helped some patients on the efficacy side, researchers said. MSCs represent a significant breakthrough in stem cell research for all disease applications because they are derived from the patient and not from discarded embryos or fetal tissue.

Biologic Drug Targeting GM-CSF May Be a Drug Target for MS
A biologic drug targeting the granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) was safe and showed hints of activity against brain lesions in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients in a phase I trial, researchers said. This drug will likely move into larger phase II trials soon.

Sativex Helps MS Spasticity in Objective Tests
An objectively measured sign of spasticity in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients was relieved with Sativex, the oromucosal cannabinoid spray, in a small, randomized trial reported recently.

Skull Size Tied to Disability Risk in MS
Multiple sclerosis patients with larger intracranial volumes – a measure of maximal lifetime brain growth (MLBG) – scored better on cognition and physical function tests than those with smaller skull sizes, researchers said.

Multiple Sclerosis Risk Tied to Some Oral Contraceptives
Women using combined oral contraceptives containing norethindrone or levonorgestrel were substantially more likely to develop multiple sclerosis (MS) than those not on birth control pills, analysis of a large claims database indicated.

Healthy Diets Don’t Seem to Reduce MS Risk
Dietary patterns in women did not appear to influence their risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a large study with two decades of follow-up.

Measuring Walking in MS Patients, Cheaply and Efficently
Pressure sensitive walkways and motion tracking devices provided reliable and quantitative measures of ambulation in multiple sclerosis patients, researchers said.

Myelin Measure in MS Tracks Patient Disability
Whole-brain measures of myelin water fraction (MWF) – reflecting the amount of myelin present in brain tissue – correlated significantly with disease duration and disability levels in multiple sclerosis, supporting a role for MWF in patient management and as an outcome in clinical trials, researchers said.

For more information on the Andrew C. Carlos MS Institute at Shepherd Center, click here.

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 935 inpatients, 541 day program patients and more than 7,300 outpatients each year.