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Cell-Targeted Therapy can Treat Multiple Sclerosis, Study Finds

Update Date: Apr 25, 2014 11:42 AM EDT

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease that affects the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain and the spinal cord. Even though MS can be highly manageable, patients can still suffer from mild to severe attacks that can last either days or up to months. There is currently no cure for the disease, but new studies are finding more treatment options that have the potential to control MS. In a new study, researchers found that targeted therapy aimed at white blood cells, also known as B cells, could be effective in treating MS.

For this study, the researchers recruited 231 patients diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS. This type of MS can range from being very active to quite mild at different times. The patients were randomly given several low doses of ofatumumab or a placebo pill. Ofatumumab is a drug created by GlaxoSmithKline that has not been approved for MS. The researchers headed by Darrin Austin examined the patients' brain lesions over the time span of 12 weeks.

During the first four weeks of the trial, all patients had brain lesion activity. However, patients in the experimental drug group experienced less disease activity from week four through to week 12. The researchers also found that when the drug helped maintain B cell levels below a certain amount, the number of new brain lesions fell. Patients receiving the drug had roughly one new brain lesion per year whereas the patients in the control group developed an average of 16 new lesions.

"These results need to be validated, of course, but the findings are interesting," said Austin, who is based in Uxbridge, UK reported in WebMD. "They provide new insight into the mechanism of B cells in MS, and present a possible new target threshold for exploring the potential benefit of anti-B cell therapy."

The drug did come with side effects that affected five percent of the patients. The side effects included dizziness, anxiety, fever, nerve pain and respiratory tract infection. The findings were presented at the American Academy of Neurology's meeting in Philadelphia, PA.

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