From http://www.wftv.com/health/7045053/detail.html :
Patients with relapsing-remitting MS are typically treated with global immunosuppressive drugs. These target patients' T-cells. Global immune suppression means that you really target all components of the immune system -- all cells that are involved in an immune response. And that means, according to Olaf Stuve, M.D., Ph.D., a neurologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Tex., that you’re likely shutting off parts of the inflammatory cascade that may actually be beneficial to multiple sclerosis patients. Dr. Stuve says, "We know very little about the immune response of multiple sclerosis. But clearly there are many unknowns or adverse affects associated with global immune suppression."
RITUXIMAB: Dr. Stuve is studying the use of the cancer drug rituximab (Rituxan) in MS patients. Rituximab targets B-cells. Dr. Stuve says there may be certain patients whose B-cells, as opposed to T-cells, play a dominant role in their disease. In those cases, Rituximab may work where other global immunosuppressive drugs haven't. It also targets just one aspect of the immune system, which makes it, according to Dr. Stuve, a "more rational sort of treatment than global immune suppression." Dr. Stuve says side effects experienced from typical treatment and rituximab are fairly similar -- most commonly, flu-like symptoms. However, patients are often treated with chemotherapy, where side effects are much more severe than they appear to be with rituximab. Typical treatments also involve between once-daily and once-weekly injections. With the rituximab clinical trials, patients have one infusion and then around two weeks later, which is repeated every six months -- a big difference from daily or weekly injections. In patients who have been treated with rituximab and haven't responded to other treatments, Dr. Stuve says, "The response to the Rituxan was really dramatic, in terms of not only stopping disease progression but really helping the patients recover some of the neurological function that they had lost in previous month and years. So, the anecdotal evidence in these cases has really impressed me personally of the efficacy of this agent." Dr. Stuve believes rituximab is at least as affective as the most effective treatments currently used, and he speculates, emphasizing that this is his personal opinion based on his experience, that " It will be a very affective therapy and probably more effective than what we have available at this time."
UNDER STUDY: Dr. Stuve's study involves patients with primary progressive disease. Enrollment just finished, comprising 435 patients at 60 sites in the United States and Canada. Another study involving patients with relapsing-remitting disease is enrolling patients and is being by led by researchers at the University of California in San Francisco.
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Submitted 2/14/2006 9:56:10 PM