June 16, 2008

New Drug Regimen May Help Reverse MS

U.S. scientists say they've found a short-term, high dose of the immune-suppressing drug cyclophosphamide can slow the progression of multiple sclerosis.

Johns Hopkins researchers said their study involving nine people, most of whom had failed all other treatments, suggests new ways to treat the disease that tends to progress relentlessly.

We didn't expect such a dramatic return of function, said Dr. Douglas Kerr, an associate professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Although we're very early in the game, we think this approach could be the linchpin of a significant advance for MS treatment.

Cyclophosphamide kills immune-system cells but spares the bone marrow stem cells that make them, the scientists said. The usual method of delivering it in pulsed, small doses, however, can cause the drug to build up to toxic concentrations in patients' bodies.

Seeking an alternative way to use the drug, Kerr and his colleagues reasoned the so-called HiCy treatment might clear the majority of a patient's immune system in one fell swoop, then giving nerve cells an opportunity to repair themselves.

The details of the research are reported in the journal Archives of Neurology.