April 13, 2006

Thalidomide may slow Lou Gehrig’s disease

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Treatment with thalidomide or
its analog lenalidomide prolongs life in mice with amyotrophic
lateral sclerosis (ALS), scientists report.

Lead investigator Dr. Mahmoud Kiaei told Reuters Health
that small clinical trials are already underway in the US and
in Germany "and we hope to set up a larger clinical trial in
New York to examine the efficacy of these drugs in ALS

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is an incurable
progressive degenerative neurologic disorder in which nerve
cells in the brain and spinal cord die, leading to muscle
wasting and total paralysis.

In the Journal of Neuroscience, Dr. Kiaei of Weill Cornell
Medical Center, New York and colleagues note that there is
increased activity of inflammatory mediators including
TNF-alpha in the spinal cords of patients with ALS and in ALS

The researchers found that early treatment of such mice
with thalidomide or lenalidomide, which attenuate TNF-alpha and
like proteins, significantly increased mean survival from 130
days to more than 150 days.

Use of either agent also attenuated weight loss, enhanced
motor performance and decreased motor neuron cell death.

The study of these immune-modulating drugs "showed for the
first time they were effective in ALS transgenic mice," Kiaei
said. "Due to a high percentage of survival extension, it does
provide a high level of merit for these drugs to be taken into
clinical trial."

SOURCE: Journal of Neuroscience, March 2006