Novel New Therapy for MS Shows Promise in Early Phase Trials
Multiple sclerosis (MS), the chronic inflammatory autoimmune condition that affects the nervous system, has always proved difficult to treat. Medications for it tend to either focus on the symptoms of MS or suppress the patient’s whole immune system, leading to harsh side effects and a weakened immune response. But a recent study has shown that there could be another way, thanks to the new research area of antigen-specific immunotherapy.
The drug in question has the *ahem* catchy name of ATX-MS-1467 and it has been developed by Apitope, in association with Merck Serono. Apitope are a company that focuses on the underlying cause of autoimmune diseases and disorders and this latest medication is not a departure from that theme. Focusing on the most common form of MS, Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS), this trial was run to measure efficacy and to hone the treatment before phase II studies, which will be run by Merck Serono.
These positive results have been seen in the second Phase-I trial, run in 47 patients. The data collected from the patient’s MRI scans show a significant decrease in the contrast-enhancing brain lesions associated with relapses of MS. This effect was only seen when the study drug was administered via an intradermal injection, and not when injected into the subcutaneous region of the dermis.
ATX-MS-1467 is created from four synthetic peptides that mimic the peptides found in human Myelin Basic Protein (MBP). MBP is a key autoimmune agent and is its shortfall that leads to relapses in RRMS. The drug is novel in the area of MS research as it is specific to its treatment area and does not affect the usual immune response to harmful antigens which other MS medications can do, leading to a sufferer becoming very ill with quite minor conditions, such as a cold.
Diagnosis of MS typically occurs between the ages of 20-40 years old. According to WHO, the condition affects 2.5 million people worldwide, and it is 1.8 times more likely to affect women than it is men. Characteristic symptoms are blurred vision, numbness and a loss of strength and coordination. It is caused by damage to the myelin-sheath surrounding the nerves and this damage is brought about by the sufferers own immune system. By far the most common diagnosis amongst sufferers is for RRMS, which affects 85%. Of these, two thirds will go on to develop Secondary Progressive MS (SPMS), a progressive neurological branch of MS that leads to the development of acute attacks with no periods of remission.
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Image provided courtesy of The Advice Clinic, http://adviceclinic.org