An immunologist at Victoria University of Wellington is leading a clinical trial that will use existing drugs in a new way to try to treat secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS), a disease form that affects more than one-third of all multiple sclerosis patients but has no effective treatment options.
Anne La Flamme, a professor of Immunology and Cell Biology at Victoria, will lead the research team in examining the safety and efficacy of two antipsychotic drugs in SPMS patients, people in whom the disease has advanced following an initial relapsing-remitting course.
The placebo-controlled and randomized clinical trial (ACTRN12616000178448), currently recruiting participants, will be based at the Wellington Regional Hospital in New Zealand.
According to Professor La Flamme, repurposing medicines is an approach often used in MS drug development. “The majority of agents used to treat the most common form of MS — relapsing remitting MS — were originally used for something else, like viral infections and leukaemia,” she said in a news release. “We’re looking at two medications, clozapine and risperidone, which were designed to treat a variety of health disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and autism.”
The antipsychotics are both are both approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with risperidone one of the few such drugs indicated for use in children.
“Clozapine and risperidone have always been targeted to mental illness but our studies show they are able to tone down the immune system in the brain, which is what causes MS, and this anti-inflammatory action is promising,” Professor La Flamme said.
The trial will run for six months, and participants will be divided into three groups: a clozapine arm, a risperidone arm, and a control group. Its main goal is to investigate the “acceptability” of the drugs among participants (measured using the Treatment Satisfaction Questionnaire for Medication), and secondary outcomes are the drugs’ efficacy, as measured by the MS Functional Composite and the Expanded Disability Status Score.
Professor La Flamme is working alongside with Dr. David Abernethy, a neurologist from Capital & Coast District Health Board, and Associate Professor Bronwen Connor with the University of Auckland.
More information about the trial, including details on how to participate, can be obtained by contacting a trial nurse, Liz Goode, at email@example.com.