ATA188, also known as allogeneic Epstein-Barr virus-specific T-cell therapy, developed by Atara Biotherapeutics, is an immunomodulatory molecule that uses a technology in which T-cells are “taught” to recognize the specific antigens of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) that are involved in multiple sclerosis. In people with multiple sclerosis, ATA188 recognizes and eliminates cells infected by the Epstein-Barr virus in the brain and spinal cord that may trigger autoimmune response and multiple sclerosis disease development.

ATA188 research in multiple sclerosis

On April 20, 2017, Atara Biotherapeutics announced positive interim results from an ongoing Phase 1 clinical trial in people with primary and secondary progressive multiple sclerosis.

This Phase 1 study was designed to enroll 10 participants, five of them with primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS) and five with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS). The participants receive four escalating doses of ATA188 over six weeks and are followed for an additional 20 weeks after the last dose.

Primary objectives of the study are to assess the safety and tolerability of ATA188 in these participants. The secondary objectives are to document preliminary evidence of efficacy through the evaluation of participants’ changes in multiple sclerosis symptoms during and following treatment. The trial also aims to generate ATA188 from the blood of participants with progressive multiple sclerosis.

So far, six participants have been treated (four with SPMS, two with PPMS). A total of three participants (two with SPMS and one with PPMS) had improvements in the disease symptoms, three of them with clinical improvement as early as two to eight weeks after the start of the treatment. These improvements included a reduction in fatigue and an increase in quality of life, and better manual and daily living capacities.

None of the six participants experienced a worsening in disability.

Of the three participants with no observed improvements, two had a reactivity to Epstein-Barr virus at less than 1%, while the third had a 10% reactivity. But this could not be confirmed objectively.

No adverse events were observed other than one participant having a different taste in the mouth.

Researchers are looking forward to more developments with ATA188 so they can evaluate the therapeutic utility of targeting Epstein-Barr virus in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

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