MS News That Caught My Eye Last Week: ATA188 in Progressive MS, Early Symptoms, Yoga, Rituximab

Ed Tobias weighs in on the week's top MS news, including an experimental treatment targeting the suspected link between Epstein-Barr virus and MS

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by Ed Tobias |

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EMBOLD Study of ATA188 in Progressive MS Is Given Go-ahead

Is this another small step toward an MS cure? AT188 is an experimental therapy designed to kill cells infected with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). As you probably know, researchers have found a lot of evidence that EBV is connected to MS. It’s thought that lowering the risk of an EBV infection might also lower the risk of developing MS. These researchers are also looking at whether ATA188 may promote remyelination. My fingers are crossed.

An independent committee of experts has recommended that the Phase 2 portion of the EMBOLD clinical trial continue as planned without a sample size adjustment, following an analysis of safety and effectiveness data.

The trial is testing Atara Biotherapeutics‘ experimental medication ATA188 in progressive forms of multiple sclerosis (MS).

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Fatigue Was One of the First ‘Tells’ of My Primary Progressive MS


Early MS Symptoms May Help Predict Diagnosis, Disease Course

I’m a little surprised at these results. The early symptoms these researchers associate with MS prediction were heart-related, such as changes in heart rate, unusually cold limbs, or changes in the color of mucus membranes, as well as pain and mental health problems. Most of these are not symptoms I’d associate with an MS diagnosis. Would you?

Some prodromal symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) — symptoms that are evident before the disease begins in earnest — could help to predict the course of MS, a new study proposes.

In particular, its researchers suggest that MS patients with prodromal depression are more likely to be diagnosed with primary progressive disease (PPMS), while those with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) are more likely to experience digestive issues prior to the disease’s onset.


Yoga Course Found to Ease Fatigue, Anxiety in MS Patients in Study

I’ve tried yoga, and I agree with what’s reported here — it helped my mind and body. But I have concerns about this study. It was very small, with only 15 people. No subjects participated solely in the yoga part of the course without participating in the group discussions, and no subjects participated only in the discussions. So I can’t determine if it was the yoga, the discussions, or a combination of both that led to the results reported here. Finally, the results were judged only on general questions answered by participants, such as whether the person would recommend this program to friends and family members. Sigh.

A six-week program combining yoga and group discussions about resilience led to significant reductions in fatigue and anxiety, and improvements in well-being, for people with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to results from a pilot study.

Researchers noted that the program, known as LoveYourBrain Yoga, “may improve a range of MS symptoms and offer a means for acquiring new skills for stress reduction, anxiety management, and overall wellbeing.”


Rituximab Outperforms Tecfidera at Preventing Relapses in Phase 3 Trial

Rituximab is a high-efficacy anti-CD20 infusion that slows MS progression by attacking B-cells. Tecfidera is a medium-efficacy pill that reduces inflammation, but researchers aren’t quite sure how. Rituximab has been used for years as a cancer therapy, and although it isn’t approved in the U.S. to treat multiple sclerosis, it’s been used off-label to do so.

These results don’t surprise me, since they compare treatments that we know have different efficacies. But the results help when making a treatment decision about which disease-modifying therapy to choose.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients treated with rituximab were more than five times less likely to experience a relapse compared with patients given Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate), according to data from a Phase 3 clinical trial.

Patients on the experimental therapy also were 32% more likely to have no evidence of disease activity during the trial, meaning that they experienced no relapses, no new or enlarging lesions, and no disability progression.

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


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