A team led by researchers at the University of British Columbia in Canada recently published results in the European Journal of Neurology showing that treatment with beta-interferon has no effect on secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) disease onset. The study is entitled “Beta-interferon exposure and onset of secondary progressive multiple sclerosis.” The findings further underscore the fact that interferon-based therapies used for relapsing-remitting MS are largely ineffective for treating SPMS, indicating the critical need for viable progressive MS drugs.
MS is a chronic, progressive neurodegenerative disorder that results from an attack on the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and optical nerves) by the body’s own immune system, causing inflammation and damage to the myelin layer that covers and protects neurons, leading to irreversible neurological disability. MS affects approximately 2.5 million people worldwide.
Beta-interferons (IFNβ) are the most widely prescribed immunomodulatory drugs for the most frequent form of the disease, relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS). It is not completely understood how IFNβ acts in the context of MS, but it is thought to be through its role in the immune system and by preventing inflammation and demyelination. Patients can, however, progress from RRMS to secondary progressive MS, which is characterized by a steady progression of disability leading to vision, motor and cognitive impairment. Patients with progressive MS usually have a poor response to treatment and there is little or no recovery.
The goal of the study was to determine whether treatment with IFNβ could delay secondary progressive MS onset in patients with RRMS. The research team conducted a retrospective cohort study with data from the British Columbia (Canada) Multiple Sclerosis (BCMS) population-based study (1985–2008) and compared disease progression in RRMS patients under IFNβ treatment and patients who had not been given IFNβ.
Researchers found that 9.2% of the IFNβ-treated patients developed secondary progressive MS with a median disease onset of 3.7 years. After adjusting the results for parameters such as age, sex, disease duration, disability, comorbidities and socioeconomic status, researchers found that treatment with IFNβ was not associated with the risk of progression to secondary progressive MS when compared to the controls.
The research team concluded that IFNβ treatment in patients with RRMS does not delay the onset of secondary progressive MS. However, the authors advise that further studies should be performed to confirm these findings.
Innate Immunotherapeutics, a New Zealand-based drug development company, is now enrolling patients with Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (SPMS) in Australia for its experimental SPMS therapy.