A number of important discoveries, therapeutic developments, and events related to multiple sclerosis (MS) were reported daily by Multiple Sclerosis News Today throughout 2016. Now that the year is over, it is time to briefly review the articles that appealed most to our readers. Here are the top 10 most-read articles of 2016, with a brief description of what made them interesting and relevant to MS patients, family members, and caregivers.
This article reported that many neurologists in the U.S. expect that Roche’s Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) will be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a treatment for patients with relapsing and progressive MS. Results from three Phase 3 clinical trials (ORATORIO, OPERA I and OPERA II) have shown that treatment with Ocrevus significantly reduced clinical disease progression and the number of relapses. Many neurologists said in a quarterly report that they intend to start prescribing Ocrevus as soon as it reaches the market.
Endece patented its product NDC-1308, an investigational therapy designed to induce remyelination in MS and thus prevent further neuronal damage and disease progression. Preclinical studies showed that NDC-1308 could successfully cross the blood-brain barrier, entering the central nervous system. The patent specifically covers the potential remyelinating effects of this drug in the brain and spinal cord.
This article reported the case of a 40-year-old female patient with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) who developed shingles while receiving treatment with Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate). This occurrence led doctors to wonder whether this MS drug could reactivate the varicella-zoster virus, responsible for chickenpox and the appearance of shingles in the skin. Previous clinical trials with Tecfidera had not reported an increased risk for shingles, but the risk increases with age, as the immune system weakens. More studies are warranted to understand the mechanism of action of this drug and a possible relationship with the development of shingles.
Geoff Flynn, a 42-year-old patient, shared the difficulties he experienced after being diagnosed with primary progressive MS, and how the results of a trial convinced him to undergo stem cell therapy. The treatment was carried out in Israel and included chemotherapy, and came with a price tag as high as $126,000. Flynn raised money via an online fundraiser, and his parents covered the rest of the expenses. He flew to Israel, where he started a stem cell treatment that would last one month. Flynn reported that while some symptoms improved, others remained the same; but, overall, the treatment seems to have stopped disease progression.
This article reported that a “clinically relevant” number of MS patients experienced rebound symptoms (return of the symptoms) after stopping treatment with Gilenya (fingolimod). Gilenya is a drug that targets specific immune cells present in the lymph nodes, blocking their accumulation in the central nervous system. However, when patients stop taking the drug, these immune cells start accumulating again within one or two months, leading to symptom relapses. The original study highlighted the need to understand what factors may increase the risk of severe symptoms after Gilenya treatment ends.
This article announced that Xemys, an investigational vaccine against MS, was soon to enter a Phase 3 clinical trial, based on the promising results obtained in previous studies. Preclinical studies with mice and results from a Phase 1 and a Phase 2a study showed that Xemys was a promising approach to slowing or preventing disease progression and relapses.
A drug used in the treatment of lymphoma and rheumatoid arthritis, called rituximab, was shown to be effective in treating RRMS patients as well. Carried out in Sweden, the study reported that rituximab was more effective than the approved treatment Gilenya (fingolimod) at reducing the risk of disease flares. Rituximab is an antibody that targets the CD20 protein found primarily on the surface of B-cells, a type of immune cell, thereby destroying these cells. Excessive B-cells can be found in several diseases, including lymphomas, leukemia, and autoimmune disorders such as MS.
This study argued that infection by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis could lead to MS, contrary to what has previously been proposed. These bacteria and the toxin they produce have been widely used in the last decades as a potent adjuvant for a vaccine designed to improve the immune system’s ability to fight Bordetella pertussis infection, but researchers found that the subclinical levels of the bacteria included in the vaccine might actually cause MS.
Results from the MS-SPI and MS-ON Phase 2b/3 trials showed that MD1003 (a molecule similar to vitamin B) improved symptoms in patients with “not active” progressive MS (MS-SPI), and in patients with either relapsing or progressive MS and visual loss (MS-ON). MD1003 acts by increasing energy production and activating enzymes that contribute to myelin repair, thereby protecting neurons from damage.
This article reported an improved version of a stem cell therapy that showed promising results in halting MS relapses for years, but with some severe side effects associated with the procedure. Results of a Phase 2 trial found that most patients achieved the study’s endpoint (survival at three years without any signs of disease activity), but others reported severe side effects, such as liver damage or blood infection, and one patient died due to harsh chemotherapy. More studies are necessary to improve the safety and tolerability of this method.
Multiple Sclerosis News Today hopes that these developments, and new reports coming your way throughout 2017, will ultimately contribute to educate, inform, and improve the lives of patients living with MS.
We wish all our readers a happy and inspiring 2017.
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