Good news for people with relapsing-remitting MS: a small clinical trial has shown that a drug used to fight cancer may reduce disease activity and disability in people with aggressive forms of the disease. According to our article about the potential new MS treatment, when the nine study patients took the cancer fighting immunosuppressant drug cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan or Neosar) intravenously for four consecutive days, they experienced long stretches of symptom-free remission. At the 23-month follow-up exam, study participants experienced on average a 39.4 percent reduction in disability, 87 percent improvement on physical and mental function tests and a decrease in the average number of brain lesions from 6.5 to 1.2.
"High-dose cyclophosphamide (sold commercially as Cytoxan or Neosar) induced a functional improvement in most of the patients we studied," wrote lead author Chitra Krishnan of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. "In many of those patients, the functional improvement was sustained through the length of the study (up to 24 months) despite the absence of any immunomodulatory therapies beyond the initial high-dose cyclophosphamide treatment," she concluded.
Cyclophosphamide has been used in combatting a number of cancers, including lymphomas, multiple myeloma, leukemia, mycosis fungoides, neuroblastoma, ovarian carcinoma, retinoblastoma and breast cancer. The drug affects the function of immune cells known as T and B cells.
Multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory disease in which the protective coating covering nerve cells degenerates. Autoimmune dysfunction -- in which the body attacks itself -- is believed to be linked with MS.
"This immunoablative regimen (an immune-related therapy involving the destruction of a cell population) of cyclophosphamide for patients with aggressive MS is worthy of further study and may be an alternative to bone marrow transplantation," the study authors concluded.