This is the kind of news pharmaceutical companies love: the drug that already went through all the trials, was accepted by the FDA and has been successfully used for one disease, is found to be working for another disease. Good for them, but in the case of the cancer drug alemtuzumab, great news for the 2.5 million of people in the world who are suffering from the multiple sclerosis. Alemtuzumab was found to provide more effective treatment for the MS than all currently used drugs.
What is multiple sclerosis?
There are currently more than 400,000 people in the US who are suffering from the multiple sclerosis. This autoimmune disease affects different parts of the brain and spinal cord with a range of different symptoms, which depend on the part of the brain affected.
MS is caused by the inflammation of the protective covering of nerve cells. The damage causes nerve signals to slow or stop altogether. The inflammation is caused when our own immune cells attacks our nervous system. It is not clear why this happens, but it is most likely caused by a virus or some genetic defect.
There is no cure for multiple sclerosis. All doctors can do is slow the progress of the disease and alleviate the symptoms and help people with the MS to have as normal life as possible between the attacks. Unfortunately, there is gradually more and more loss of function with each attack and many people require a wheelchair to get around at some point.
The two trials, conducted by the scientists from the Cambridge University on 1421 pati8ents with MS, found that the cancer drug called alemtuzumab reduced MS attacks in patients who suffered a relapse by 49 percent. About 65 percents of patients remained relapse free, compared to 47 percents of patients on standard MS treatments. Another great news is that alemtuzumab reduced the risk of disability commonly caused by the MS by 42 percents.
Scientists caution that alemtuzumab, like all cancer drugs, can cause some serious side effects, such as the risk of autoimmune disease. But, the side effects can be identified and managed, if carefully monitored.
What makes the effects of alemtuzumab so promising is the fact that it is particularly successful in patients who failed to respond to other standard MS therapies.