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A cure for MS?

by EdHannigan / September 6, 2008 12:21 PM PDT

A long time ago, as a gag a friend of mine somehow got us a free subscription to John Hopkins Magazine. They think I'm an alum. Anyway, tonight my wife found this article in the latest issue:


Before the treatment, Young's abysmal short-term memory had him trapped in a state of fuzziness similar, he says, to what students feel after pulling an all-nighter. His wife would make lists to help him remember even two or three items-and he would promptly forget where he put the lists. Five days after treatment, Young woke up in the middle of the night and "everything was crystal clear," he recalls. The fog had lifted. "It was the freshest nap I've ever had."

Within a week of treatment, he could stand in a bathtub without having to hang on to the walls. Three months after that, he was walking without a cane.

Researchers began testing low-dose, long-term cyclophosphamide treatments in the 1980s. But that approach came with serious side effects. "It took the edge off inflammation, but it also made patients much more susceptible to infection, and even tumors," explains Kerr.

He and Hopkins colleagues Richard Jones and Robert Brodsky had for years used high doses of cyclophosphamide, given over just a few days, on hundreds of patients with various autoimmune disorders such as aplastic anemia and lupus. In those patients, "HiCy" therapy reversed disease progression with minimal toxicity. Kerr thought HiCy might "reboot" an MS patient's immune system, allowing nerve cells to repair themselves. "The idea was to get rid of the inflammation entirely, in one fell swoop," Kerr says. "When the immune system comes back up, we hoped, it would begin to behave better."

They were right. Of the first nine patients they treated with a high dose of cyclophosphamide, seven had a reduction in disability after two years. The results were published in June in the Archives of Neurology. Twenty-nine patients, including Young, have now been enrolled in a second trial, with similar motor improvements and no adverse drug effects so far.

"In most therapies for MS, the goal is only to make the disease slow down a little bit. Here, people actually got better," says hematologist and oncologist Douglas Gladstone of Hematology Oncology Associates of Western Suffolk, in New York. Additional research by Gladstone, who served a fellowship at Hopkins in the late 1990s, has also shown the effectiveness of HiCy on 14 MS patients. "This potentially represents a new standard of care," he adds.

The next step for HiCy development will be a phase-3, blinded clinical trial at multiple centers, Kerr says. For those patients whose disease did not go completely quiet with HiCy therapy, his team is also working on combination drug therapies that could be used after HiCy to increase its effectiveness. "These results are quite encouraging, but we certainly need to go further," he says. "This is only the first generation of trials."
- Virginia Hughes, A&S '06 (MA)

Can't wait!
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That sounds very promising ...
by Bill Osler / September 6, 2008 12:45 PM PDT
In reply to: A cure for MS?

If memory serves (not always a given!) MS is probably not all one disease. Even if this treatment only works on some of the MS variants it would still be a significant improvement over some of the other treatments.

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Any progress is welcome....
by EdHannigan / September 6, 2008 1:16 PM PDT

There have been a couple of hopeful MS stories out lately, but this is the best one yet. I've had progressive MS for over ten years and believe me, it's no fun.

My case is not too severe so far, and on a plateau, but it would be so nice to feel normal again and be able to walk more than 100 feet without feeling like I'm going to drop dead. So I can wait a couple years or so if I have to.

This sounds like the miracle cure I've dreamed about. I've tried a bunch of treatments and none has done any good. Physical Therapy is the only thing that has helped. I do take ProVigil sometimes to fight the fatigue. That's pretty effective when there's a lot to be done.

Gonna follow this one closely. I know other people with MS far worse than mine. And of course there are lots of nastier diseases you can get.

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