Leukemia drug to fight MS

There is new hope for patients who suffer from multiple sclerosis, as a drug initially developed to treat a form of leukemia may stop the progression of the debilitating neurological disease.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge have found that alemtuzumab not only halts the advancement of multiple sclerosis (MS), but it may also restore some function lost by patients.

MS is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the insulation that covers nerve fibres in the central nervous system.

This causes the nerves to malfunction and then die off, which results in a number of physical and intellectual disabilities.

In the study, the drug reduced the risk of developing disabilities by 71 per cent compared to the common drug treatment for MS, interferon beta-1a.

The study also found that many patients had fewer disabilities three years after the beginning of the study.
The researchers found that the drug shuts down the immune system and destroys a type of white blood cell that causes damage associated with the disease.

"The ability of an MS drug to promote brain repair is unprecedented," says Alasdair Coles, one of the study's authors and a lecturer at the University of Cambridge department of clinical neurosciences.

"We are witnessing a drug which, if given early enough, might effectively stop the advancement of the disease and also restore lost function by promoting repair of the damaged brain tissue."
While MS can occur at any age, it is most often diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40 and is three times more likely to occur in women than in men, according to the MS Society of Canada.

Between 55,000 and 75,000 Canadians suffer from MS.
There is no cure for the disease, though patients can expect to have a normal lifespan.

"Alemtuzumab is the most promising experimental drug for the treatment of multiple sclerosis," explains Alastair Compston, lead study author and professor of neurology at the University of Cambridge. "We are hopeful that the phase three trials will confirm that it can both stabilize and allow some recovery of what had previously been assumed to be irreversible disabilities."