Drug shown to reduce new attacks/symptom progression in some patients
In separate clinical trials, a drug called ocrelizumab has been shown to reduce new attacks in patients with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (MS), and new symptom progression in primary progressive MS.
Three studies conducted by an international team of researchers, which included Amit Bar-Or and Douglas Arnold from the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital of McGill University, have discovered that ocrelizumab can significantly reduce new attacks in patients with relapsing MS, as well as slow the progression of symptoms caused by primary progressive MS.
In one study, 732 patients with primary progressive MS were randomized on a 2:1 ratio to receive either ocrelizumab, a humanized monoclonal antibody that depletes CD20+ B cells, or a placebo.
The proportion of patients with 12-week confirmed disability progression was 39.3 per cent with the placebo versus 32.9 per cent with ocrelizumab. After 24 weeks, the proportion with confirmed disability progression was 35.7 per cent with placebo versus 29.6 per cent with ocrelizumab. By week 120, timed 25-foot walk worsened by 55.1 per cent for placebo versus 38.9 per cent for ocrelizumab. Patients given ocrelizumab were also found to have fewer new brain lesions and less brain volume loss than those given the placebo.
Researchers also tested ocrelizumab in two separate studies of patients with relapsing remitting MS, one a group of 821 and the other 835. In both studies, patients were randomized on a 1:1 ratio to receive either ocrelizumab or an already established treatment for relapsing MS: subcutaneous interferon-beta, injected three times weekly. Compared to the placebo, relapse rates in patients given ocrelizumab were 46-per-cent lower in one study and 47-per-cent lower in the other. Ocrelizumab was found to reduce the risk of disability progression after 12 weeks and 24 weeks, and reduced the number of new brain lesions.
The study noted that infusion-related reactions occurred in 34.3 per cent of ocrelizumab-treated patients. Serious infections were not more frequent with ocrelizumab compared to the interferon (1.3 versus 2.9 per cent respectively). Malignancies occurred in four ocrelizumab-treated patients and in two interferon-treated patients. Further observation is required to determine the long-term safety of ocrelizumab.
“The results in patients with relapsing remitting MS not only demonstrate very high efficacy against relapses, but also underscore the important emerging role of B cells of the immune system in the development of relapses,” says Bar-Or. “While the results in patients with primary progressive MS are more modest, they nonetheless represent the very first successful trial in such patients, a breakthrough as primary progressive MS now transitions from a previously untreatable condition to one that can be impacted by therapy. It is an important step forward in the field.”
These studies, funded by Roche, were published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Dec. 21, 2016.
MS in Canada
Canada has one of the world’s highest rates of MS – about 1,100 new cases each year. Some 50,000 Canadians have MS, and more than one-in-five patients are in Quebec. MS is one of the most common neurological diseases among young Canadians. Children as young as two can develop the disease. It typically strikes people in their prime years, between 15 and 40. Women are twice as likely as men to contract MS.
Learn more: Breakthrough in MS treatment
Clinical trial suggests chemo and blood stem cell combination therapy should be considered for people with early, aggressive MS
A clinical trial published in The Lancet, a top medical journal, shows that an intensive procedure that completely wipes out the immune system and then regenerates a new one using blood stem cells can eliminate all signs of damaging brain inflammation in people with early, aggressive multiple sclerosis (MS), and facilitate lasting recovery.
Led by Dr. Harold Atkins and Dr. Mark S. Freedman of The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa, the trial included 24 participants who were followed for up to 13 years. The $6.47 million trial was funded by the MS Society of Canada and its affiliated Multiple Sclerosis Scientific Research Foundation. The research was also supported by The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, The Ottawa Hospital Department of Medicine and Canadian Blood Services.
“Our trial is the first to show the complete, long-term suppression of all inflammatory activity in people with MS,” said Dr. Atkins, a stem cell transplant physician and scientist at The Ottawa Hospital, and associate professor at the University of Ottawa. “This is very exciting. However, it is important to note that this therapy can have serious side effects and risks, and would only be appropriate for a small proportion of people with very active MS. People with MS who have had significant disability for a long time would likely not benefit.”
“This procedure should be considered as a treatment option for people with early, aggressive MS,” said Dr. Freedman, a neurologist and senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and professor at the University of Ottawa. “Although this trial was relatively small, it was intensive, with the longest prospective follow-up of any such treatment group to date, and that is what makes the results so convincing. However, this is a very complex procedure that should only be performed at very specialized centres with expertise in both the management of MS patients and blood stem cell transplantation.”