A drug called ocrelizumab has been shown to not only reduce new symptom progression in primary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) but also reduce new attacks in patients with relapsing remitting MS.
The findings were discovered through three separate studies conducted by an international team of researchers, including Amit Bar-Or and Douglas Arnold from the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital of McGill University.
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.
With the placebo, the proportion of patients with 12-week confirmed disability progression was 39.3 percent while it was 32.9 percent with ocrelizumab.
After 24 weeks, the confirmed disability progression proportion was 35.7 percent with placebo versus 29.6 percent with ocrelizumab. By week 120, timed 25-foot walk was seen to worsen by 55.1 percent for placebo versus 38.9 percent for ocrelizumab.
It was also found that patients given ocrelizumab were found to have fewer or less brain lesions and less brain volume loss compared to those given the placebo.
“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.”
Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world- about 1,100 new cases are found each year. Around 50,000 Canadians have MS with more than one-in-five of them found in Quebec.
Among young Canadians MS is one of the most common neurological diseases. Children as young as two are diagnosed with the disease. MS typically attacks people in their prime years, between the ages of 15 and 40. Women are twice as vulnerable as men in getting the disease.