All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for August 2003

Chemotherapy Drug Used To Treat Multiple Sclerosis

Novantrone Helps Keep MS Under Control

10:34 a.m. CDT August 5, 2003

Treatments for multiple sclerosis have greatly improved over the last 10 years. Now, a chemotherapy drug is helping patients with MS.

Gyselle Fernandez, 29, is a manager at the Port of Miami and has multiple sclerosis.

"I was diagnosed in 1996 and I got diagnosed because I felt numbness in my hands and had like a muscle spasm," Fernandez said.

"What happens in MS is the immune system turns against the central nervous system. It turns against the covering on the nerve fibers in the central nervous system," neurologist Dr. Jeffrey Horstmyer said.

Medications that modulate the immune system are effective in keeping MS under control but not always.

"I used to have exacerbation, which are MS attacks once a year even though I was on this medication," Fernandez said. "I would have loss of balance, numbness in my hands, numbness in my feet."

Horstmyer, of the MSM Center of Miami at Mercy Hospital, uses a new approach for treating resistant cases -- combining MS medications with the chemotherapy drug novantrone, normally used for prostate cancer.

"So now the immune system is weakened and no longer able to attack the covering of the nerves. The dose of the chemotherapy is smaller than would be used in a cancer patient, so normally the person doesn't lose their hair and doesn't become sick in the same way that a cancer patient becomes sick," Horstmyer said.

For Fernandez, it has worked wonders.

"The combination therapy has gone great," Fernandez said. "I have been spinning. I have been doing aerobics. My walking is better. My loss of balance is better. No attacks for the past two years, thank God."

There is a limit on how long you can use novantrone because it can have toxic effects on the heart, but other chemo drugs can be used in its place.

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