June 20, 2003
Thousands of Southern Nevada residents are living with multiple sclerosis, a neurological disorder. Two experimental drugs offer a revolutionary new way to treat MS--and they're being tested right here in Southern Nevada.
Las Vegas resident Debbie Acton has suffered symptoms of MS for more than two years. The auto-immune disease destroys healthy tissue called myelin, which wraps around nerves within the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms can include vision problems, muscle spasms, fatigue, even shooting electrical impulses.
Acton says, "I was having problems with numbness and tingling in my legs. It started in my feet and progressed up to my chest. I also had lost use of my right arm. I would start to write things and it would just stop, and then start up again."
Acton is taking part in a nationwide clinical trial for the drugs Campath and CTLA-4 Ig. They're in a class of mono-clonal antibodies that are custom made in a laboratory. Neurologist Steven Glyman has high hopes.
Dr. Glyman says, "It would change everything. These are revolutionary ways of treating this condition. Current treatments don't cure the disease. It's made a little bit better, and they're certainly better than when i was in medical school in the 1980's. But the condition continues despite the use of medications. So number one, they're an attempt to find a cure."
Multiple Sclerosis is difficult to diagnose. An MRI can be helpful. The disease often appears to be something else.
Dr. Glyman says, "I've seen in my own experience here in Las Vegas, about 5 to 10 percent of people have been told they have fibromyalgia. In our hands, it turn out to have ms. But it's only because somebody thinks to do an MRI on these people when it hasn't been done before. So at times it can be difficult to diagnose."
Before this study, Acton's doctors tried her on a drug called Copaxone.. But the side-effects were intolerable. Now, in the clinical test, her treatments include one infusion per month. She won't know whether she's getting the drug or the placebo until the study ends, in two years. Acton is philosophical about her condition.
She says, "I think after I finally got all the knowledge about what it was, and it wasn't life threatening - life altering maybe - but not life threatening, it was OK. You learn to change what you need to change and you go on with life."
The clinical trial is still accepting participants.
If you have multiple sclerosis and would like more information, call
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