October 2, 2000
By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) via NewsEdge Corporation -
Two trials testing a promising treatment for multiple sclerosis were halted after some patients showed a worsening of symptoms and others had allergic-type reactions.
While the decision to end the trials was a setback for the specific therapy, researchers said they did learn more about the disease that will help them better target future efforts.
Results of the trials, one organized by the National Institutes of Health and the other by Stanford University, were reported in the October issue of the journal Nature Medicine.
Multiple sclerosis is thought to be caused by an autoimmune reaction in which the body attacks its own myelin, the protective coating on the nerves in the central nervous system.
Both studies focused on relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis, a form of the disease marked by periodic increased in brain inflammation, followed by periods of recovery.
The studies sought to alter the body's immune reaction by using a changed version of the protein in myelin, called an altered peptide ligand.
Introducing the new version was designed to cause the body to react to normal myelin in a protective way, instead of attacking it.
Dr. Roland Martin of NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke said that while the results of these tests were disappointing, the myelin protein remains a promising target in the study of multiple sclerosis.
Eight patients received the altered protein in the NIH tests. The trial was stopped after three patients showed a worsening of their disease and others experienced hypersensitivity, fever and cluster-type headaches.
The Stanford trial involved 144 patients at 14 clinics in the United States and Europe. It was halted after 53 had completed therapy.
The researchers said that in this trial, brain inflammation was reduced in some patients, but 9 percent developed hypersensitivity to the drug, with symptoms such as itching, nausea and abdominal pain.
On the Net:
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: http://ninds.nih.gov