The Future of MS Therapy

In today’s research pipeline, there are 266 agents in clinical trials to test their potential benefits and safety as treatments for MS. These including novel agents believed to act in new ways to interfere with the progression of the disease. 

Among the most promising is BG-12 (dimethyl fumarate), an oral drug that acts on the immune system (an immunomodulator). Now in Phase III trials, BG-12 has been shown to reduce the number of relapses in patients studied over two years. 

Other novel agents in later-stages of development include ocrelizumab, teriflunomide, alemtuzumab and daclizumab. Ocrelizumab is a genetically engineered antibody that destroys certain immune cells that play a role in the immune system’s attack on cells in the brain and spinal cord. Teriflunomide is an oral drug that reduces inflammation and acts on T-cells in the immune system. 

Alemtuzumab is an antibody that destroys T and B lymphocyte immune cells, both involved in damaging the brain and spinal cord in MS patients. This drug would be administered intravenously in a five-day treatment, once each year. Daclizumab, also an antibody, is believed to work by increasing immune cells called “natural killer cells,” which depresses the T cells that play a role in causing inflammation in MS patients. Both of these agents are moving through Phase II studies. 

On the horizon, there is hope for stem cell therapy for MS. One candidate for an MS stem cell therapy is RXR molecules. RXR molecules help adult stem cells transform into myelin-producing cells called oligodendrocytes. Researchers believe it is possible that these cells could mature and help repair damaged mylin. RXR molecules have not been tested in MS patients yet, but animal studies support this idea. RXR drugs are currently in clinical trials for other diseases, including certain types of cancer. 

References:
National Multiple Sclerosis Society, “Lifescript: Multiple Sclerosis Treatments that Show Promise” 
Cowen and Company, Therapeutic Categories Outlook 2011

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"Diabetes" or "Asthma", for example.