A short-term, very-high dose regimen of the immune-suppressing drug cyclophosphamide seems to slow progression of multiple sclerosis (MS) in most of a small group of patients studied and may even restore neurological function lost to the disease, Johns Hopkins researchers report. The findings in nine people, most of whom had failed all other treatments, suggest new ways to treat a disease that tends to progress relentlessly.
"We didn't expect such a dramatic return of function," says Douglas Kerr, M.D., Ph.D, associate professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "Although we're very early in the game, we think this approach could be the linchpin of a significant advance for MS treatment."
Researchers have used the so called HiCy treatments with some success at Johns Hopkins for a variety of other immune system disorders, including aplastic anemia, lupus and myasthenia gravis.
Cyclophosphamide kills immune-system cells but spares the bone marrow stem cells that make them. The usual method of delivering it in pulsed, small doses, however, can cause the drug to build up to toxic concentrations in patients' bodies, causing a variety of side effects, including a greatly increased risk of infection.
Seeking an alternative way to use the drug, Kerr and his colleagues reasoned that HiCy might clear out the majority of a patient's immune system in one fell swoop, then allow it to "reboot," giving nerve cells a fresh start and an opportunity to repair themselves. In the current study, nine MS patients got a total single infusion of 200 milligrams per kilogram of cyclophosphamide intravenously over four days, a dose several times higher than that given in pulsed regimens but significantly lower than the total amount usually given patients over time.
Before treatment, Kerr says, the study participants were "the worst of the worst" among MS patients. Eight of the nine patients had failed conventio
|Contact: Christen Brownlee|
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions