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New Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Promising in Early Trial
Date:11/1/2011

TUESDAY, Nov. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Multiple sclerosis patients may eventually benefit from a novel treatment that takes aim at the abnormal behavior of a specific type of immune cell, preliminary research suggests.

The errant behavior of the cells in question -- known as "B cells" -- is viewed as key to the development of this chronic and disabling nervous system disease, commonly called MS.

The new therapy's potential is only in the early stages of exploration, cautions an international study team comprised of researchers from the United States, Canada, Switzerland and the Netherlands, in the report published in the Nov. 1 online edition of The Lancet.

But initial indications suggest that the new antibody drug, called ocrelizumab, successfully targets these renegade cells with hopeful results: a significant reduction in disease-related inflammatory brain lesions.

"Our findings show that ocrelizumab rapidly suppresses inflammatory activity," noted the study authors, led by Dr. Ludwig Kappos from the University Hospital, Basel, Switzerland, in a journal news release.

Describing the targeting of B cells as an "innovative therapeutic approach," Kappos and his colleagues reported that in testing among 218 patients, the drug's impact on lesions was "rapid and pronounced." What's more, to date the treatment appears to be safe.

The study authors noted that MS is a progressively debilitating disease that attacks an individual's central nervous system, disrupting the normal brain, spinal cord and optic nerve function.

A classic characteristic of the disease is inflammation, which takes the form of brain lesions.

The immune system's T cells have long been implicated in disease progression, but the notion that B cells may also play a major role is relatively new.

With this new potential target in mind, researchers configured ocrelizumab to specifically focus on a protein (CD20) found
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