Thursday, October 23, 2008

Leukemia drug may help treat MS

From The Boston Herald Oct. 23:

A drug designed to fight leukemia has shown great results combating multiple sclerosis, researchers at the University of Cambridge in England said Oct. 22.

A three-year study, paid for in part by Genzyme Corp. which has patent rights to the drug, has found that the monoclonal antibody alemtuzumab can slow the advance of multiple sclerosis in certain patients.

Researchers also found that the drug may restore some physical and intellectual functions that had been lost due to the disease.

The potential breakthrough is described in the Oct. 23 edition of The New England Journal of Medicine.

The report focuses on results of a Phase II clinical trial that compared alemtuzumab with an already approved therapy for treating multiple sclerosis patients whose condition remits and then relapses.

Researchers studied the impact of alemtuzumab on 334 people who had been diagnosed with early-stage, relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis but not yet treated, and found that the drug is an effective MS treatment because it shuts down the immune system.

Researchers also said alemtuzumab appears to be a more effective treatment for early-stage, relapsing-remitting MS than the currently approved drug interferon beta-1a.

“We are hopeful that the Phase 3 trials will confirm that it can both stabilize and allow some recovery of what had previously been assumed to be irreversible disabilities,” lead investigator Alastair Compston said.

The news comes as Cambridge-based Genzyme said third quarter profit fell 25 percent and the company lowered earnings expectations for next year. The stock fell $2.21, or 3.2 percent, to $66.11 yesterday.