Drug offers unprecedented hope of symptom reversal for MS patients - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Drug offers unprecedented hope of symptom reversal for MS patients

A drug developed to treat leukaemia has ended up making significant strides in the battle against multiple sclerosis.

Doctors say it appears to reduce attacks and restore brain function in patients with early stage MS.

But the drug is still in the testing stage. Tony Johnston was a professional golfer in Britain. Four years ago, his career looked to be over when he was diagnosed with MS.

"I got to the point I couldn't walk 500 yards," he said.

He was then prescribed a new medication called alemtuzamab, originally designed to treat leukaemia.

"I'm back in the gym, I'm competing on the seniors tour and I had my first win this year," he said.

In patients with MS, the body's own immune system attacks the protective coating around the nerves. This new drug shuts down the immune system and researchers say that reduces the damage to brain tissue.

"There's roughly a 70 per cent reduction in the risk of becoming more disabled and a 70 per cent reduction in the relapses, compared to conventional therapy," Dr Sue Hodgkinson, neurologist from Sydney's Liverpool Hospital, said.

A study of 300 patients including Australians found some negative effects from the drug, but overall the results were positive. In patients with early MS, the drug dramatically reduced the likelihood of relapse.

"Within a few months of the treatment the disease has settled down and very few of the patients have had any more attacks, and very few of them have built up any more disability in fact many of them have started to get better," lead researcher Dr Alastair Compston said.

Researchers will now conduct a larger trial to work out the most effective dose.

Cathryn Khalil / ckhalil@kltv.com

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