World first MS treatment unveiled
NEW Queensland research suggests that controlling
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection – the most common cause of glandular fever –
may be beneficial in treating multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic inflammatory
demyelinating disease of the brain and spinal cord affecting more than 23,000
The study led by Professor Michael Pender with
collaborators at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, The University
of Queensland School of Medicine, and the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital
describes the use of a new treatment that boosts CD8 T cell immunity to EBV
using a technique known as 'adoptive immunotherapy'.
While the treatment was conducted in a single person with
secondary progressive MS, the promising results suggest that it could
potentially be a useful treatment for progressive forms of MS and other
chronic autoimmune diseases. There are currently no disease-modifying
treatments available for progressive MS patients.
The researchers administered a six week treatment course
to a 42 year old man with secondary progressive MS. The treatment had no
adverse effects and within two weeks of commencing treatment the patient began
to experience clinical improvement. These improvements were sustained up to the
most recent follow-up 21 weeks later.
Results of the study were published in the international Multiple
The treatment involves collecting immune cells known as T
cells from the patient’s blood, growing them in the laboratory with an EBV
vaccine and then transferring the cells back to the patient by intravenous
infusion. The treatment was developed by Professor Rajiv Khanna of the QIMR
Berghofer Medical Research Institute to treat patients with EBV-related
malignancy and does not require the use of any drugs.
This is the first use of this treatment, known as
EBV-specific adoptive immunotherapy, to treat progressive MS.
Professor Pender said: “The beneficial effect of boosting
immunity to EBV by this treatment highlights the importance of impaired
immunity to EBV in the development of MS. We believe the treatment corrects the
impaired CD8 T cell immunity that allowed EBV infection to cause MS.”
The Brisbane patient, Mr Gary Allen, suffered what he now
knows was his first MS attack in 1994 which led to a clinical diagnosis of
relapsing-remitting MS in 2000 and later progressed into secondary progressive
MS. Since 2008 Gary has been unable to walk or transfer himself without
assistance, but has remained working full-time from home.
Following the treatment, Gary experienced a significant
reduction in fatigue and painful spasms, an improvement in thinking, memory,
attention and hand function, and increased productivity at work. There was also
reduced disease activity on his MRI brain scan. At the latest follow-up Gary
also had improvement in leg movement.
Gary said the treatment enabled him to perform everyday
tasks more easily such as actively assisting with showering, dressing and
shopping, and spending more time with his son.
“It’s impossible to overstate the significance of the
improvements I’ve enjoyed – whether you look at my work at Griffith University,
time with family or resurgent social life, it’s been an amazing change for the
better,” he said.
Professor Pender said that the symptom improvement was
backed up by other evidence such as the reduction in disease activity on brain
scans and reduction in antibodies in the cerebrospinal fluid.
Professor Pender receives funding from the Trish
Foundation and MS Research Australia. “Treatments for progressive MS are one of
the greatest needs,” commented Dr Matthew Miles, Chief Executive of MS Research
Australia. “We are delighted with the results of Professor Pender’s research
and congratulate him on this outcome.”
This breakthrough study has profound implications
globally for understanding the cause of MS and for the treatment of MS,
particularly in its progressive phase, for which currently there is no
effective disease-modifying therapy.
A clinical trial is now needed to determine safety and
therapeutic efficacy across the clinical spectrum of MS.
To view a news article on this exciting development
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