Multiple Sclerosis can leave its victims unable to move and in constant pain. It's an autoimmune disease that wrecks havoc on the central nervous system. Now, researchers in Dallas are excited about a new therapy for M.S., which borrows a drug that is normally used to fight cancer. For MS patients like Andra Litman, whose illness became so debilitating she was unable to turn over in bed. The cancer drug Rituximab, has not just gotten her out of bed but back on her feet again. At UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, doctors say Rituximab is the first treatment to target the b-cells in patients with M-S. They believe it could be the first effective treatment for those patients, when nothing else works.
"The response to the rituxan in those patients were really dramatic, in terms of not only stopping disease progression, but really helping the patient to recover some of the neurological function," says Olaf Stuve M.D., Ph.d, and neurologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
These white spots, Hallmarks of MS are lesions on a patient's brain before treatment. After treatment, in this case at least they are all gone. Instead of a daily or weekly injection, Rituximab requires two infusions every six months. Dr. Stuve says since Rituximab only targets one aspect of the immune system, it poses fewer side effects than standard treatments. This cancer drug is still experimental in the treatment of MS, and it is only being tested on people with a specific form of MS called primary progressive., which affects just 10 percent of patients. At least for those few, the news is encouraging.