Two types of MS = Two different responses to Beta-Interferon

Medical News Today (article first reported on March 29th)

The article in question mentions a Stanford study – the discovery of two types of MS, which are based on the two different responses that patients have to beta-interferon.

The study was conducted on both animal (animal model of MS – called experimental autoimmune encephalitis -EAE) and human blood samples. The patient’s responsiveness to interferon beta (the first-line drug given to MS patients) was seen as depending on the version of MS that the patient has.

These findings need to be confirmed in larger human studies and by other laboratories, and when that is done this would mean that MS patients some day might be able to take a simple blood test to see whether they are likely to respond to treatment with the standard multiple-sclerosis therapy, said senior study author Lawrence Steinman, MD, the George A. Zimmerman Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He also added: “I think this has the potential to transform the way we take care of people with multiple sclerosis.” He said a simple, already available blood test could spare many patients the inconvenience and side effects – and spare the health-care system the expense – of a drug that most likely won’t do any good. “The other side of the coin is that beta-interferon, if it’s given only to those who are predisposed to respond to it, could turn out to be a far better drug than we ever imagined.”

Beta-interferon’s overall efficacy is only fair, he said, with perhaps half of all multiple-sclerosis patients experiencing an average one-third reduction in recurrences. Plus, its discomfiting side effects – flulike symptoms – can make compliance an issue for patients, especially given the drug’s iffy efficacy.

And just a final note: earlier work by Steinman, proceeding from animal models to clinical trials, led to the development of another blockbuster multiple-sclerosis drug, natalizumab, marketed under the trade name Tysabri (the treatment I’m currently on and so grateful for).

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