Can trial drug laquinimod stop progressive MS?

September 26, 2016 Providence Health Team

People with progressive multiple sclerosis may benefit from an experimental drug found to have stopped the progression of the disease in mice. Currently, there is no treatment for progressive MS, a disease of the central nervous system.

“These results are promising because they provide hope for people with progressive MS,” said Scott Zamvil, M.D., an author of the study and a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology.

In a pair of studies involving 72 mice, researchers found that those who were given laquinimod were less likely to develop MS, or saw the disease slow its progression.

“This study has given us more insight into how laquinimod works,” said Zamvil. “But because this was an animal study, more research needs to be done before we know if it could have similar results in people.”

The history of laquinimod

Laquinimod is a drug developed by Active Biotech and Teva that has been in Phase III studies since 2007. The orally delivered drug is known as an immunomodulator and it has been tested as a treatment for MS and Huntington’s disease.

Trials have shown some promise and also some setbacks, including a decision last winter to discontinue giving higher doses of the drug to patients in two trials, because it apparently triggered some nonfatal “cardiovascular events” in some patients.

The latest research focused on the presence of harmful cell clusters in mice that had been given the drug, compared to mice that were given a placebo.

In a study that involved 50 mice, only 29 percent of the mice given laquinimod developed MS versus 58 percent of the mice given a placebo. In addition, there was a 96 percent reduction in the harmful cell clusters. In people, these clusters are found only in those with progressive MS.

Living with MS

MS is a disease that attacks the lining of the nerve fibers of the central nervous system, as well as the fibers themselves. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, it disrupts the flow of information within the brain and between the brain and the rest of the body.

There is no universal set of MS symptoms, and some people may have just one or two. But most the common symptoms of multiple sclerosis include:

  • Fatigue
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness and vertigo
  • Sexual impairment
  • Pain
  • Depression, irritability and mood swings
  • Muscle spasms
  • Difficulty walking
  • Vision problems
  • Bladder and bowel problems

MS is not regarded as curable, but it is often treated with medication, rehabilitation and other approaches that help sufferers live full lives.

To learn more

The study, “Treatment of spontaneous EAE by laquinimod reduces Tfh, B cell aggregates, and disease progression,” was published in the journal Neurology: Neuroimmunology and Neuroinflammation.

The American Academy of Neurology issued a press release that describes the study in plain language: ”Drug May Prevent, Reduce Progression of MS in Mice.”

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is a good resource for information about the disease, including its symptoms, treatment and how to live well with MS.

There are things you can do about your diet, exercise and stress levels that can help you manage MS symptoms. Talk to your health care provider about the approach that makes most sense for you.

Providence has many resources that can be helpful to people with MS. You can find a Providence provider here.

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