UT Southwestern Medical Center is the lead research site testing a new treatment for a rare form of multiple sclerosis. Called "primary progressive," this type of MS affects about 15 percent of patients with the neurodegenerative disease. "There really hasnt been a lot of research or treatment options for patients with this form of MS," said Dr. Kathleen Hawker, assistant professor of neurology, who is heading up the clinical investigation.
UT Southwestern researchers are testing Rituxan – a therapeutic monoclonal antibody approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1997 for treating some forms of cancer. "Its an exciting study and the patients are really enthusiastic about this," Dr. Hawker said.
The primary progressive form of MS is characterized by a slow, steady onset, usually beginning with walking difficulties and steadily worsening with motor dysfunctions and increased disability. People with primary progressive MS dont respond as well to traditional drug therapies as patients with other, more common forms of the disease, such as relapsing and remitting MS. Because of this, many people with primary progressive MS have higher incidences of debilitating physical side effects. Many need walkers or wheelchairs. "Rituxan works on a component of the immune system called B-cells," Dr. Hawker said. "The drug depletes B-cells and has been used to treat other autoimmune diseases such as lupus."
Katherine Morales | EurekAlert!
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