Ocrelizumab – new drug for Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Ocrelizumab is a new experimental drug that has proven to be effective in a clinical trial that used 220 people with multiple sclerosis. MS is a debilitating autoimmune disease that occurs in a large amount of North Americans. It normally attacks young people and is more likely to be found in women than men.

This study was done by scientists at UCSF Medical Center and included hospitals located in the United States, Europe, and Canada. It was performed on patients with relapsing-remitting MS. This is a form that is known for the accumulation of brain and spinal chord lesions and attacks on the neurological system.

The patients were chosen by random and separated into four groups. Two of these groups got injected with the monoclonal antibody Ocrelizumab at two doses. One group received the standard drug called interferon-beta. The last group received a placebo.

The doctors observed the effectiveness of each treatment through monthly MRI brain scans and counting the marks that were visible that were indicators of inflamed lesions. They also marked the frequency and severity of each neurological attack that led to vision loss, weakness, numbness, or other symptoms.

The trial’s results proved that patients on the drug did well and showed less signs of the disease than those on the placebo or standard medication. In the end, Ocrelizumab reduced brain lesions by 89% and lessened the amount of new attacks over six months. Throughout this short study, interferon did no better than the placebo. Dr Stephan Hauser, leader of the study, claimed “it is a remarkable finding”. he said that the nest step would be to see if the effects would be maintained over time.

Ocrelizumab works differently than other MS drugs. Most of the drugs target a person’s immune system, but in different parts. Multiple Sclerosis involves a person’s immune system attacking the nerve fibers in the brain and spine. This can disrupt the usual flow of the brain’s communication and leads to symptoms like visual impairment, fatigue, weakness and coordination problems, and cognitive difficulties.

While most drugs target the T cells in the immune system, Ocrelizumab targets the CD20 molecule of the B cells, a different part of the immune system. The concluded trial validated the theory that targeting the B cells may end up greatly helping those with Multiple Sclerosis. All of the work was funded by Roche and may someday lead to a better treatment for MS.

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