Highlights from the 2007 American Academy of Neurology meeting.
Follow-up studies of approved therapies Researchers reported on a follow-up to the BENEFIT study, in which treatment with Betaseron (interferon beta-1b, Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals) delayed onset of clinically definite MS in people at high risk for the disease compared with people who did not receive treatment. In the follow-up study, both groups are now receiving Betaseron. The results after one year show that early treatment with Betaseron reduced the risk for disease progression by 40%. The study is continuing for two more years.
More than 5,700 people have received infusions of Tysabri (natalizumab, Biogen Idec and Elan Pharmaceuticals) in the U.S. through the mandatory TOUCH prescribing program. The overall rate of serious allergic reactions to infusions has been 0.8%--most of the people who experienced these had received Tysabri before its suspension from the market. They experienced anaphylactic reactions after being re-dosed after an extended period without treatment.
Data from the AFFIRM trial, which compared Tysabri against an inactive placebo, suggest that the drug's benefits continued beyond two years. Tysabri continued to decrease both relapse rates and progression of disability.
Experimental infusions Two groups reported on studies of Rituxan (rituxumab, Genentech and Biogen Idec) for MS. In Canada, researchers studying the safety of Rituxan in 26 people with relapsing MS reported a significant reduction in relapses and MRI-detected brain lesions.
Researchers in California studying the drug versus an inactive placebo reported that the number of active lesions in the 69 people with relapsing MS taking the drag were reduced by 91%. They also had significantly fewer relapses. A clinical trial in the U.S. and Canada involving 435 people with primary-progressive MS is ongoing.
Tools to measure disease activity
The eyes may be the "windows to the soul," but recent research also suggests they may be a window to monitoring MS as well. Several investigative teams, including the Society's Nervous System Repair team led by Dr. Peter Calabresi (Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore), reported on the use of a new technique called OCT (optical coherence tomography), which measures the thickness of the nerve layer at the back of the eye. It may prove to be a simple tool to detect disease progression.
Can sleep disorders contribute to fatigue? Investigators using "polysomnography," a technique that measures brain activity, airflow and other phenomena during sleep, found that all 27 of the people with MS they studied had sleep abnormalities that could contribute to fatigue. These included obstructive sleep apnea, delayed REM onset, and impaired sleep efficiency. The researchers concluded that people complaining of fatigue in MS should have sleep studies done to evaluate the possibility of unrecognized sleep disorders.
To read more highlights from the AAN meeting, go to nationalmssociety.org/Bulletins, or call your chapter and ask for a copy.
To download the abstracts of all presentations given at this year's meeting, visit: www.abstracts2view.com/aan2007boston.