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Pilot trial of an oral interferon.

A clinical trial of an oral form of interferon alpha for relapsing-remitting MS is underway at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. Interferon alpha is a "type I interferon", as is interferon beta, which is approved for use in MS as Betaseron or Avonex. Both alpha and beta interferons are produced by the body's white blood cells, and both have the effect of suppressing some of the immune response which may be responsible for attacks on myelin in MS. However, interferon alpha is a more acid-stable protein, so it is potentially effective when taken orally.

The study is being conducted by Dr. Staley Brod and his colleagues, with financial support from the National Institutes of Health. Earlier studies by Dr. Brod suggested that an oral form of interferon alpha had some positive results in animals with EAE (a laboratory-induced MS-like disease).

European studies on injected interferon alpha showed similar clinical benefits to injected interferon beta, but interferon alpha produced more side effects. Dr. Brod is testing oral interferon alpha at much lower doses than were used in those studies.

The 9-month trial involves only 30 people between the ages of 20 and 45 with early relapsing-remitting MS. The study will be looking at the effect of treatment on brain lesions detected by MRI. Any positive results will have to be confirmed by larger and longer clinical trials before it can be determined if this new oral drug is a safe and effective treatment for MS.
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Publication:Inside MS
Date:Sep 22, 1998
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