Research About Why Interferon Can Fail is Welcome

I have made no secret of my distrust of the side effects from many of the disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) that are used mainly in the fight against relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS). The fact that the most serious, albeit rare, side effects listed by the manufacturers of some drugs, include “death” is more than a little off-putting.

And, as if that is not bad enough, some drugs just don’t work with a large proportion of people with MS. Indeed, interferon-beta is said Interferonnot to work for as many as half those who are treated with it.

The good news, though, is that researchers at Duke University in North Carolina, working with mice, seem to have discovered the reason.

Their study, “Mapping the Biology of Drug-Resistant Multiple Sclerosis,” has revealed biological mechanisms that can lead to a form of MS that doesn’t respond to the drug. What’s more, they have identified a new drug that might help MS patients for whom interferon-beta treatment fails.

I am not going into scientific details in this column; those who wish to do so can follow the link above. But it is good to see some progress is being made in this area.

Duke University associate professor of immunology Mari Shinohara, PhD, was a senior author of the study. She said: “The study shows a really clear molecular mechanism that may explain why some people do not respond to interferon-beta treatment. We’ve found what makes a difference in the response.

“We found that, depending on which type of disease the mice had, we could choose the appropriate treatment,” she said.

Professor of medicine and molecular genetics and microbiology, at Duke, and a coauthor of the paper Simon Gregory, PhD, said: “We identified individuals who were not responsive to the interferon-beta treatment, and looked at their CXCR2 and LTBR relative gene expression levels.” They were found to be producing more of the receptors.

Researchers voiced concern about MS patients currently being failed by one of the several interferon-beta-branded drugs available.

Shinohara said: “Now these patients have to go through all the pain, inconvenience, and cost of interferon-beta treatment, only to be told that it doesn’t work for them. It’s a big problem, and it would be really nice if we could tell upfront which treatment works,” she said.

In the U.S., the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and National Institutes of Health support the study.

This article, written by me, first appeared on Multiple Sclerosis News Today.

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ian is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/didorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

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