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Clinical Trial Finds New Immunotherapy Improves MS Symptoms

A world-first clinical trial of a new cellular immunotherapy for multiple sclerosis (MS) has found that it improved symptoms and quality of life for the majority of patients. The results of the clinical trial have been published in JCI Insight. The treatment targets the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). It is based on the theory of Professor Michael Pender, from The University of Queensland and the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH), that MS is caused by an accumulation of EBV-infected cells in the brain and that a therapy targeting EBV can potentially stop the progression of MS. The new cellular immunotherapy was developed by Professor Rajiv Khanna and his team at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. The phase I clinical trial was conducted in collaboration with Professor Michael Pender and his colleagues.

Pender said a total of 10 patients – five with secondary progressive MS and five with primary progressive MS – received four doses of the cellular immunotherapy treatment at the RBWH. “Seven of these patients showed improvements. Without this treatment, we would have expected their symptoms to continue to get worse,” Pender said. “Improvements ranged from reduced fatigue and improved productivity and quality of life to improvements in vision and mobility. Importantly, we found the treatment was safe and without serious side effects. Our findings add to the mounting evidence that EBV infection plays a role in the development of MS,” Pender added. Khanna said it was the first time in the world a T cell immunotherapy had been used to treat any autoimmune disease.

“We have already used these cellular immunotherapies to treat different types of cancer and viral infections. This clinical trial is a breakthrough because for the first time we have found these treatments are safe and have had positive improvements in an autoimmune disease,” Khanna said. “This trial opens the door to develop similar cellular immunotherapies for certain other autoimmune conditions. From this phase I trial, we have also discovered what cell properties produce the best results for the patients. We can now apply this knowledge to cellular immunotherapies for other diseases to try to ensure the best results for all patients,” Khanna added. Multiple Sclerosis can cause a range of symptoms including problems with coordination, balance, weakness, arm and leg functioning, cognitive problems and memory loss. – Business Standard

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