Staying Ahead of MS

June 15, 2009 7:24:31 PM PDT
It's a debilitating disease that wreaks havoc on the central nervous system and can rob a person of the ability to walk. Up to 350,000 people in the United States have multiple sclerosis (MS), and 200 new cases are diagnosed each week. An experimental drug holds promise for people hoping to hold on to their mobility.A 38-year-old attorney, Allison Keller is in the race of her life.

"I would get all sorts of electrical symptoms just shooting up and down my legs and my back," Keller told Ivanhoe.

She blamed it on being a busy, working mom -- until she got the diagnosis: multiple sclerosis.

"I immediately had visions of being in a wheelchair," Keller said.

Other attacks followed -- numbness in her hands, blurry vision and vertigo. She started a drug regimen ? and started doing her homework.

"I read the New England Journal of Medicine, obviously highly respected, and read that it basically had a 70 percent better rate than the top medicine out there," Keller said.

Allison's talking about Campath, a chemotherapy drug tested in people with relapsing-remitting MS, the most common form, where patients have unexpected attacks. The study found it lowered the disability rate by 71 percent and the relapse rate by 74 percent compared to other treatments.

"Before we had these drugs fighting with each other, am I 2 percent better, am I even 10 percent better? But 70 percent better is a lot better," Daniel Kantor, M.D., Director of the University of Florida's Comprehensive Multiple Sclerosis Center in Jacksonville, Fla., told Ivanhoe.

Patients get infusions for five days straight. It pushes down the white blood cell count so they can't attack the nervous system.

"Now, anything new, you have to be a little hesitant about," Dr. Kantor said.

Risks include developing thyroid disease and bleeding in the brain. Keller wasn't eligible for the trial, so she's taking the drug off-label, meaning it's not FDA-approved for MS.

"It kind of struck us that if we want this, we're going to have to take some risks," she said.

Keller is excited about her progress.

"I'd say within 6 weeks, all of the MS symptoms, except for some of the hand [symptoms], are gone," she said.

She's a mom gambling on an experimental treatment to save her from future with MS.

Campath is currently in phase III trials for MS treatment. Dr. Kantor says if they're successful, the cancer drug could be approved for the disease within the next three to four years.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Daniel Kantor, M.D.
(904) 537-0248
mstar.mspn@gmail.com

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