For Cathy Gregory, independence doesn't come easy. Reaching into the cabinet takes every ounce of energy she can muster. And without her wheelchair, she's immobile. She is fighting a debilitating form of multiple sclerosis known as secondary progressive MS, or SPMS.
"It's a slow, relentless process where they just get progressively worse, usually over years," Steven Cohen, M.D., Ph.D., a neurologist at Suncoast Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Fla., told Ivanhoe.
About 40 percent of MS patients have SPMS. Gregory has tried every drug available with no results. "The drug that I was on was called Rebif. It wasn't working for me and that was my last hope," Gregory says.
While there are effective drugs for traditional MS, there are no current treatments for SPMS. But a new injectable drug, MBP8298, could help. It's similar to an allergy shot. Patients who have MS lose the protective layer, myelin, which allows the central nervous system to send messages to the body. This twice-a-year injection introduces a protein that helps the immune system build tolerance to the disease.
Cohen says the drug won't offer patients a cure, but it could give them something almost as good.
"What we hope is that infusion of this small peptide, or small protein, will prevent or stop or at least, hopefully slow this progressive, downhill course that these patients have," Dr. Cohen says. "Take away that uncertainty, and people can live a semi-normal, almost normal life and plan for the future and know what to expect."
Gregory is hopeful. "To know that this drug could start to slow down the process, that gives me somewhat of an encouragement that, yes, I can take care of myself," Gregory says.
Trials of the drug are currently taking place across the United States and Canada. Dr. Cohen says it could be several years before the drug is widely available, but current tests have been very successful.
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