Thursday 23 October 2008

you don't need this disease....

I've had a couple of people today ask me if I've seen this.

The results of a three year trial on a drug called alemtuzumab have been released. It's a synthetic antibody that was developed some 30 years ago as a treatment for leukemia. Why are people asking me about this? Because the trial was to assess the impact that it has on the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis.

The results were startling: not only were people markedly less likely to have a relapse...those on the trial were 74% less likely to relapse and had a 71% lower risk of being disabled within three years. Most amazingly of all, the drug appears to cause a reversal of symptoms.

"For the first time we've shown definitely that treating people early on with this aggressive immunosuppression is a good thing and we can say people's disability improves. That's never been seen before and goes counter to everything we thought....What is unprecedented and fascinating is that patients who take beta interferon have slowly shrinking brains as the disease attacks their brain tissue. We used MRI scans to show that patients who have alemtuzumab have enlarging brains as the lost tissue is restored. Somehow the drug is promoting brain repair" said Alasdair Coles, a member of the Cambridge team.

Now, I don't have MS. I have transverse myelitis. Specifically, I have a lesion on the left-hand side of my cervical spinal cord; in my neck. However, I do have something -- like MS -- that has damaged my central nervous system, specifically it has affected the myelin sheath that surrounds my spinal cord. This has upset the transmission of nerve signals down my body and given me weakness across my shoulders and widespread sensations of numbness and pins & needles. From the tops of my head to the soles of my feet.

This is announcement today is thus potentially really good news: if there is a drug that may repair the damage the lesion on my neck has caused to my nervous system and help reverse my symptoms, then this can only be a good thing. Never mind me.... this drug could bring about significant improvement in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom are far worse affected than I am. Let's not get carried away just yet, but it's undeniably looking promising.

I'm lucky: not only am I lucky that my symptoms, whilst widespread and bothersome, have not significantly impaired me (other people are not so lucky), but I am also lucky that I suffer from a condition that has been the subject of significant funding for medical research... funding that has led directly to this news. I'm very aware that other conditions do not attract the same kind of money that this does.

Always look on the bright side and all that.

Thanks to everyone who saw the news and thought of me, by the way. You're too kind, and I really appreciate it.

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