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MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS BREAKTHROUGH

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Research funded by The Freemasons’ Grand Charity has led to a new treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS)

In November last year it was announced that trials into a new drug, alemtuzumab, had been successful – a significant development for MS sufferers.

MS is one of the most common neurological conditions among young adults, affecting around 100,000 people in the UK. It is an autoimmune disease, in which the body’s immune system mistakes friend as foe.

Since 1991, researchers at Cambridge University have been working on this revolutionary drug. In 2010, The Grand Charity gave £100,000 towards this research. Results have shown that it is a much more effective treatment for early stage relapsing-remitting MS than the current approved drug. The results also show it may repair damaged brain tissue, enabling the recovery of neurological functions.

Research leader Alasdair Coles said: ‘Three important results emerge from these trials. First, just eight days of alemtuzumab significantly reduces the risk of having a relapse or becoming disabled over the next three to five years, compared with the standard active drug, interferon-beta. Secondly, many patients on alemtuzumab experience an improvement in disability, which is not seen after standard treatment. Finally, although alemtuzumab causes potentially serious side effects, these can be identified and treated provided a monitoring schedule is carefully followed.’

It is hoped the drug will be approved by the UK and US regulatory bodies in the next two years.

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