Chemotherapy Breakthrough for MS

There is new hope for patients suffering from multiple sclerosis. Researchers have now shown that using high doses of chemotherapy--typically a cancer treatment--can have marked benefit for those suffering from this neurologic disease. In fact, immune system diseases with no answer, like Lupus, and Crohn’s disease, and multiple sclerosis, might have met their match in a medicine already being used to treat cancer. The drug cyclophosphamide, or cytoxan, has now been shown to stop M.S. from progressing, and it can even reverse the effects. Take Melissa Kaplan , for example. It’s a simple maneuver for most of us: opening up a trash can with one’s foot. But three years ago, it wasn’t simple for Melissa, who was going downhill with multiple sclerosis. “I saw an orthopedic doctor, he made me these braces for my legs that will hold my feet up so I don’t trip over my own feet,” says Melissa. M.s. is a disease of the nervous system. It’s caused by white blood cells--the t-cells--erroneously attacking the nerves. It was only time before Melissa would be destined for a wheelchair. Desperate to find an answer, she went to dr. Douglas Gladstone at SUNY Stonybrook University Medical center. The treatment: an aggressive approach, using very high doses of this chemotherapy….cyclophosphamide, .which wipes out all the white blood cells…healthy ones, and the ones causing the problem and are abnormally attacking the nerves.

“It is like rebooting a computer, and you come back with the t-cells you were born with, and since no one is born with these multiple sclerosis we are hoping that we can eradicate the disease with the single infusion of chemotherapy,” says Dr. Gladstone. Dr. Gladstone’s study shows after up to two years of treatment, no patient had a new lesion or spot of disease on brain MRI.

“All of the patients after receiving chemo- therapy did not have disease progression. What was unexpected was that forty percent of the patients actually felt much better after the chemo therapy,” says Dr. Gladstone. Patients in the study reported improvements in all of the quality of life measurements that were evaluated, including pain, mental health, and physical function, including ability to walk.

Dr. Gladstone has also studied and shown a similar disease progression benefit of high dose cytoxan for patients with other autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and disease. He says more studies are going to be done on MS patients, and this current one at stony brook is ongoing. Dr. Gladstone exclaims, “I am very excited about these results. This is potentially a new modality for treating the sickest of the sick patients.”

Melissa adds, “I want to tell everybody, be brave try this chemo therapy treatment it works, I am better.” The proof? Not only can Melissa walk just fine, she can operate a trash can...demonstrated by her ability to throw away her prostheses. “I brought them here to show you they did help me at one time but I don’t need them anymore,” she says.


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