Monoclonal antibody therapy in multiple sclerosis Paradigm shifts and emerging challenges

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Abstract

Therapeutic approaches to multiple sclerosis (MS) are based on altering the functions of the immune system, either by using broad immunosuppressive drugs used for transplantation rejection and rheumatology, or by modulating them more discreetly with beta interferon and synthetic amino-acid copolymers. These strategies are only partially successful, have important safety and tolerability limitations, and have shown to be mostly effective in earlier stages of the disease, in which acute relapses dominate the clinical picture. For progressive phenotypes of MS there are currently no effective therapeutic options. As very specific and potent immunosuppressive agents, monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) may offer considerable advantages over other therapies for MS. During the last decade, anti-a4 integrin natalizumab became the first approved mAb for treatment of relapsing MS, after convincingly demonstrating clinically significant effects on two large Phase 3 trials. Moreover, the concept of disease remission was introduced for the first time to describe patients who show no signs of clinical or imaging markers of disease activity during therapy with natalizumab. Of the mAbs under development for MS, alemtuzumab and rituximab have also shown promising evidence of effectiveness and potentially expanded the therapeutic horizon to reversal of disease progression in early relapsing patients and progressive patients who previously had not been studied. However, the appearance of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) in natalizumab-treated MS patients, as well as in patients with lymphoma, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, treated with rituximab and autoimmune-type complications in alemtuzumab-treated MS patients underlines the fact that extended efficacy comes with significant clinical risks. The challenge is then how best to utilize therapies that have evidently superior efficacy in a chronic disease of young adults to obtain the best benefit-risk ratio and how to monitor and prevent emergent safety concerns.Therapeutic approaches to multiple sclerosis (MS) are based on altering the functions of the immune system, either by using broad immunosuppressive drugs used for transplantation rejection and rheumatology, or by modulating them more discreetly with beta interferon and synthetic amino-acid copolymers. These strategies are only partially successful, have important safety and tolerability limitations, and have shown to be mostly effective in earlier stages of the disease, in which acute relapses dominate the clinical picture. For progressive phenotypes of MS there are currently no effective therapeutic options. As very specific and potent immunosuppressive agents, monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) may offer considerable advantages over other therapies for MS. During the last decade, anti-a4 integrin natalizumab became the first approved mAb for treatment of relapsing MS, after convincingly demonstrating clinically significant effects on two large Phase 3 trials. Moreover, the concept of disease remission was introduced for the first time to describe patients who show no signs of clinical or imaging markers of disease activity during therapy with natalizumab. Of the mAbs under development for MS, alemtuzumab and rituximab have also shown promising evidence of effectiveness and potentially expanded the therapeutic horizon to reversal of disease progression in early relapsing patients and progressive patients who previously had not been studied. However, the appearance of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) in natalizumab-treated MS patients, as well as in patients with lymphoma, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, treated with rituximab and autoimmune-type complications in alemtuzumab-treated MS patients underlines the fact that extended efficacy comes with significant clinical risks. The challenge is then how best to utilize therapies that have evidently superior efficacy in a chronic disease of young adults to obtain the best benefit-risk ratio and how to monitor and prevent emergent safety concerns.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)670-681
Number of pages12
JournalMabs
Volume2
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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