Cancer drug a possible treatment for multiple sclerosis

February 21, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—A drug that is currently used for cancer can relieve and slow down the progression of the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis (MS) in rats, according to a new study published in PLOS ONE. The discovery, which was made by researchers at Karolinska Institutet, might one day lead to better forms of treatment for patients with MS.

Multiple sclerosis is a disease in which the immune system attacks the spinal cord and brain, damaging nerve tissues to cause visual impairment, paralysis and other neurological disabilities. There are approximately 17,000 MS victims in Sweden, most of who develop the disease between the age of 20 and 40. The disease is currently incurable, and the treatments that are able to ameliorate the symptoms can have severe side effects.

"There is a particularly urgent need to find new, efficacious drugs with minimal adverse effects for patients with MS in the relapsing phase of the disease," says Assistant Professor Ingrid Nilsson at Karolinska Institute's Department of Medical Chemistry and Biophysics.

The disease is caused when white blood cells attack the . The CNS is normally protected by the blood-brain barrier, which governs what passes through the vascular walls. However, the inflammation that MS gives rise to causes the blood-brain barrier to become more permeable for to pass through.

In this present study, the research team examined the possibility of influencing the neurological symptoms by sealing the blood-brain barrier. This they did using a common rat model in which the is stimulated by an endogenous protein in the nerve tissue that triggers an autoimmune reaction, whereby white blood cells attack the protein in the CNS to create symptoms in the rat similar to those of human MS. The rats were then treated with (Gleevec®), a drug used for treating certain kinds of cancer and previously shown to reduce blood-brain barrier leakiness.

"Administering imatinib enabled us to slow down the progress of the disease and ameliorate neurological symptoms by preventing the influx of white blood cells from the blood into the ," says Dr Nilsson.

The treatment with imatinib also suppressed the autoimmune reaction and reduced the number of leaking through the blood-brain barrier. Since the drug is already used for cancer patients, a clinical study of the treatment could be conducted on MS patients in the near future.

"The treatment proved effective even when administered to animals that had already developed symptoms, which is very important in terms of its use in patients with multiple sclerosis," says Dr Nilsson.

Explore further: Receptor may hold key to multiple sclerosis treatment

More information: Imatinib ameliorates neuroinflammation in a rat model of multiple sclerosis by enhancing blood-brain barrier integrity and by modulating the peripheral immune response, PLOS ONE, online 20 February, 2013

Related Stories

Receptor may hold key to multiple sclerosis treatment

June 11, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- A receptor recently discovered to control the movement of immune cells across central nervous system barriers (including the blood-brain barrier) may hold the key to treating multiple sclerosis (MS), a ...

Research opens up possibility of therapies to restore blood-brain barrier

January 2, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Research led by Queen Mary, University of London, has opened up the possibility that drug therapies may one day be able to restore the integrity of the blood-brain barrier, potentially slowing or even reversing ...

A breakthrough in pinpointing protective mechanisms in Multiple Sclerosis

December 2, 2011
In an article published in the prestigious journal Science, a team of researchers led by Dr Alexander Prat and postgraduate fellow Jorge Alvarez at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) sheds light ...

Recommended for you

Engineered protein treatment found to reduce obesity in mice, rats and primates

October 19, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers with pharmaceutical company Amgen Inc. report that an engineered version of a protein naturally found in the body caused test mice, rats and cynomolgus monkeys to lose weight. In their ...

New procedure enables cultivation of human brain sections in the petri dish

October 19, 2017
Researchers at the University of Tübingen have become the first to keep human brain tissue alive outside the body for several weeks. The researchers, headed by Dr. Niklas Schwarz, Dr. Henner Koch and Dr. Thomas Wuttke at ...

Cancer drug found to offer promising results in treating sepsis in test mice

October 19, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A combined team of researchers from China and the U.S. has found that a drug commonly used to treat lung cancer in humans offers a degree of protection against sepsis in test mice. In their paper published ...

Tracing cell death pathway points to drug targets for brain damage, kidney injury, asthma

October 19, 2017
University of Pittsburgh scientists are unlocking the complexities of a recently discovered cell death process that plays a key role in health and disease, and new findings link their discovery to asthma, kidney injury and ...

Study reveals key molecular link in major cell growth pathway

October 19, 2017
A team of scientists led by Whitehead Institute has uncovered a surprising molecular link that connects how cells regulate growth with how they sense and make available the nutrients required for growth. Their work, which ...

Inflammation trains the skin to heal faster

October 18, 2017
Scars may fade, but the skin remembers. New research from The Rockefeller University reveals that wounds or other harmful, inflammation-provoking experiences impart long-lasting memories to stem cells residing in the skin, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.