24-month regimen of antibiotic looking hopeful

Calgary neuroscientists are paving the way for innovation in slowing down the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS). Canada has the highest rate of MS in the world, and therefore also has leading researchers in the world for the disease according to the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.

 Dr. Luanne Metz, who leads the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Calgary and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada are collaborating to produce a medication regimen that will give patients more time before their symptoms are fully classified as MS.

The goal for the 30-month clinical trial is to determine whether 100mg of minocycline, twice daily can reduce the conversion of clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) to full MS criteria, McDonald Criteria MS (McDCMS) by an absolute 25 per cent. According to the Mayo Clinic, minocycline is an antibiotic commonly used to treat acne and bacterial infections.

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Produced by Tara Rathgeber

In layman’s terms, this means that researchers are looking to increase the time from the first CIS in the patient, to the point where the patient in question meets full MS criteria, aka McDCMS. During the progression of MS, the brain and spinal cord’s protective coating around the nerves called myelin, slowly degenerates.

Patients involved in the study take the drug for up to 24 months, with a six-month follow-up period. There was an active group, alongside a placebo group, for the double-blind trial.

This means that both the doctor administering the drug and the patient taking it are unaware whether the dosage given is a placebo.

The secondary outcome for this clinical trial is to determine whether or not this early treatment can maintain its benefit of reducing the conversion of CIS to McDCMS two years post-treatment.

154 randomized patients between 18 and 60 years old were selected as the sample for the trial from 12 Canadian MS clinics. These patients had only had their first demyelinating event, and all had at least two brain T2 lesions that are at least 3mm in diameter, which are areas in the brain that are swollen while the body tries to combat the loss of myelin. One of the lesions must be ovoid, periventricular, or infratentorial, meaning one of the lesions must be therefore be egg-shaped, situated around a ventricle, or occur below the tentorium cerebelli.

If patients converted to McDCMS criteria during the course of the minocycline, they were released from the study.

The trial began in January 2009, and came to a close this March. Now that Dr. Metz and her team have collected all their data, they will be locking down the database and analyzing the data collected.

Final results will be posted in June of this year, according to the clinical trial file posted on the government archive.

Though, this clinical trial’s attempt at slowing the disease’s progression doesn’t please everyone. Chad Brooking, a Calgary MS patient, wishes research would go in a different direction.Chad Brooking and his wife Mandy, relax with their two dogs. Chad was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November 2005, and has had to deal with the taxing symptoms of the disease ever since.

Photo courtesy of Tara Rathgeber

“No one seems to be asking the ‘why,’” Brooking explains. “There’s millions of MS patients but all they’re doing is pain therapy trials. No one’s asking ‘why.’”

While upset with the research community’s lack of contribution to curing the disease, not simply treating the symptoms, Brooking has not yet participated in any clinical trials. He is unsure if he ever will in the future, as he explains that his physical symptoms are not as debilitating as his mental symptoms.

An estimated 100,000 Canadians are living with MS according to the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. The disease can affect vision, hearing, balance, mobility and memory. Currently there is no cure but researchers across Canada are learning more about the disease than ever before, with stable funding towards Multiple Sclerosis research coming, according to Dr. Metz.

To learn more about Multiple Sclerosis and how you can become involved with supporting research, visit the MS Society of Canada’s website or follow them on twitter @MSSocietyCanada.

trath899@mtroyal.ca 

ksolway@cjournal.ca 

The contact the editor responsible for this story; Ali Hardstaff at ahardstaff-gajda@cjournal.ca

Thumbnail photo courtesy of Allen Ajifo, Creative Commons Licensed.