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Drug may offer MS turnaround

Leukemia drug improves multiple sclerosis symptoms in some people

A disease thought to be incurable is now a step closer to losing that dispiriting reputation. Multiple sclerosis, the disabling neuromuscular disease that has resisted effective drug therapy, eases off in some people given a drug normally prescribed for leukemia, researchers report in the Oct. 23 New England Journal of Medicine.

“More than half the patients in this study actually improved a significant amount” when taking the drug alemtuzumab, says study coauthor David Margolin, a neurologist at Genzyme Corp. in Cambridge, Mass., which teamed with an international team of researchers in conducting the trial. “We think this is something very special.”

That optimism is tempered by worrisome side effects that showed up in MS patients taking the drug. Two more large-scale trials of MS patients are now getting under way to address those issues and confirm the positive findings.

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