MS Center studies drug in patients who didn't respond to other treatments

October 20, 2016 James D. Bowen, M.D.

The Multiple Sclerosis Center at Swedish is conducting a study of a drug taken by MS patients who did not respond to two previous disease-modifying therapies.

Ocrelizumab, made by Genetech, has recently gone through three Phase III studies. Two of these studies, OPERA I and OPERA II, were of patients with relapsing remitting MS (RRMS) whose relapses decreased by almost half. In addition, active inflammation of lesions on MRIs decreased by about 95 percent. 

The third study, ORATORIO, looked at patients with primary progressive MS. In this study, the medication slowed the development of disability by 24 percent. 

Because of the results of these studies, ocrelizumab is now being evaluated by the FDA, with a decision expected near the end of the year for use in patients with both primary progressive MS and RRMS.

Current study to look at longer-term effects

The current study at the MS Center, called CHORDS, will follow people on ocrelizumab who didn’t respond to two previous disease-modifying therapies. This study is intended to provide additional data about the use of this medication in RRMS patients. This will be very useful in judging the longer-term effects of the medication.

Ocrelizumab is an antibody engineered to bind to a protein called CD20, which is on the surface of B cells. When the drug binds to the protein, it destroys the B cells. 

B cells are part of the immune system and are responsible for making antibodies and boosting the immune response by presenting potential targets to T cells, which attack foreign substances. The B cells that are blocked by ocrelizumab are not the ones making antibodies, so we think that the main way it works is by affecting the activation of T cells that could wrongly attack the brain in MS. 

The MS Center currently has 33 active research studies. Patients interested in the ocrelizumab study, known as Genentech CHORDS (MN 30035), or any others at the center, can contact the research department at 206-320-2647.

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