Tom Schrette and Alan Cash

Tom Schrette and Alan Cash

Dear readers:

Our daughter was diagnosed with MS almost 10 years ago.

If you or someone close to you is diagnosed with MS, you are likely to hear some of the most dire predictions you’ve ever heard.

We want to offer this column as a public service because so many people know nothing about the recent developments regarding a cure for Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

MS is an attack on the central nervous system by your own immune system. It is chronic inflammation affecting the brain, spine and optic nerve.

The first stage is called relapsing, remitting MS.

The symptoms: weakness, paralysis, loss of speech, depression and others, may appear and then go away for months before returning.

For the really unlucky, MS can go immediately to the progressive stage and then to the primary stage.

These two lead directly to the loss of bodily functions that justify the dire predictions.

Dr. Steve Hauser has spent most of his career in medicine studying MS.

In a podcast on Carry the One Radio through ucsfweillneurosciences@ucsf.edu, his search for a cure is chronicled. At only 38 minutes, it is well worth the time.

Dr. Hauser discovered that MS strikes women at a ratio of 3.5/1 compared to men.

One hundred years ago, it was 50/50. He has no explanation for this disparity.

As a young doctor in the 1970s, he witnessed one of his patients, a 27-year-old woman, go through the terrible stages of MS. This was the impetus for his lifetime work.

MS destroys the insulation of our nerves, myelin.

It uses our own T cells (thymus) and antibodies. In his experiments, Dr. Hauser tried to create MS in lab animals in order to discover how to fight it.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that his team pointed to B cells as the culprit.

The focus shifted to getting funding for a large study to determining the effectiveness of B cell therapy.

The FDA already had approved Rituxin, a drug to attack B cells to treat lymphoma, but the NIH would not agree to fund Dr. Hauser’s study unless it involved T cells.

Genentech stepped up to the plate and agreed to fund the trial even though their own panel of experts gave it a mere 15 percent of success.

Unfortunately, the FDA stepped in and only allowed one-half the length and one-half the number of participants in the study. Genentech’s panel estimated less than 10 percent chance of success but still funded the trial.

The shocker was that when the participants who had taken the B cell drug were revealed, the complete cessation of MS was 92 percent — 92!

This was 2006. Genentech went ahead and developed ocrelizumab, which had an effective rate of 99 percent.

For patients with MS, this is incredibly good news. By the way, Genentech’s drug was just approved by the FDA on March 28.

Our daughter has visited Dr. Hauser. Her MS has been stopped cold.

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Submit questions at schrette@gmail.com or alancash@gmail.com.