Volunteers Sought for Two Multiple Sclerosis Studies

July 29, 2005

Doctors are seeking patients with multiple sclerosis for two research studies at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

In the first study, physicians are testing an experimental medication in patients who are experiencing MS attacks or have had them recently. Participants will have blood drawn regularly and will also have a series of MRI scans. Most participants will receive the drug, though one out of five patients will be part of a control group that will receive a placebo.

The study is testing the safety and effectiveness of a medication developed by Centocor, which is funding the study. The experimental drug targets a compound known as interleukin-12 or IL12, a chemical messenger that activates the body’s immune system. Research from the laboratory of Benjamin Segal, M.D., associate professor of Neurology and director of Neuroimmunology Research, suggests that IL12 empowers white blood cells to gain entry to the central nervous system, where they damage the coating that covers nerve cells, causing the disease’s symptoms. Segal is leading the Rochester portion of the study to see whether the drug, designed to bring down levels of IL12, decreases relapse rates and blocks damage to the nervous system in patients.

During the nine-month study, participants will receive an injection of the medication once a week for the first month, then once a month for four more months; after that, participants will be monitored closely for four months. The University is one of approximately 20 sites around the world, including nine in the United States, that will enroll a total of approximately 230 people.

In a second study, Segal’s team is looking for patients who are in the “progressive” stage of the disease to take part in a yearlong research study looking at whether IL12 levels in the body indicate how the disease is progressing in the brain and spinal cord. Each month patients will have a blood sample taken, and every other month they will have an MRI scan. The study is funded by the National Institutes of Health through the University’s Autoimmunity Center of Excellence.

The Medical Center is home to one of the world’s leading MS clinics, where about 2,500 patients from Western New York and beyond receive their care. About 350,000 people in the United States have the disease, which is one of the top causes of disability in young adults. Symptoms of the autoimmune disease include fatigue, weakness, cognitive difficulties, and difficulty swallowing or walking.

Anyone interested in taking part in either study should call Eileen at (585) 275-6673.

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