Here is another article about the success of these combinations.
'Miracle' drug to help MS sufferers
Jul 21 2006
EXCLUSIVE by Deborah James Daily Post Staff
LIVERPOOL doctors have discovered what may be a "miracle treatment" for the muscle wasting disease Multiple Sclerosis.
Scientists say the treatment, pioneered at the Walton Neurological centre, could herald a major breakthrough for the UK's 85,000 MS sufferers.
Patients who were all severely disabled, including some who were confined to wheelchairs and others who went blind, last night described how they regained the ability to walk and see.
Doctors at Walton began treating patients with a combination of a chemotherapy drug normally used to treat cancer called mitoxantrone, with an MS anti-relapse drug Copaxone, in 2001.
An official, but unfunded, trial on 27 patients over the last year was so successful the treatment is now being introduced at 10 centres across the UK to test its effectiveness more rigorously.
It comes after a damning report by the MS Trust and the Royal College of Physicians yesterday found the NHS was failing MS sufferers with a "low quality and inadequate quantity" of services.
Last night the country's largest MS support group said thousands of lives could be changed if the larger trial echoes the "fantastic" Walton results.
Walton patient Karen Ayres, diagnosed in 2002 after she fell in a nightclub, said: "I really do see it as a miracle cure."
The 28-year-old travel agent from Newton-Le-Willows spent three months paralysed in hospital and thought she would never walk again.
But four years after starting the treatment she has regained the full use of her body, finished a Masters Degree in psychology, backpacked across five continents, and returned to work.
"It's no exaggeration to say I feel as though the treatment has given me my life back."
Another patient, mother-of-two Jayne Clarke, suffered extreme fatigue and balance problems when her MS reached aggressive levels in 2003.
After a short course of mitoxantrone she started treatment with daily Copaxone injections. She is now relapse free, and recently ran the 5km charity Race for Life.
Alun Games from Runcorn suffered partial blindness and spinal problems, but is now back on his feet, with greatly improved vision.
And motorbike enthusiast Joe Stevens from Bootle was left in a wheelchair for a year when in 1999 a relapse left him unable to walk or control any movement of his body.
Now the 38-year-old says the treatment has completely turned his life around, he said: "I'm not the party animal I used to be.
"I'll never be back to full physical peak, but I can ride my bike again, I'm happy and I'm back in work.
Initially the new combination has only been used on the most severe cases of degeneration, which worsen with each relapse.
But consultant neurosurgeon Dr Mike Boggild who led the Walton trial, said newly diagnosed cases could also benefit.
He described the results as "striking". He said: "This is not a cure, it can't reverse damage caused by MS, but it effectively halts the degeneration in its tracks.
"We are learning the earlier we can start treatment the more chance people have of living a normal life.
"Every time they have an attack their condition degenerates a bit more, and what this does is stop it developing any further.
"The question now is not whether this works on the most severe cases, but whether we should be using it for all forms of MS."
Doctors do not know precisely what causes MS but it affects twice as many women as men, and is more common in the north of the country.
It is a chronic neurological disease which destroys protein layers (called myelin) between the nerves in the brain and spinal chord.
MS stops brain impulses being carried to other parts of the body, causing muscular weakness, loss of coordination, slurred speech and visual blurring which can lead to blindness.
It mostly affects young adults and in a very few cases it can be terminal, but more often shortens life expectancy by around six years.
Existing anti-relapse drugs have proved only temporarily effective, and steroids are used to relieve inflammations and pain, but cannot stop the degenerative effects of the disease.
All the patients in the Liverpool trial showed clear signs their disease was likely to progress quickly producing early and severe disability.
Most rapidly showed signs that their attacks were happening around 90% less often.
Only two patients had relapses while in Copaxone therapy for up to 40 months after they stopped taking the mitoxantrone.
But there are risks with the new treatment, as mitoxantrone is highly toxic and cannot be used for long periods of time.
One patient developed therapy-related acute leukaemia nine months after comple treatment - which is a known side effect of mitoxantrone in about one in 300 patients.
The patient is now in remission from the leukaemia, diagnosed 12 months ago, and his MS is stable and relapse-free.
One patient dropped out of the study because of allergic reactions where they had their injections, but still remained relapse-free without further treatment for 26 months.
A spokesman for the MS Society said yesterday the new regime could herald a "fantastic breakthrough" that could change the lives of MS sufferers.
Dr Boggild said: "We have been using this treatment for quite some time now at Walton, but we don't have funding and no-one takes much notice of uncontrolled trials.
"We are telling people about it now because we need to recruit volunteers to help us conduct a full scale clinical trial."
The research is due to be published in the August edition of the Journal of Neurology.
Volunteers needed to take part in study
DOCTORS are now looking for volunteers to take part in the wider study. The centres taking part in the new trial are:
The Walton Centre for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Liverpool
Hope Hospital, Manchester St James's University Hospital, Leeds
The Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield
Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham University Hospital, Nottingham
The Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford
Southern General Hospital, Glasgow
The Royal Free, London Charing Cross Hospital, London
University Hospital of North Staffordshire, Stoke on Trent
Anyone who is interested can get more information by visiting: www.mxga-mstrial.co.uk