ATA188, Which Kills B-Cells Targeting Epstein-Barr Virus, Shows Promise as MS Treatment
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regardsAn investigational treatment called ATA188 that wipes out B-cells targeting the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) has shown promise as a multiple sclerosis treatment, a Phase 1 clinical trial involving a small patient group indicates.
The trial, conducted in Australia, covered six people with primary or secondary progressive MS. B-cells are a type of white blood cell that the immune system uses to fight invaders.
ATA188’s developer, Atara Biotherapeutics, was scheduled to present the preliminary results of the trial at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in Boston. The event, which started April 22, runs through April 28.
The title of the presentation is “Symptomatic and objective clinical improvement in progressive multiple sclerosis patients treated with autologous Epstein-Barr virus-specific T cell therapy: Interim results of a phase I trial.”
ATA188 uses T-cells derived from a patient or donated as starting material. With a patient’s own cells, or autologous cells, researchers first gather T-cells from a blood sample. Then they train the cells to recognize markers of EBV before injecting them back into the patient. This approach makes it possible to find and eliminate virus-specific B-cells and plasma cells in the brain and spinal cord.
The patients in the trial received four escalating doses of ATA188 developed from their own T-cells. After the last dose, at six weeks, they were followed for 20 weeks.
Symptoms of three of the six patients improved after ATA188 treatment. They reported less fatigue, better quality of life, increased ability to perform daily activities, and improved hand movement and coordination. Two of the three had secondary and one primary progressive MS.
Over the 26 weeks of the trial, none of the six patients’ disease worsened, as measured by the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS). The symptom improvements correlated with increased immune cell response toward EBV, researchers said.
“The clinical data reported by Dr. [Michael] Pender, Dr. [Rajiv] Khanna and their colleagues from the first prospective trial of EBV-specific T-cell therapy in MS suggest that it is possible to achieve objective clinical improvements in MS patients with advanced disease by targeting EBV,” Chris Haqq, the chief scientific officer of Atara, said in a press release.