Multiple sclerosis patients wait on new drug

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Multiple sclerosis patients wait on new drug
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Patients with multiple sclerosis are waiting on the potential approval of a new drug that could change the course of their disease.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- On a good day, watching Sarah Warto climb the stairs you might not guess that she suffers from multiple sclerosis. But shortly after the birth of her daughter, 2.5 years ago symptoms kicked in.

"It effected my ability to walk. That was probably the biggest issue for me because as the mother of a newborn child all I wanted to do was get up and run around after her," Warto said.

Now, she's waiting on the potential approval of a new drug that could change the course of her disease, and possibly her life.

Stephen Hauser, M.D. of UCSF helped oversee testing of the drug.

It was developed by Bay Area-based Genentech, and it's clinical name is Ocrelizumab.

Hauser says it was able to disrupt symptoms in the less severe form of multiple sclerosis, called relapsing. "Ocrelizumab has been able to nearly completely stop disease activity in people with relapsing and remitting forms of Multiple Sclerosis," Hauser said.

He says it was even able to reduce symptoms from the much more damaging form of the disease called progressive, which can ultimately rob patients of the ability to move on their own. "So for people with relapsing MS this is spectacular news. And for people with progressive MS the door is finally open," Hauser said.

Multiple sclerosis works by hijacking the patients' immune system. Researchers at Genentech say they focused in on a specific immune cell known as cd20-positive b cell, that had never been targeted before in MS. "We found the bad guy and decided to go after it," Group Medical Director for Neuroscience at Genentech Peter Chin, M.D., said.

Chin believes that targeting the so-called b-cells could be a game changer. "It would be the first B-cell targeted therapy for Multiple Sclerosis," Chin said.

For patients like Warto, a landscape designer, the hope is a life free from symptoms. "The thought of me never having a show of the disease again is a lot of freedom and a lot of peace of mind," she said.

A decision from the FDA is expected within weeks. If approved, patients would get the Genentech drug through an I.V. with just two treatments each year.

Written and produced by Tim Didion.