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Chemotherapy for Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system that affects more than 1 million people worldwide. It is one of the most frequent neurologic disorders in young adults. As a consequence of the considerable physical and psychological burden of the neurological deficits that occur as a result of MS, patients may find their working life prematurely limited, be at risk of hospitalization during severe exacerbations, and may need assistance to support their normal activities of daily living. Because of the modest efficacy of current disease-modifying therapies for RRMS and their complete lack of efficacy in progressive MS, more aggressive therapeutic options have been investigated. On the basis of their immunosuppressive properties, chemotherapeutics such as mitoxantrone and cyclophosphamide have been explored. Here is some information about chemotherapy for multiple sclerosis and how it works.

Most important details for Chemotherapy for MS Treatment

If you have multiple sclerosis (MS), you know there are a lot of treatments available for your symptoms. You may also know there are so many treatments available because everyone’s MS responds differently. For MS that doesn’t respond to conventional treatment, doctors are now finding that chemotherapy may be beneficial. Chemotherapy is a type of treatment that was once reserved for cancer. It is now branching into other areas of disease, as it has proven effective for various other types of illness. You may hear “chemotherapy” and instinctively think “cancer” — and that can be scary. You may get scared of the side effects, and you may get scared because you know chemotherapy may cure cancer, but it will not cure your MS. It is true it won’t cure your MS, but it may slow the progression significantly.

Benefits of Chemotherapy for MS

Chemotherapy is not meant to be the first-line medication for MS treatment. It can be helpful for people who have failed on first-line medications. Chemotherapy given to MS patients has proven to slow the progression of the disease. It is an immunosuppressive agent and may suppress the activity of MS, so it may help when other medications have not. Pros and cons should be weighed prior to beginning chemotherapy treatment. Chemotherapy should only be initiated if the benefits outweigh the risks.

Side Effects of Chemotherapy for MS

The scariest thing about giving chemotherapy for MS is side effects. You may already have so many symptoms to manage that adding more to your plate is undesirable. However, if you decide that in the short-term the side effects are worth it, it is important to know the side effects of chemotherapy medications:

  • Thinning or loss of hair
  • Weakening of the heart (cardiomyopathy)
  • Leukemia
  • Increased risk of infection, caused by a suppression of bone marrow with a decrease in white blood cell count
  • Nausea and vomiting

High-dose chemotherapeutic strategies with and without stem cell rescue are interesting alternatives to standard of care for aggressive MS. Although some reports suggest significant clinical activity, given the natural history of this disease, the true impact of these treatments will only be elucidated by randomized trials.