MS drug trial seeks subjects

By Sharon Salyer

Herald Writer

Volunteers are being sought by two Seattle medical centers for a test of an experimental vaccine to treat multiple sclerosis.

Swedish Medical Center and the University of Washington are two of six sites in the Pacific Northwest where vaccine trials are under way.

"We’re hoping that the vaccine either will prevent the formation of MS lesions in the brain or slow down the formation of the lesions," slowing or stopping the relapses of patients with disease symptoms, said Glenn French, clinical research coordinator at the University of Washington’s Multiple Sclerosis Research Center.

However, the vaccine has never been tested on humans. "We’re not making any promises that this works. It’s just a hope," French said.

Researchers hope the vaccine boosts protective immune system T-cells.

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system. Its symptoms and severity vary from numbness in the limbs to slurred speech, blurred or double vision, tremors, loss of balance, poor coordination and sometimes complete paralysis.

Patients with two of the three types of the disease — relapse-remitting and secondary progressive multiple sclerosis — are being accepted in the study.

Medical centers in the Northwest were chosen because an unusually high number of people here are affected by the disease.

Nationally, 57 to 78 people per 100,000 population have multiple sclerosis. In Washington, the rate is 150 to 220, said Angela Dettorre of the Greater Washington chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Overall, 10,000 people in Washington have been diagnosed with the disease.

The vaccine is made up of three protein peptides, each of which has been tested separately but never in combination, French said.

Eighty-four percent of study participants will get the medication, with the rest receiving a placebo, French said.

Participants must be between 18 and 60 years old, must never have used the medication Novatrone, and must be able to walk 60 feet. They can use canes or crutches but not wheelchairs, French said.

Patients who used the drug Copaxone, used in treating MS, can participate if it’s been at least 90 days since they’ve used it, he said.

Volunteers must have had at least one clinical relapse of MS within the last two years or an MRI scan showing at least one active brain lesion in the last two years.

They also must be able to travel to test clinics eight to 10 times during a six-month period and meet other requirements.

For information on the UW study, for which 12 volunteers are sought, call 206-616-8967. Participants would have to travel to the UW Medical Center at 1959 N.E. Pacific St. in Seattle.

Swedish is looking for an additional 10 volunteers, spokesman Ed Boyle said. Participants would have to commute to the Swedish Neuroscience Institute at 801 Broadway, Suite 830. Those interested in getting more information should call 800-331-7533.

You can call Herald Writer Sharon Salyer at 425-339-3486

or send e-mail to salyer@heraldnet.com.

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