Saturday July 22nd 2017

Queensland doctors find therapy to halt progression of M.S.

multiple-sclerosisBRISBANE researchers believe they have found a way to halt the progression of multiple sclerosis.

The world-first experimental therapy has already been tried on wheelchair-bound Queensland dad Gary Allen, who has had “big improvements” since receiving the treatment a year ago.

But the researchers need $400,000 to continue testing before it can be accepted as a mainstream treatment.

Mr Allen, who developed MS 20 years ago, said he was experiencing much less pain, fewer spasms and had more energy since the therapy.

“It’s not like I leapt out of the wheelchair and said: ‘I’m healed’ and went and ran a marathon,” the 43-year-old said. “But I’m absolutely thrilled.

“I was starting to get really bad pain around my head and my neck, take-your-breath-away sort of pain which … I haven’t seen for 12 months. My memory and thinking are also sharper.”

Royal Women’s and Brisbane Hospital neurologist Michael Pender said the therapy had halted the progression of the MS and reversed some of its damage.

The treatment is based on Professor Pender’s research showing MS patients have decreased immunity to the Epstein Barr Virus, which causes glandular fever.

He teamed with QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute scientist Rajiv Khanna, who designed an immunotherapy aimed at boosting Mr Allen’s immune system to fight EBV.

They took his blood, isolated immune cells known as killer T cells, added an experimental EBV vaccine to improve their virus-fighting abilities, and then grew more of them in the laboratory.

The dad to 10-year-old Connar was then treated with his own recharged cells over six weeks.

Prof Pender said it was too early to say whether it would be more beneficial in patients at an earlier stage of the disease than Mr Allen.

The researchers are also unsure how long the benefits will last.

Whatever happens, Mr Allen said the treatment had been “a blessing”.

“It doesn’t matter what happens from now, I’ve had a gift of a year that I wouldn’t have otherwise had,” he said.

Prof Khanna warned more testing was needed before the therapy could become widely available.

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