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May: Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month -- latest research is good news

Montreal, QC -- May is Multiple Sclerosis Month and there is no better way of raising awareness for this unpredictable and often debilitating disease then by highlighting the latest research that might offer hope for the 55 to 75, 000 sufferers across Canada. A new drug under investigation for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) appears to be safe and effective according to studies involving researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute. The studies, presented this week at the American Academy of Neurologys (AAN) 59th Annual Meeting in Boston, also provide deeper insight into the biology of this complex disease. Canadians have one of the highest rates of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in the world with approximately 1,000 new cases of MS diagnosed each year. MS is the most common neurological disease affecting young adults in Canada and affects 18% of all Quebecers.

The Phase I and Phase II studies involved people in Canada and the USA with relapsing-remitting MS, in which symptoms flare up and then subside. Treatment with the drug rituximab significantly reduced the number of new brain lesions and the frequency of relapses, times when symptoms of MS flare up.

Rituximab is a therapeutic antibody that selectively targets and depletes a set of immune cells called B-cells by binding to a specific protein on their surface.

"This is the first drug to selectively target B-cells in MS and the significance of its effectiveness is two-fold," says Dr. Amit Bar-Or, neurologist at the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI) at McGill University, Montreal, Canada and lead investigator in the Phase I study. "Not only might it present a significantly improved therapy for patients with relapsing-remitting MS, but it provides a clearer picture of the role that B-cells play in the disease. Its a particularly exciting time and we think meaningful to advancing treatment options for patients."

The Phase I trial was primarily designed to assess the safety
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Contact: Anita Kar
anita.kar@mcgill.ca
514-398-3376
Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital
2-May-2007


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