Immune Tolerance Network   

A clinical research consortium sponsored by NIAID and JDRF

About MS

A couple standing together and smiling.Treating MS

MS is a chronic autoimmune disease in which blood cells that are supposed to protect the body from infection mistakenly attack the body’s own tissue. In MS, the target of this attack is a protein called myelin that coats nerves throughout the body. Over time, damage to this protective layer can accumulate and lead to loss of neurologic function.

Some treatments, known as disease modifying drugs, are designed to slow the advance of MS. In doing so, they may help reduce the number and duration of relapses you experience.

There are now a number of such treatments available to MS patients. Interferon beta (also known as Avonex or Rebif), glatiramer acetate (or Copaxone) and natalizumab (Tysabri) are commonly used to treat relapsing-remitting MS(RRMS) in patients with less frequent or less serious relapses. For those with worsening disease, more aggressive treatment with chemotherapy drugs such as cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) or azathioprine (Imuran) may be required. In each case, these drugs may be effective for some people, but not for others. As well, some people find they are uncomfortable with the side effects and potential risks of one or more of these drugs.

For these reasons, researchers are looking to develop safer and more effective treatments for MS. One of these is called ‘abatacept’ (AB-ah-TA-sept).