Neurology Central

Multiple sclerosis symptoms improved by new cellular immunotherapy


A new cellular immunotherapy treatment that targets the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) has been shown to improve the symptoms and quality of life for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) in a recent Phase I clinical trial.

Results of an open-label, Phase I clinical trial conducted at the University of Queensland (Brisbane, Australia), have shown that a new cellular immunotherapy improves the symptoms of multiple sclerosis for the majority of patients. This represents the first time a T-cell immunotherapy has been used to treat an autoimmune disease and could potentially help change the lives of those with MS in the future.

The immunotherapy treatment, developed by Rajiv Khanna, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute (Brisbane, Australia), targets the Epstein-Barr virus based on the theory that MS results from an accumulation of EBV-infected cells in the brain.

In the trial, ten patients – five with secondary progressive MS and five with primary progressive MS – received four doses of the cellular immunotherapy treatment. Of these patients, seven showed improvements ranging from reduced fatigue and improved productivity and quality of life, to improvements in vision and mobility. It was also found that the treatment had produced no serious side effects, indicating promise for further development.

You might also like:

“This clinical trial is a breakthrough because, for the first time, we have found these treatments are safe and have had positive improvements in an autoimmune disease,” explained Khanna. “From this Phase I trial, we have also discovered what cell properties produce the best results for the patients. We can now apply this knowledge to cellular immunotherapies for other diseases to try to ensure the best results for all patients.”

Phase II clinical trials are planned over several locations in Australia and the United States to determine the efficacy of EBV-specific T-cell therapy for MS treatment. “This trial opens the door to develop similar cellular immunotherapies for certain other autoimmune conditions,” concluded Khanna.

Sources: Pender MP, Csurhes PA, Smith C et al. Epstein-Barr virus–specific T cell therapy for progressive multiple sclerosis. JCI Insight. 3, 22 (2018);