Suggesting a certain excitement and vigor is present, he reported that a brain-storming session occurred two days prior to the conference.
From Dr. Peterson (Simmaron) to Dr. Gradisnuk (PHANU) to Dr. Baraniuk, the one day conference was packed with intriguing speakers but none were more eagerly awaited than Dr. Fluge and Dr. Mella’s talk on Rituximab.
Fluge and Mella appear to be getting good results in their larger Rituximab (Rituxian) followup study. They reported the responses have ranged from slight to moderate to major with ‘quite a few’ major responses – and some people completely recovering (at least temporarily. In an attempt to avoid the relapses that occurred after going off the drug in the past some patients are staying on the drug for long periods of time)
No one drug could ever work for everybody in as heterogeneous disorders as CFS but the report that some patients were completely recovering in this oh so difficult to treat disorder is exciting. Fluge are Mella have some strong evidence but they are not calling ME/CFS an auto-immune disorder just yet. Fluge stated, though, that they believe their evidence indicates “ME/CFS is a defined biological disease in at least a subgroup of patients.”
Mella reported that 40% of patients have relatives with autoimmune disorders – a startlingly high number- and a further indication of a strong genetic component to this disorder.
Open Medicine Institute Doing Rituximab Trial
It’s been rumored for months and now we know its true. The big news on the Rituxumib front was the statement from Dr. Kogelnik that the Open Medicine Institute has begun an off-label pilot study of Rituximab in CFS. The Open Medicine Institute has been making waves; it’s collaborating with a variety of top ME/CFS physicians and is the first group to announce a Rituximab trial post Mella/Fluge. Expect to hear more from the Open Medicine Institute soon.
A survey of researchers and ME/CFS professionals on the field five years from now suggested most do believe Rituximab will be an accepted treatment for ME/CFS but they differed on how many people the drug will work for.
First Rituximab… Now Etanercept?
The first study examining Etanercept’s (Enbrel’s) effectiveness in ME/CFS is underway in Norway under Fluge and Mella. Another autoimmune drug, Etanercept block the effects of an immune factor called tumor necrosis factor ( TNF-A) which becomes upregulated during infection. Some studies have found high TNF-a levels in CFS and others have not but Fluge and Mella clearly have found them in some patients. They are giving the drug to some patients who did not respond to Rituximab.
- Dig Deeper: More on Etanercept and ME/CFS
Technology Opening Windows into CFS
Kogelnik believes the field is beginning to reach a critical mass with mainstream researchers showing interest as technological advancements unveil critical aspects of this disorder. Dr. Kogelnik first got involved with ME/CFS when he worked on Dr. Montoya’s valcyte trial. He stated he feels ‘a huge sense of optimism’ now.
It may be that CFS was doomed to limbo status until the technology able to reveal it was developed. With the CFI, CAA, CDC and WPI all employing cutting-edge technologies to look for pathogens this will be an interesting year. As researchers data mining capabilities improve they will have a better and better shot at understanding complex disorders such as chronic fatigue syndrome. On the data-mining front the CAA’s Logosomix and Biovista projects could provide entirely new perspectives on biomarkers and drugs for ME/CFS over the next year or so.
Dr. Peterson of Simmaron Institute
Mark June 30th on your calendar as Dr. Peterson reported the Lipkin XMRV study featuring Dr. Mikovits will released on that date. Some 2 1/2 years after the Science paper was published the XMRV story will reach some sort of conclusion this month.
Dr. Peterson is very high on the CDC’s CASA project which is having CDC researchers pore over ME/CFS physicians patient charts to determine a) how different physicians are diagnosing their patients, b) what kinds of patients they are seeing and (c) how they are treating them.
Jorgen reported Dr. Peterson said this type of study was ‘long overdue’ and he’s right. At Ottawa Dr. Unger told me it was always the CDC’s plan to use random surveys to look at ‘CFS patients’ in the general population and then to compare them to the kind of patients seen in specialist practices AND to compare patients from one practice to another. The problem is that its taken over 10 years to get to the second part. In discussion Dr. Peterson has said he believes different patients are going to show up in different practices and this will illuminate the different types of ME/CFS that are present.
Finally Jorgen reported that after almost 40 years of work in this disorder, Dr Peterson is optimistic about the future stating that he believes he ‘finally sees light at the end of a long tunnel”.
Dr. Marshall-Gradisnuk of PHANU must be riding high after landing a big grant and publishing some hot studies recently. She reported PHANU is ‘ building a nice repertoire of immunological markers that may help in early diagnosis of ME/CFS’.
Dr. Peterson and Simmaron are collaborating heavily with PHANU and Dr. Marshall-Gradisnuk will talk about biomarkers, Dr. Peterson, Rituximab and others in an interview with Phoenix Rising coming up shortly.
Thanks to Jorgen for the overview of the conference. See Jorgens twitter profile and follow him here.
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