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Emerging therapies in multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is unique among neurological diseases in that there are currently eight treatments for this one condition that have received approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Five of these drugs require subcutaneous or intramuscular injection, two are administered intravenously, and fingolimod, the newest agent on the block, is given orally. None are considered curative, but these disease-modifying therapies (DMT) have led to a reduction in relapse rates and the progression of disability.

Despite this progress, each of the drugs comes with side effects, including flu-like symptoms with the interferons, lipoatrophy with glatiramer, progressive multifocal leukodystrophy (PML) with natalizumab, and congestive heart failure or leukemia with mitoxantrone. As the first oral agent for MS, fingolimod created great expectations prior to FDA approval. Its popularity, however, has been surprisingly limited, presumably due to the potential for unknown long-term risks. The occur rence of PML with natalizumab demonstrated to MS neurologists and patients the potential risks associated with new drugs.

Additional DMTs in the pipeline may increase MS-management effectiveness in coming years, although safety will continue to be a major consideration in the use of these drugs. For instance, oral cladribine was on the verge of FDA approval in early March when the agency referred the drug back for more safety studies. This drug is already used in intravenous form for the management of hairy cell leukemia, but it is being studied for use with remitting relapsing MS because of its apoptotic effects on lymphocytes. If cladribine is ultimately approved for use, the risk of infection and neoplasms may limit its use.

Other oral agents being studied include:

The Spring Issue of BrainWaves Is Now Available

The Spring 2011 edition of BrainWaves is now available online.

BrainWaves is the newsletter of the Swedish Neuroscience Institute. Published quarterly, BrainWaves provides information about neurological conditions treated at the Institute, and also profiles the programs, services, and new initiatives of the institute and its staff.

Also check out our past editions of the BrainWaves newsletter.

SNI Communication Tools

SNI is leveraging communication tools that deliver information to patients, referring physicians and the public as a crucial part of providing care at the advancing edge of neu­rological knowledge. The goals of these tools are two-fold. One goal is to update established patients and their doctors regarding the latest developments in our programs and centers. The other is to lower the barrier for patients and physicians who are facing a new neuro­logical problem to discover tertiary subspe­cialty care.

A new SNI communication tool

Dan Rizzuto, Ph.D., director of SNI research, and John Henson, M.D., recently launched the SNI blog to complement other commu­nication efforts and to provide a communication outlet for the staff of SNI. The SNI blog offers brief notes about advances in neurological care provided in SNI’s centers, as well as news items about the institute that are of interest to our patients and referring physicians.

Blog content is more dynamic than Web content. Search engines are able to detect targeted key words within each entry, which helps direct highly relevant Web traffic to the blog. This aids in the dissemination of infor­mation to patients and physicians. Viewers also can subscribe to an e-mail notification system that will alert them to newly posted material.

Other SNI communication tools

Winter Issue of BrainWaves Now Available

The Winter 2010 edition of BrainWaves is now available online.

BrainWaves is the newsletter of the Swedish Neuroscience Institute. Published quarterly, BrainWaves provides information about neurological conditions treated at the Institute, and also profiles the programs, services, and new initiatives of the institute and its staff.

Also check out our past editions of the BrainWaves newsletter.

SNI Fellowship Opportunities Available

The Swedish Neuroscience Institute (SNI) at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, Washington, is committed to improving the delivery of neurologic care through evidence-based protocols, research and education. SNI offers advanced training through five fellowships:

Applications are reviewed as received, with fellowships beginning bi-annually on January 1 and July 1. For one hundred years Swedish has been the premier health-care provider in the Pacific Northwest and a trusted resource for people when it truly counts. As a high-volume, urban medical center located at the epicenter of the Puget Sound area, Swedish attracts nationally recognized physicians and scientists, and provides a broad population base that enhances the patient care, research and education efforts at SNI. Applying for an SNI fellowship You can also email your inquiries to SNIFellowships@swedish.org

Neuromodulation Symposium

The symposium "Advances in Neuromodulative Therapies: 2010 and Beyond" will be held August 27, 2010 starting at 7:15 am in the Swedish Education and Conference Center at the Cherry Hill campus.

See more information

A broad array of local and national experts will speak on current and future applications of neuromodulation in the treatment of neurological disorders.

The Odd Syndrome of Bilateral 8th Nerve Tumors

Bilateral 8th cranial nerve tumors, also known as vestibular schwannomas or acoustic neuromas (see figure), are pathognomonic of a fascinating syndrome called central neurofibromatosis or neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF-2). NF-2 is a rare, autosomal-dominant disease with an incidence of 1 in 30,000 live births. The mechanism by which the genetic changes underlying NF-2 produce these tumors of a cranial nerve remains a mystery. Interestingly, two other associations are also sufficient to make a diagnosis of NF-2. These are unilateral VS at early age (< 30 years) plus two other specific lesions (meningioma, schwannoma other than VS, glioma or pre-senile cataract), and unilateral VS at early age with an affected first-degree parent, sibling or child. Patients with NF-2 usually present between the ages of 18 and 24 years with tinnitus, hearing loss and balance difficulties. Symptoms of unilateral tinnitus, asymmetric hearing loss or unresolving vertigo or imbalance warrant a gadolinium-enhanced MRI with a neurotological consultation to rule out brainstem pathology.

NF-2 is caused by inactivation of the NF-2 tumor suppressor gene on chromosome 22 (22q12.2) which encodes the "Merlin" protein. Like a double negative, inactivation of a tumor suppressor gene produces an autosomal-dominant inheritance pattern identical to classical activating mutations.

When a diagnosis of NF-2 is entertained, evaluation should include a complete family history; a detailed head and neck and neurological examination with attention to cranial nerve deficits, and an MRI of the brain with dedicated images to detect bilateral VS, meningiomas and optic gliomas. Spinal MRI with gadolinium should be performed to look for spinal meningiomas or schwannomas, and ophthalmologic evaluation should be obtained in cases with visual loss or with suspicion of juvenile cataracts.

Unilateral VS and NF-2

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