R. Horowski, J.-F. Kapp, M. Steinmayr, St. Stuerzebecher
Schering AG, SBU Therapeutics, D-13342, Berlin
Key words: Interferon Beta-, multiple sclerosis
Abstract: Beta-interferons like other type I interferons are produced in response to viral infections by various mammalian cells. These include macrophages, dendritic cells and fibroblasts. Type I interferons have non-specific antiviral and anti-proliferative effects, as well as a broad spectrum of immunomodulatory activities. On this basis, type I interferons are used successfully in the treatment of viral infections such as hepatitis C, papilloma and HIV-1 virus. They are also used (mostly in combination with other drugs) to treat some forms of cancer, including leukemia. Whilst these effects could be anticipated from the biological function of type I interferons, it came as a surprise to most when a group of neurologists presented convincing clinical and laboratory evidence of a relevant and important effect of interferon beta-lb in multiple sclerosis (MS). These effects were first noted with regard to its earlier relapsing-remitting form, which is marked by reversible exacerbation, and subsequently also in secondary progressive MS with its increasing physical and especially motor disability. We describe the development, clinical effects and side effects as well as the mode of action of this new therapeutic approach to MS.
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