Multiple Sclerosis Drug Does Not Cause Cancer

MS drug previously refused market authorization because of cancer concerns.

MS drug previously refused market authorization because of cancer concerns.

Researchers from the Queen Mary University of London are calling on health care professionals to reinitiate development of a multiple sclerosis (MS) drug until more evidence about its risk of cancer is published.

Their piece is published in the journal Neurology: Neuroimmunology & Neuroinflammation. The authors wrote that their new evidence contradicts the belief that the drug causes cancer.

Cladribine is already licensed for leukemia patients — but it can also be used to treat MS as shown in previous studies in the United Kingdom, the authors explained. In one trial, the editorialists outlined, the drug reduced MS relapses by more than 50%.

In the same study, nearly 50% of people who received treatment with the drug did not demonstrate any signs of disease activity for the subsequent 2 years. However, based on previous data, the drug was refused market authorization, they wrote, because of the suspicion that it may cause cancer.

In their study, the researchers compared the incidence of cancer in patients treated with Cladribine to 11 other studies in which similar drugs licensed for MS were used. In their analysis, they found no evidence for increased cancer risk in MS patients using Cladribine.

They wrote that the drug appeared safer, more effective, easier to use, and potentially less expensive than current MS therapies.

“Our research shows that clinical academics and drug makers should continue to develop Cladribine for people with relapsing MS as the risk of developing cancer is no greater than for other types of current medication,” lead author Klaus Schmierer said in a press release. “As well as being easier and cheaper to administer, Cladribine benefits female patients who want to get pregnant. Other drugs used to treat relapsing MS need to be stopped during pregnancy and that can expose women to increased risk of MS disease activity. That's not the case with Cladribine, which has a long lasting effect.”