SAN DIEGO – Approximately 30% of people with active multiple sclerosis who initially responded well to two courses of alemtuzumab in the CARE-MS II trial experience relapse or MRI activity over time. But investigators set out to determine whether retreatment with a subsequent course of alemtuzumab is worthwhile.
“What we found is, after the third course, they continued to do well again – at this point for an average of another 3-4 years,” Ann D. Bass, MD, said in an interview at the meeting, held by the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis.
“The take-home message is if they do need to be retreated after those two courses, it doesn’t [necessarily] mean they are a treatment failure. Give them another chance and see if they will do well with a third course, which is what they did,” said Dr. Bass, of the Neurology Center of San Antonio.
Through year 6 of an extension study with 393 of the originaltrial participants, 45% received one or more additional courses of alemtuzumab. Participants were required to wait 12 months or more after completion of the two initial courses of therapy. This figure includes 30% who received a third course of alemtuzumab, 12% who received a fourth course, and 2% and 1% who received a fifth or sixth course, respectively.
“The average time until they needed a third course was 2.5 years after the second course; so they didn’t need it right away,” Dr. Bass said. “The majority, even at 6 years, did not need to have a third course.”
When patients did require a subsequent course, “about half needed it because of clinical relapse; one-quarter needed it because of MRI relapse; and about one-quarter needed it because of both,” Dr. Bass said during a poster presentation.
In terms of effectiveness, the annual relapse rate significantly decreased following a third course of alemtuzumab, from 0.85 in the 12 months prior to the third course to 0.20 in the 12 months after (P less than .0001). In these patients, the annual relapse rate remained low, at 0.17, up to 3 years later.
Investigators also tracked disability using the Expanded Disability Status Scale. They found that more than two-thirds, 68%, maintained stable or had improved scores after administration of a third alemtuzumab course. In addition, the percentage of patients with confirmed disability improvement increased from 4.4% in the 12 months prior to a third course to 14.4% in the year following pretreatment.
Retreatment was at the patient’s discretion. “The patients have the right to say ‘No, I’m doing great. I don’t want to be retreated’ or ‘I want to explore other options’ for whatever reason,” Dr. Bass said. “That’s rare though; most patients actually say yes.”
To qualify for retreatment based on MRI findings, patients had to have at least two lesions – one enlarging and one enhancing, two enlarging, or two new.
Only patients who opted for a subsequent course of alemtuzumab were included in the current analysis; those who chose a different disease-modifying therapy were excluded.
“Many achieve clinical and MRI remission. I never say cure – you don’t want to say that word,” Dr. Bass said.
Sanofi and Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals supported the study. Dr. Bass reported that she is a principal investigator, speaker, and member of the advisory board for Sanofi Genzyme.
SOURCE: Bass A et al. ACTRIMS Forum 2018 Poster P035.