Conference Coverage

Alemtuzumab switch linked to good MS outcomes



BERLIN – Switching to alemtuzumab from fingolimod is associated with improved disease activity in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS), according to the results of a real-world study reported at the annual congress of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis.

Dr. Jessica Frau of the University of Caligari, Italy Sara Freeman/MDedge News

Dr. Jessica Frau

Jessica Frau, MD, of the University of Cagliari (Italy) reported that a switch from fingolimod (Gilenya) to alemtuzumab (Lemtrada) in 77 patients treated at 11 Italian centers was able to “reduce dramatically disease activity in patients who did not respond to fingolimod.”

Dr. Frau reported: “When we compared in our cohort the last year of fingolimod with the first year after the first course of alemtuzumab, we found a significant decrease in the annualized relapse rate [ARR].” The ARRs were 0.60 for fingolimod and 0.20 after 1 year of alemtuzumab treatment.

“We found also a trend towards an improvement in the EDSS [Expanded Disability Status Scale] score (P = .23), and less evidence of disease activity on MRI, both in terms of new T2 lesions and gadolinium-enhancing (Gd+) lesions.”

The last MRI during fingolimod treatment showed new T2 and Gd+ enhancing lesions in 69.2% and 58.6% of patients, respectively. Corresponding figures for the first MRI during alemtuzumab treatment were 10.4% and 2.2% of patients.

The beneficial effects of switching to fingolimod in the Italian study “was not influenced by a shorter washout [period] or a low lymphocyte count when alemtuzumab was started,” Dr. Frau said. A shorter washout period has been hypothesized to account for recent accounts of disease flares seen when switching from fingolimod to alemtuzumab, she explained.

Indeed, Dr. Frau noted that there had been a few studies that reported MS disease reactivation soon after the switch to alemtuzumab was made, which could be because lymphocytes remain in the lymph nodes when alemtuzumab is administered, this means that potentially they could repopulate the central nervous system and reactivate the disease.

However, “when alemtuzumab is started after fingolimod it is not a risk factor for reactivation of the disease,” Dr. Frau said, based on the current study’s findings.

As expected, the frequency of relapses increased during the washout period after stopping fingolimod, going from 12.7% of patients with relapse in the first month, 18.2% at 2 months, and 22.2% at 3 months. The time to first relapse from the start of alemtuzumab treatment was 6 months for 2.9% of patients, 9 months for 10.5% of patients, and 1 year for 20.7% of patients.

Asked to comment on when the optimal time to switch from fingolimod to alemtuzumab might be, Dr. Frau said: “The optimal time could be 1 month when the lymphocyte count is not too low.” However, lymphocyte counts were not measured in the entire cohort, so “these data perhaps need to have more strength.”

The switch from natalizumab to alemtuzumab

Other data on switching to alemtuzumab, this time from natalizumab (Tysabri), in the ANSWERS MS study were presented by Paul Gallagher, MBChB, of Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, London, and the University of Glasgow (Scotland).

Dr. Paul Gallagher Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, London (England) and the University of Glasgow (Scotland) Sara Freeman/MDedge News

Dr. Paul Gallagher

ANSWERS MS (Alemtuzumab after Natalizumab Switch in Evolving Rapidly Severe MS) is a retrospective, observational analysis of routinely collected data on the use of alemtuzumab by 13 centers the United Kingdom and Ireland. These centers have been collecting data since before alemtuzumab was licensed in 2014 for MS, Dr. Gallagher observed, with some centers having experience of making the switch for more than a decade.

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