For almost three decades in many countries azathioprine has been used to treat relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. However its efficacy was usually considered marginal and following approval of ? interferons for this indication it was no longer recommended as first line treatment, even if presently no conclusive direct ? interferon-azathioprine comparison exists. To compare azathioprine efficacy versus the currently available ? interferons in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, a multicenter, randomized, controlled, single-blinded, non-inferiority trial was conducted in 30 Italian multiple sclerosis centers. Eligible patients (relapsing-remitting course; ?2 relapses in the last 2 years) were randomly assigned to azathioprine or ? interferons. The primary outcome was annualized relapse rate ratio (RR) over 2 years. Key secondary outcome was number of new brain MRI lesions. Patients (n?=?150) were randomized in 2 groups (77 azathioprine, 73 ? interferons). At 2 years, clinical evaluation was completed in 127 patients (62 azathioprine, 65 ? interferons). Annualized relapse rate was 0.26 (95% Confidence Interval, CI, 0.19-0.37) in the azathioprine and 0.39 (95% CI 0.30-0.51) in the interferon group. Non-inferiority analysis showed that azathioprine was at least as effective as ? interferons (relapse RRAZA/IFN 0.67, one-sided 95% CI 0.96; p<0.01). MRI outcomes were analyzed in 97 patients (50 azathioprine and 47 ? interferons). Annualized new T2 lesion rate was 0.76 (95% CI 0.61-0.95) in the azathioprine and 0.69 (95% CI 0.54-0.88) in the interferon group. Treatment discontinuations due to adverse events were higher (20.3% vs. 7.8%, p?=?0.03) in the azathioprine than in the interferon group, and concentrated within the first months of treatment, whereas in the interferon group discontinuations occurred mainly during the second year. The results of this study indicate that efficacy of azathioprine is not inferior to that of ? interferons for patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. Considering also the convenience of the oral administration, and the low cost for health service providers, azathioprine may represent an alternative to interferon treatment, while the different side effect profiles of both medications have to be taken into account.
Azathioprine (Aza), 6-Mercaptopurine (6-MP) and 6-Thioguanine (6-TG) are thiopurine drugs widely used as immunosuppressants/anti-inflammatory agents in organ transplantation and chemotherapy. Aza is well tolerated and effective in modifying the course of MS. Here we investigated the action of 6-MP on human dendritic cells (DCs). We described for the first time that 6-MP impairs in vitro differentiation of DCs, has an inhibitory effect during DC activation processes inducing a functionally less immunogenic phenotype. Moreover, 6-MP significantly reduces DC IL-23 production and CCR7 expression, at the same time induces IL-10 augmentation. All these findings add a novel action mechanism in Aza immune modulation.
Neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOsd) is a group of demyelinating disorders recently redefined and associated with NMO-IgG/anti-aquaporin 4 antibodies. Because NMOsd is of unknown prevalence worldwide, we conducted a retrospective, cross-sectional study of 850 patients with demyelinating disorders hospitalized in North East Tuscany from 1998 to 2006 to examine the prevalence of NMO and related disorders among unselected consecutive neurological patients with inflammatory CNS diseases and to evaluate the clinical phenotype spectrum of identified cases. Clinical data were updated after at least 2 years of follow-up. An immunofluorescence technique was used to detect NMO-IgG on rat brain tissue. Sera from other 828 neurological patients, 65 non-neurological patients and 50 healthy donors served as controls. The prevalence of NMOsd was 1.5%, with a MS:NMOsd ratio of 42.7. Among 13 NMOsd patients, 77% had long spinal cord lesions, 38% had severe optic neuritis and 23% had brain or brainstem lesions. Only 56% had clinically definite NMO at follow-up. The final EDSS score ranged from 1 to 10, mainly depending on brainstem involvement occurrence. Our findings confirm a low prevalence of NMO and related disorders among demyelinating inflammatory diseases in a Caucasian population. Moreover, this study demonstrates an unexpectedly high prevalence of limited and atypical variants of this disease, not previously documented.
Recently autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT) has been introduced for the treatment of severe forms of multiple sclerosis (MS). As little data are available on bone marrow (BM) of MS patients undergoing AHSCT, we investigated the morphological and phenotypic characteristics of MS BM.
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