NeuroVax as an Experimental Vaccine for MS

The Therapeutic Vaccine for Multiple Sclerosis

NeuroVax is injected every four weeks.
NeuroVax is injected every four weeks. Andrew Brookes/Getty Images

A vaccine for multiple sclerosis — that's exciting! However, while it sounds great, and might be great, it's still in Phase II trials, which mean a long, long way from a shot in your arm at your neurologist’s office. Also, “vaccine” here does not mean that you receive one dose and a booster or two and are “protected” from MS for life. At this point, it looks like monthly dosing.

The good news is that this vaccine is to help people who already have MS, so if all goes according to plan, this might be an eventual alternative to the current disease-modifying drugs.

What Is Neurovax?

NeuroVax is a therapeutic vaccine. Unlike regular vaccines or immunizations, which are given to prevent disease, therapeutic vaccines are given to people who already have a disease in order to treat it.

How Does Neurovax Work?

Vaccines usually work by stimulating specific parts of the immune system to “teach” it to fight off specific invaders that attack the body, such as viruses or bacteria. MS is an autoimmune disease, meaning that the body is being attacked by its own immune system.

Therefore, this vaccine has been developed to teach one part of the immune system (specifically, FOXP3+ regulatory T-cells) to control or down regulate the part of the immune system that attacks myelin in people with MS (pathogenic T-cells).

  • Pathogenic T-cells are a subset of white blood cells, which in the case of MS, attack myelin in the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves, causing inflammation and eventual demyelination.
  • FOXP3+ regulatory T-cells (or Treg cells) control pathogenic T-cells in healthy individuals, giving them the signal of when to stop attacking foreign invaders. People with MS have been shown to have lower levels of these FOXP3+ regulatory T-cells than healthy individuals. NeuroVax is designed to restore the level of FOXP3+ regulatory T-cells to the same level as in healthy individuals.

    How Is NeuroVax Administered?

    NeuroVax is injected into the muscle every four weeks indefinitely.

    What Is Happening Now?

    The company that developed NeuroVax filed for bankrupcy in 2008. Now a company called Immune Response BioPharma owns it and is planning two phase II clinical trials in secondary progressive MS. These trials are estimated to be finished in 2018.

    Sources:

    ClinicalTrials.gov. A Study of Neurovax, a Therapeutic TCR Peptide Vaccine for SPMS of Multiple Sclerosis. Retrieved January 16th 2016.

    Correale J, Farez M, Gilmore W. Vaccines for multiple sclerosis: progress to date. CNS Drugs. 2008;22(3):175-98.

    Multiple Sclerosis Trust. Neurovax Retrieved January 16th 2016.

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