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Study: Cladribine doesn’t pose cancer risk in MS patients


A new analysis of research data suggests that cladribine, a drug used to treat leukemia, is safe to use as treatment for multiple sclerosis. The authors of the study say new evidence shows it does not increase the risk of cancer as previously thought.

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London, led by Dr. Klaus Schmierer, compared data from the 11 pivotal trials that were used to support the licensing of seven different drugs to examine the cancer risk. They compared the incidence of cancer where patients had been treated with cladribine to other studies where they had been treated with other similar drugs that are currently licensed for MS. They found there was no evidence for an increased risk of cancer in people with MS taking cladribine.

The authors note that the perception was due to an unusually low cancer rate in the placebo group during clinical trials and given its efficacy, tolerability, and convenience cladribine should be reconsidered for treatment of people with relapsing MS.

“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,” said Schmierer. “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.”

The findings were published in the journal Neurology: Neuroimmunology & Neuroinflammation.

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