Cerebrospinal fluid abnormalities in a phase III trial of Avonex (IFNbeta-1a) for relapsing multiple sclerosis. The Multiple Sclerosis Collaborative Research Group

R A Rudick, D L Cookfair, N A Simonian, R M Ransohoff, J R Richert, L D Jacobs, R M Herndon, A M Salazar, J S Fischer, C V Granger, D E Goodkin, J H Simon, D M Bartoszak, D N Bourdette, J Braiman, C M Brownscheidle, M E Coats, S L Cohan, D S Dougherty, R P Kinkel, M K Mass, F E Munchsauer, K O'Reilly, R L Priore, R H Whitham
Journal of Neuroimmunology 1999 January 1, 93 (1-2): 8-14

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: This report provides results of CSF analyses done in a subset of relapsing remitting MS patients participating in a placebo-controlled, double-blind, phase III clinical trial of IFNbeta-Studies supported by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (grants RG2019, RG2827),a (Avonex , Biogen). The clinical trial demonstrated that IFNbeta-1a treatment resulted in significantly reduced disability progression, annual relapse rate, and new brain lesions visualized by cranial magnetic resonance imaging. The objectives of the current study were to determine: (a) whether CSF abnormalities in MS patients correlated with disease or MRI characteristics, and (b) effects of IFNbeta-1a therapy on these CSF abnormalities.

METHODS: CSF was analyzed from 262 (87%) of the 301 study subjects at entry into the clinical trial, and a second CSF sample was analyzed from 137 of these 262 subjects after 2 years of therapy. CSF cell counts, oligoclonal bands (OCB), IgG index, and free kappa light chains were measured using standard assays. Baseline CSF results were compared with demographic, disease, and MRI parameters. Differences in on-study relapse rate, gadolinium enhancement, and EDSS change according to baseline CSF status was used to determine the predictive value of CSF for subsequent clinical and MRI disease activity. Change in CSF parameters after 104 weeks were used to determine the effects of treatment.

RESULTS: (1) At study baseline, 37% of the subjects had abnormal CSF WBC counts, 61% had abnormal levels of CSF free kappa light chains, 84% had abnormal IgG index values, and 90% were positive for OCB. (2) Baseline IgG index, kappa light chains, and OCB showed weakly positive, statistically significant correlations with Gd-enhanced lesion volume and T2 lesion volume. WBC showed a statistically significant correlation with Gd-enhancing lesion volume but was uncorrelated with T2 lesion volume. (3) There was an associated between baseline CSF WBC counts and on-study clinical and MRI disease activity in placebo recipients. (4) IFNbeta-1a treatment resulted in significantly reduced CSF WBC counts, but there was no treatment-related change in CSF IgG index, kappa light chains, or OCB, which remained relatively stable over time in both patient groups.

CONCLUSIONS: The current study documents significant reductions in CSF WBC counts in patients treated with IFNbeta-1a for 104 weeks. This finding is considered relevant to the therapeutic response, since CSF WBC counts were found to be positively correlated with subsequent clinical and MRI disease activity in placebo-treated relapsing MS patients.

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