Paulo Fontoura, MD, PhD: Ocrelizumab, Advanced Measures for PPMS

MAY 02, 2018
Kevin Kunzmann

In what should have been a victory lap period for ocrelizumab (Ocrevus), new data presented at the 70th annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) in Los Angeles, CA, last week showed the history-making antibody still has room for discovery.

The Genentech therapy, which last year became the first drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat patients with primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS), reported open-label extension study results that showed patients with the relapsing form of MS improved swiftly in MRI measures of disease activity and progression when switching from interferon beta-1a to the drug.

Patients who were assigned to ocrelizumab throughout the 4-year OPERA study sustained lower whole brain, white matter, and cortical grey matter tissue loss after continuous treatment compared to those switched to ocrelizumab for the open-label extension after 2 years of treatment with comparative therapy.

The extension trial results came hot on the trails of newly announced AAN panel guideline recommendations for treating MS, which emphasize using disease-modifying therapies early into disease progression. Paulo Fontoura, MD, PhD, global head, Clinical Development, Neuroscience, Genentech, told MD Magazine ocrelizumab’s newly proven long-lasting efficacy and safety contribute to the new narrative surrounding disease treatment.

“Now everyone recognizes the need to intervene earlier in the MS disease course to prevent long-term disability,” Fontoura said. “And therefore, we know having a favorable benefit-risk profile really allows you to do that.”

Fontoura sat down with MD Magazine while at AAN to discuss the newest data surrounding ocrelizumab, as well as the company’s extended efforts into telehealth to continue advancing PPMS care.

Though there’s much more work to be done in treating both forms of MS, there was still a little room for reflection on the antibody’s accomplishment.

“Ocrevus in lots of ways is such an important medicine, because it is the first one,” Fontoura said.

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