Mitoxantrone in progressive multiple sclerosis: when and how to treat?

J Neurol Sci. 2003 Feb 15;206(2):203-8. doi: 10.1016/s0022-510x(02)00335-0.


Mitoxantrone (MX) has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of patients with worsening relapsing-remitting (RR) or secondary progressive (SP) multiple sclerosis (MS). However, indications should be refined and mitoxantrone reserved as a rescue therapy to: (1) patients in the relapsing-remitting phase with frequent and disabling exacerbations likely leading to permanent severe disability and (2) to patients in the secondary progressive phase whose disability progression rate increases by one EDSS point or more per year and who do not respond to other current therapies. An induction phase with the monthly intravenous administration of 12 mg/m(2) followed by a maintenance phase with 12 mg/m(2) every 3 months for 2 years seems the most effective and safe treatment regimen, not exceeding the maximum cumulative dose of 140 mg/m(2). Given the potent myelosuppressive activity of mitoxantrone, dosage should be carefully adapted to the body surface and hematological changes. Long-term toxicities (amenorrhoea and therapy-related leukemia) seem acceptable but a valid evaluation will need a longer follow-up in more patients. Cardiotoxicity, the major long-term toxicity, is clearly dose-dependent and is a strict treatment duration limiting factor. To reduce the risk of cardiac events, the drug should be administered by slow infusion (over 30 min). Analogs of mitoxantrone with a much lower cardiotoxicity are currently investigated in animal experimental models.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disability Evaluation
  • Drug Evaluation
  • Humans
  • Mitoxantrone / therapeutic use*
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Progressive / drug therapy*
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / drug therapy*
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Mitoxantrone