Background: Glatiramer acetate (GA) therapy following brief, low-dose induction with mitoxantrone was safe and more effective than GA alone in suppressing inflammatory disease activity, as determined by a significant reduction in gadolinium (Gd)- enhancing MRI lesions, in a 15- month, randomized, single-blind study of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) patients.
Objective: To determine whether effects on MRI markers of disease burden and tissue damage support and extend data on the benefits of mitoxantrone induction therapy before initiation of long-term GA therapy.
Design/methods: 40 RRMS patients, aged 18 to 55 years, with 1-15 Gd-enhancing lesions on screening MRI and EDSS score 0-6.5 were randomized to receive GA (20 mg/d SC), starting 2 weeks after the last of 3 monthly mitoxantrone infusions (36 mg/m2 total; n = 21), or to GA alone (20 mg/d SC; n = 19), for a total of 15 months. MRIs were obtained at baseline and months 6, 9, 12, and 15.
Results: At baseline, mean (+/- SD) age was 37.2 +/- 9.7 years; disease duration, 3.5 +/- 4.8 years; EDSS score, 2.3 +/- 1.1; and number of Gd-enhancing lesions, 3.75 +/- 3.95. Reductions in Gd-enhancing lesions (RR = 0.30, 95 % CI, 0.11-0.86, p = 0.0147) and relapse activity favoring mitoxantrone- GA were accompanied by significant differences in changes in T2w lesion volume (p = 0.0139), T1w hypointense lesion volume (p = 0.0303), and proportion of Gdenhancing lesions that evolved into black holes (p = 0.0023) compared with GA alone.
Conclusions: Longterm continuous GA after brief, low-dose mitoxantrone induction is safe and more effective than GA alone. A trend toward decreased clinical disease activity was accompanied by major effects on MRI measures of disease burden and severe tissue injury.