Drug Used to Treat Cancer Has no Effect on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

According to a story from Science Nordic, the monoclonal antibody drug rituximab (often marketed at Rituxan) had no effect on patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Chronic fatigue syndrome is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). The disappointing results of this study are the culmination of years of research that at one point looked hopeful. With another potential treatment avenue exhausted, researchers will have to look elsewhere to find an effective therapy for the illness. 

About Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Myalgic encephalomyelitis/Chronic fatigue syndrome is a rare condition which is most characterized by long term fatigue and other symptoms which severely impact a person’s ability to fulfill daily tasks. The exact cause of the syndrome is poorly understood. Risk factors may include family history, low physical fitness, old age, mental health problems, and allergies. Women are also more likely to get the syndrome than men. The characteristic symptoms is severe, persistent fatigue that has no definitive cause and is not resolved with rest; other symptoms include difficulty sleeping, worsening of symptoms following exercise, night sweats, sensitivities to certain foods, noise, or odors, muscle and joint pain, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and sore throat. Symptoms may appear gradually or suddenly, and in severe cases can leave a patient bedridden. Some treatments may include energy management strategies such as pacing and changes in diet. To learn more about chronic fatigue syndrome, click here.

Rituximab: A Drug With Many Uses, Just Not This One

Rituximab is a drug with the capability to intervene in the function of the immune system which makes it a valuable therapy for a diverse range of diseases, from various forms of lymphoma and leukemia to a variety of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and pemphigus vulgaris. The fact that the drug failed to have an effect on chronic fatigue syndrome suggests that the immune system may not play a significant role in the mechanism of the disease.

The decision to try rituximab as a treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome followed several instances where lymphoma patients that also had chronic fatigue appeared to see their fatigue symptoms improve during treatment. Still, the findings from the most recent study make it all too clear that these anecdotes were only that: anecdotes.

For the field of treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome, it unfortunately means one thing: back to the drawing board.

Check out the original study here.

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