Healthcare: On the Agenda - Leukaemia drug helps to fight MS

- In a nutshell

A drug commonly used to treat a form of leukaemia has now proved to be effective in combating multiple sclerosis. A study led by researchers from the University of Cambridge found that alemtuzumab not only stops MS from advancing in patients with early stage active relapsing-remitting MS, but may also restore lost function caused by the disease.

- Why is it such a big deal?

The surprise findings will boost the hopes of thousands in the early stages of the condition, which destroys the central nervous system. Existing medications at best slow the disease.

- Media coverage

The study prompted headlines including 'Drug may reverse MS brain damage' on BBC Online. The story was covered prominently in all national quality newspapers and also featured in the tabloids. It was also picked up by the broadcast media and featured on the ITV, BBC and Sky News bulletins. Additionally it was featured on BBC Breakfast and the Today programme.

- Who was behind the PR?

The UK media relations activity was headed by the University of Cambridge's in-house team. Genevieve Maul, communications officer in the science research division, targeted the national and broadcast media with the story. It was also distributed to science journalists in health titles. Pharma firms Genzyme and Bayer Schering, which funded the research, handled the US press coverage.

2.5m - Number of people worldwide affected by MS

100k - Number of MS sufferers in Britain.

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