Few Multiple Sclerosis questions and their answers

Nitin K Sethi, MD

Assistant Professor of Neurology

NYP-Weill Cornell Medical Center

New York, NY 10065

One of my readers Lisa asked me some very specific MS questions. Since I feel these questions shall be on many MS patients minds I am reproducing them here. Here are the questions followed by my answers. Thank you Lisa!!!

  1. Lisa on September 17, 2008 said:

Hi, I have enjoyed reading the information you posted. I have a few questions of my own:

At this point, I have an MRI with 8 lesions, one possibly of which is tumefactive MS, a postive LP for oligoclonal bands, and my neurologist has diagnosed me with “clinically isolated syndrome”…not full blown MS at this point, but still wants to begin treatment.

1. Is tumefactive MS considered more fatal or harder to treat than “regular” MS?

2. How many oligoclonal bands are needed for a low amount? High amount? My report states greater than 3 bands. Why is there not a specific number given?

3. I have been given the choice between Rebif and Copaxone. Which is the better treatment?

  1. 7 braindiseases on September 18, 2008 said:

Dear Lisa,
thank you for writing in. You ask some very specific questions and that is what I shall attempt to answer. I am not sure why your doctor has stil labelled you as a clinically isolated syndrome (likely it is because you have had only one clinical attack suggestive of MS). Your MRI though does show dissemination of the disease in space (you can read more about the clinical diagnosis of MS on my website
http://braindiseases.info) and you have more than 3 oligoclonal bands in your CSF. Now to answer your first question. Some patients have large sized demyelinating plaques (lesions) on their MRI. This is commonly referred to as tumefactive MS (because on the MRI, the lesion is large and resembles a tumor more which it has to be differentiated). There is some data to suggest that MS patients with tumefactive disease have a more aggressive disease course. Though I have to add that this data is not robust.
Oligoclonal bands are frequently present in the CSF of MS patients. Here I have to add that oligoclonal bands can be seen in many other conditions other than MS hence one has to make sure that they are present only in the CSF and not in the blood (In MS these bands are produced intrathecally meaning present only in CSF but not in blood). One study suggested that low or absent number of oligoclonal bands in the cerebrospinal fluid at the time of diagnosis predicts a better prognosis. However quantification of oligoclonal bands in the CSF remains an insensitive prognostic indicator and hence should not be used to influence decisions regarding treatment.
Now to your third question. There is some evidence to suggest that higher dose interferon (Betaseron/ Rebif) are more effective as compared to lower dose interferon. The interferons as well as Copaxone are recommened for initial treatment of relapsing remitting MS. Most of the times it is the patient’s lifestyle, easy of administration and side-effect profile which determines the choice between them.
I hope that helps you out and feel free to write again. I wish you the best.


Personal Regards,
Nitin Sethi, MD