A team of Norwegian researchers headed by Deputy Director and Professor Carmen Scheibenbogen of the Institute of Medical Immunology, at Berlin Charité University Hospital, had their first Chronic Fatigue Syndrome breakthrough treatment using an anti-cancer agent rituximab. This trial study was published on Oct. 19, 2011, in PLoS ONE scientific journal and is promising news for the 300,000 people who suffer from this disease in Germany.
In a new study conducted at Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen, Norway, the 30 patients, who were randomly selected, were given rituximab developed for lymph gland cancer chemotherapy. Two-thirds of these patients observed over twelve months showed an improvement in health condition.
Approximately one million people in the US suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. For several years, CFS was not recognized by doctors as a regular diagnosis, but today it is becoming more commonplace and strikes more people than those afflicted with multiple sclerosis, lupus and a number of forms of cancer.
Although people of either sex or age can develop CFS, it occurs four times more in women than men in their 40s and 50s. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is less common in children and occurs in all racial and ethnic groups and countries around the world and there may be a genetic link.
Chronic fatigue syndrome has been linked to genes that regulate the injury and trauma response, but they are unlikely the cause. Although research has identified different genes in CFS patients that relate to immune system function, infection and blood disease, there is no clear pattern that identifies the genes responsible for impacting emotional and mental health.
CFS is a disabling physical and mental fatigue that has nothing to do with fatigue after a morning run, impaired memory and concentration, with 80 percent of cases demonstrating flu-like symptoms, and sore throat accompanied by pain that can last for months or years with no known effective treatment. To date, the cause of this mysterious disorder is still unknown and doctors find it difficult to differentiate it from burnout or depression.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is not well-known, but it occurs with high frequency and could be due to chronic infection, a malfunctioning immune system, or allergies. This mysterious medical condition is idiopathic, developing without any apparent cause, like fibromyalgia, lupus, and autoimmune disease conditions, and presents with non-specific symptoms making it difficult to diagnose on a case-to-case basis.
However, many researchers focused on the possibility that a virus can cause the syndrome, because most of CFS features resemble that of a viral illness. Still, not all patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome show signs of infection, which is why experts have long been divided on whether infections play any role in this disorder.
Professor Carmen Scheibenbogen is researching the Epstein-Barr virus as a potential cause, and a biomarker test is currently being developed. A large number of patients must be examined to identify similar physiological causes and biomarkers.
A joint project between Adlershof JPT Peptide Technologies GmbH and CFS experts, at the Berlin university hospital Charité, is analyzing CFS patients’ blood in their effort to hunt for biomarkers to create a breakthrough in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome treatment.
Written by: Janet Grace Ortigas