“Game-changer” stem cell transplant shows strength in multiple sclerosis
A new stem cell transplant is being hailed as a “game-changer” in the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) after an international trial demonstrated that it halted disease progress, relieved symptoms and reduced disability in patients.
The treatment involves the use of chemotherapy to wipe out the patient’s faulty immune system, before blood and bone marrow stem cells are then reinfused, which, unaffected by the disease, proceed to rebuild the immune system. The treatment cost of around £30,000 is comparable to the annual price of some MS therapies.
In the trial, which incorporated just over 100 patients with relapsing remitting MS in hospitals in Sheffield, Chicago, Sao Paulo and Sweden’s Uppsala, participants were given either haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) or drug treatment.
It was found that, after one year of treatment, only one patient receiving HSCT had relapsed, compared to 39 who had been receiving drug treatment. After three years of treatment, just three of the 52 HSCT patients had seen their treatment fail, compared to 30 of the 50 patients receiving drug treatment. This was on top of the fact that disability was improved in the transplant group, whereas it worsened in the drug group.
Professionals in the field were very positive on the results, with the lead investigator, Professor Richard Burt of Northwestern University Chicago, telling the BBC: “The data is stunningly in favour of transplant against the best available drugs – the neurological community has been sceptical about this treatment, but these results will change that,” while Professor Basil Sharrack, Neurologist at Royal Hallamshire Hospital, added: “This is interim analysis, but with that caveat, this is the best result I have seen in any trial for multiple sclerosis.”
Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the spinal cord and brain which can lead to mobility and motor issues and can also impact the immune system amongst other symptoms. The disease is estimated to affect around 100,000 people in the UK.
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