Stem cell transplant shows big promise for MS 

The results are a game changer for patients with drug resistant and disabling multiple sclerosis

Cell transplant was able to stop multiple sclerosis and improve symptoms, results from an international trial show.

The procedure involves wiping out a patient's immune system using cancer drugs and then rebooting it with a stem cell transplant, BBC reports.


The trial

Over 100 patients took part in the trial, in hospitals in USA, England, Sweden and Brazil. They all had relapsing remitting MS - where attacks or relapses are followed by periods of remission.


The patients received either stem cell transplantation or drug treatment (control group). After one year, only one patient of 52 in the stem cell transplant group had a relapse, compared with 39 of 50 in the drug group, BBC News reported.

After an average of three years, the transplants had failed in three patients (6 percent) in the stem cell group, compared with failure in 30 patients (60 percent) in the control group. Disability was reduced in the stem cell transplant group, but worsened in the control group.

The interim results were released at the annual meeting of the European Society for Bone and Marrow Transplantation in Lisbon.


The treatment

The treatment uses chemotherapy to destroy the faulty immune system.
Stem cells taken from the patient's blood and bone marrow are then re-infused. They are unaffected by MS and they rebuild the immune system.


"We are thrilled with the results - they are a game changer for patients with drug resistant and disabling multiple sclerosis", commented to BBC Prof John Snowden, haematologist and director of blood and bone marrow transplantation at Sheffield's Royal Hallamshire Hospital.

Doctors stress it is not suitable for all MS patients and the process can be gruelling, involving chemotherapy and a few weeks in isolation in hospital.