Stem cell transplants induce remission in MS

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More than two-thirds of patients were progression-free after five years.

Five-year results from a new clinical trial suggest high-dose immunosuppressive therapy, followed by autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplantation can induce sustained remission in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS).

In the HALT-MS trial , 24 patients with relapsing-remitting MS, aged between 26 and 52 years, received high-dose immunosuppressive therapy and autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplant (HDIT/HCT). The patients did not take any MS medications after receiving HDIT/HCT.
Five years after receiving the treatment, 69 per cent of trial participants had survived without experiencing progression of disability, relapse of MS symptoms, or new brain lesions. In addition, some participants showed improvements, such as recovery of mobility or other physical capabilities.

The treatment does carry some risks, and many participants experienced the expected side effects of HDIT/HCT, such as infections.

“Although further evaluation of the benefits and risks of HDIT/HCT is needed, these five-year results suggest the promise of this treatment for inducing long-term, sustained remissions of poor-prognosis relapsing-remitting MS,” said principal investigator, Dr Richard Nash, from Colorado Blood Cancer Institute and Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital in the US.

Detailing the findings in Neurology , the authors said HDIT/HCT may be a reasonable consideration for patients failing first-line treatments.

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