DENVER, CO Theres a potential new treatment for people with severe cases of multiple sclerosis, according to research presented during the American Academy of Neurologys 54th Annual Meeting in Denver, Colo., April 13-20, 2002. The new treatment involves removing stem cells from the patients blood, killing the cells that are working against the bodys immune system and then returning the healthy cells back to the body.
The hope is that these stem cells will eventually reconstitute into healthy immune system cells and the disease process can be stopped, said study author George Kraft, MD, MS, of the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle.
For the study, 26 people with severe MS underwent this treatment, which is called autologous stem cell transplantation. Their results were followed for an average of 14.2 months. Conventional treatments had previously been unsuccessful for all of the patients, either because they had no improvement or were not able to tolerate the side effects.
Fifteen of the patients had tried multiple treatments with no success. After the stem cell transplant, 20 patients were stable, with no change in their amount of disability. Six patients showed some degree of mild improvement in some measures, Kraft said.
This is good news, said Kraft. These patients had all been rapidly deteriorating over the past year, so to get them to a point where they are stabilized is great progress.
In the 12 months prior to the study, all of the patients had deteriorated by one or more points on a scale that measures MS disability. For those patients who improved during the study, improvement was up to one-half point on the scale.
At one year after the transplant, only three patients had new brain lesions, which are a result of MS disease activity. Only two of the patients have needed to take MS disease-modifying drugs since the transplant, Kraft said.