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Risky MS Treatment That Resets Immune System May Halt Disease for Five Years

February 21, 2017

A new study, led by Imperial College London, the treatment prevented symptoms of severe disease from worsening for five years, in 46 per cent of patients.

However, as the treatment involves aggressive chemotherapy, the researchers stress the procedure carries significant risk. The treatment in the current study, called autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, was given to patients with advanced forms of the disease that had failed to respond to other medications.

The study, published in the journal JAMA Neurology, suggested some patients even saw a small improvement in their symptoms following the treatment. The one-off treatment aims to prevent the immune system from attacking the nerve cells. All immune system cells are made from stem cells in the bone marrow. In the treatment, a patient is given a drug that encourages stem cells to move from the bone marrow into the blood stream, and these cells are then removed from the body.

The patient then receives high-dose chemotherapy that kills any remaining immune cells. The patient’s stem cells are then transfused back into their body to re-grow their immune system. Previous studies have suggested this ‘resets’ the immune system, and stops it from attacking the nerve cells.

Dr. Muraro, lead author of the study from the Department of Medicine at Imperial, explained that the risks must be weighed-up against the benefits: “We previously knew this treatment reboots or resets the immune system – and that it carried risks – but we didn’t know how long the benefits lasted.

“In this study, which is the largest long-term follow-up study of this procedure, we’ve shown we can ‘freeze’ a patient’s disease – and stop it from becoming worse, for up to five years.

However, we must take into account that the treatment carries a small risk of death, and this is a disease that is not immediately life-threatening.”

Dr. Muraro explained the number of years this treatment prevented symptoms from worsening is far greater than would be expected in untreated patients with severe forms of relapsing MS.

The study found that in patients with relapsing MS, nearly three in four experienced no worsening of their symptoms five years after the treatment. Younger patients with less severe forms of the disease were more likely respond to the therapy.

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Via NeuroscienceNews