At 6 months post-treatment, neurological improvement or stabilization was observed from all (99) patients in the study except one.
In their recently published study, Long-term outcomes of autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation with reduced-intensity conditioning in multiple sclerosis: physician’s and patient’s perspectives, published in the Annals of Hematology Journal, Shevchenko et al. describe the effects of an autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT) with high-dose immunosuppressive therapy (HDIT) on 99 patients with multiple sclerosis. That the stem cell transplantation is autologous means that the stem cells derive from the patient’s own body, and the stem cells being hematopoietic indicates that the stem cells give rise to blood cells.
The idea for this type of therapy for multiple sclerosis has stemmed from the fact that multiple sclerosis is characterized by nervous system inflammation. Because inflammation results from activities of the immune system, it has been thought that targeting the immune system to reduce its activity could improve symptoms of the disease. More specifically, this particular combination therapy, using AHSCT and HDIT, has been aimed at destroying the immune system and rebuilding a separate system from hematopoietic stem cells so that the new immune system functions more favorably in those with multiple sclerosis.
AHSCT and HDIT have been used in the treatment of multiple sclerosis for several years, but the specific way these techniques are able to improve multiple sclerosis is not well understood. Further, there is some debate about both the safety and effectiveness of these treatments. Small sample sizes and homogeneous patient groups have plagued many of the studies performed to address these issues. In the present study, however, the researchers studied patients with different types of multiple sclerosis. This experimental structure allowed the scientists to show that AHSCT and HDIT used in combination can help those with both remitting and progressive multiple sclerosis and that the positive effects on the disease appeared to endure over long-term periods. At 6 months post-treatment, neurological improvement or stabilization was observed from all (99) patients in the study except one. The average follow up time for patients was 62 months, or just over 5 years, and up to and at this point, 47% of patients demonstrated significant improvement jumping at least 0.5 points on the Expanded Disability Status Scale EDSS scale. These results are highly informative for physicians treating patients with multiple sclerosis and are a promising demonstration of the potential for stem cells to improve conditions like multiple sclerosis.
- Shevchenko, J. L., et al. “Long-term outcomes of autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation with reduced-intensity conditioning in multiple sclerosis: physician’s and patient’s perspectives.” Annals of hematology 94.7 (2015): 1149.