Treatment for multiple sclerosis resets the immune system
Researchers at the Imperial College London are exploring a new treatment for multiple sclerosis that resets the immune system.
A clinical trial funded by the UK MS Society, the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research Centre, and by the European Blood and Marrow Transplant Autoimmune Disease Working Party found the MS treatment stopped relapse in almost half of patients tested for 5 years for people with severe multiple sclerosis.
Risks of immunotherapy for treatment of MS
The researchers note the therapy is not without substantial risks because it nvolves aggressive chemotherapy.
There is no cure for MS that is a dsease that attacks the immune system. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and vary among individuals diagnosed with the disease.
Risks of treatment can include death because reactivation of the immune system increases vulnerability to infection that can be overwhelming.
In the clinical trial 8 out of 281 patients who received the treatment for MS died within the 100 days. The risk of dying was highest for patients who were older and those with the more severe forms of the disease.
Dr Paolo Muraro, lead author of the study from the Department of Medicine at Imperial explained in a press release: “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."
He adds it's important to weigh the benefits of the MS treatment against the risk, especially given the fact that multiple sclerosis is not a life-threatening disease.
Younger patients were more responsive to treatment; 73 percent of those studied had no worsening of symptoms 5 years after receiving treatment.
Patients with relapsing forms of MS had small improvements in symptoms.
“There are more than 100,000 people with MS in the UK, it’s a challenging and unpredictable condition to live with and that’s why the MS Society is funding research like this to further our knowledge and find treatments for everyone,"
Dr Sorrel Bickley, Head of Biomedical Research at the MS Society said.
How it works
The MS treatment is called autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT). The study, published in the journal JAMA Neurology, describes how the treatment works.
Patients were given a drug that moves stem cells from the bone marrow into the blood stream. Next, the stem cells are removed from the body, followed by chemotherapy to destroy any remaining immune cells.
Then the patients stem cells are reinfused back into the body to 'reset' the immune system, shown by studies to stop the body's attack on the nerves and spinal cord.
The next step Maruo says is to perform larger clinical trials. “If anyone with MS is considering AHSCT they should speak to their neurologist as a referral is needed to access this treatment via a trial or on the NHS.”
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