A clinical trial led by Imperial College London (ICL), UK, has revealed the potential of a risky new therapy to stop the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS).
The study showcases a potentially lifesaving treatment for some that can also be potentially deadly for others. The therapy prevented symptoms from worsening in 46% of patients for a span of at least five years. However, out of the 281 patients enrolled, eight of them died in the following months, the risk being higher for those older and with more severe forms of MS.
The treatment was autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT), a procedure where the patient’s own bone marrow stem cells are harvested and transfused back after eliminating any remaining immune cells with chemotherapy.
Paolo Muraro, lead author of the study, said: “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.”
The study found that the treatment was more effective in patients with relapsing MS, a form of the disease characterised by flare-ups followed by periods with improved symptoms.
Sorrel Bickley, head of biomedical research at the MS Society, one of the funding agencies behind the study, added: “The treatment is most effective in people with MS who have ‘active inflammation’ in their brain and spinal cord.”
Meanwhile, biotechnology researchers are working on alternatives to better treat patients with MS, such as antibodies developed by Geneuro, and personalised multi-omics funded under Horizon 2020.
The current study is published in JAMA Neurology.