Closer to a cure for MS - and it won’t break the bank

World

Closer to a cure for MS - and it won’t break the bank

New treatment can halt the progress of multiple sclerosis and relieve the symptoms of the disease

Stephen Walter

Doctors have hailed what they say is a major breakthrough in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, halting progress of the disease and relieving symptoms in some patients.
An international trial also found that the stem cell transplant treatment could reduce disability for people with MS.
The disease, which attacks nerves in the brain and spinal cord and affects people’s immune systems, leads to fatigue and muscle and mobility problems, as well as a range of other disabilities.But now a new stem cell treatment is being called a “game changer” as it involves wiping out a patient’s immune system using cancer drugs and then rebooting it with a stem cell transplant.
Louise Willetts, 36, a patient from Rotherham, UK, is free of symptoms for the first time since being diagnosed with the disease in 2010. She said: “It feels like a miracle.”Multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) occurs when the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibres and causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body. The disease is disabling and symptoms vary depending on how much nerve damage there is.In the trial, more than 100 patients from hospitals in Chicago, Sheffield, Stockholm and Sao Paolo were treated with either haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) or conventional drugs. They all had a type of relapsing remitting MS – in which attacks are punctuated by periods of remission.
After a year, just one relapse occurred among the 52 patients who had stem cell treatment and, after an average follow-up of three years, the transplant treatment had failed for just three of them – about six percent.
As for those who were given drug treatment, 39 of the 50 had a relapse within a year. Over the same three-year period, the treatment failed altogether for 30 of them – or 60%.
Additionally, those who had transplants experienced a reduction in their disability.Professor John Snowden, director of blood and bone marrow transplantation at Sheffield's Royal Hallamshire Hospital, said: “We are thrilled with the results – they are a game changer for patients with drug resistant and disabling multiple sclerosis.”
The results were released at the annual meeting of the European Society for Bone and Marrow Transplantation in Lisbon.
The process involves patients’ faulty immune systems being destroyed using chemotherapy, and then stem cells being taken from the patient’s blood and bone marrow before being re-infused. These are unaffected by MS and they rebuild the immune system.
The transplant costs around £30,000, about the same as the annual price of some MS drugs.
– © The Daily Telegraph

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