Cure for MS? Pioneering stem cell treatment could 'reverse disability'

Using a cancer treatment and stem cells, researchers have halted the disease in some patients.

A separate United Kingdom research team is testing the use of adult stem cells for progressive MS. The team, led by Dr. Neil J. Scolding at the University of Bristol, had previously published promising results from a preliminary safety trial in the use of a patient's own bone marrow adult stem cells for MS. In 2015, they published the design of an expanded clinical trial with potential to treat progressive MS. The FDA-approved phase 2 trial, which differs from the relapsing-remitting trial in that no chemotherapy conditioning is used, is now recruiting patients.

Steven Storey, who was diagnosed with MS in 2013, said: "I went from running marathons to needing 24-hour acute care. I couldn't dress or wash myself; I didn't even have the strength to carry my daughter", she told the BBC.

"I couldn't walk steadily".

Today, he still needs a wheelchair but has made unbelievable progress.

A common cancer treatment is being tested in the U.K. to "reboot" the immune system in patients with MS.

Professor Basil Sharrack, consultant neurologist at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital said: 'To have a treatment which can potentially reverse disability is really a major achievement'.

"You could have stabbed me in my leg and I wouldn't have felt it", Storey said.

From this audit we hope to understand how people with MS can be assessed and selected for stem cell treatment on the NHS, and what is needed to develop safe, high quality services for the future.

In this form, patients have flare-ups of symptoms that can last for a few days or even few months. Drewry, whose MS is described by doctors as "dormant", said: "It's been a miracle". Now, he can swim and ride a bike - all within one year of treatment.

Two years ago, Holly Drewry could only take her daughter Isla for a walk if someone pushed her wheelchair, while she held on to the pushchair.

Paul Kirkham, another patient who has undergone the treatment at a cost of about £30,000, said: "It does knock you out".

Two years on Holly has suffered no relapses and there is now no evidence of active disease on her scans.

The results are part of an FDA-approved, ongoing clinical trial, with collaborations between investigators in the U.S., U.K., Sweden and Brazil.

Because the procedure involves no new drugs and instead re-purposes an existing therapy using the patient's own cells, there is little profit incentive for drug companies to get involved.

"There has been resistance to this in the pharma and academic world".

"However, trials have found that, while HSCT may be able to stabilize or improve disability in some people with MS, it may not be effective for all types of the condition".

 

Dr. Gray added that people need to be aware that aggressive treatment comes with significant risk and called for further research into HSCT so there could be greater understanding of its safety and long-term effectiveness.

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