A risky therapy for multiple sclerosis (MS), which can stop the disease for as long as five years, is now being tested in patients. Doctors say that the high-risk therapy involves resetting the patient's immune system with doses of strong cancer drugs, and then restarting it with a stem cell transplant. Due to its dangerous nature, only selected patients will be qualified to try the therapy.
In fact, eight of the patients who underwent the clinical trial for the treatment died shortly afterwards. However, out of 281 people test subjects, nearly half experience significant improvement from the therapy. Published in JAMA Neurology, the clinical study is one of the largest and longest investigations of this aggressive MS treatment.
Although considered to be non-fatal, MS is incurable. The neuromuscular disease attacks the protective lining of nerves in the brain and spinal cord, creating disturbances with a person's movement, and even vision. Walking and balancing becomes a great challenge, rendering patients in wheelchairs.
The disease causes the immune system to attack the protective coating of nerves in the brain and spinal cord, which can create problems with a person's vision, walking and balance. The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation estimates that more than 400,000 people in the United States and about 2.5 million people worldwide have MS. Each week, about 200 new cases are diagnosed in the US, with.rates of patients higher in cold climate regions.
According to the Emax Health, treatments for the disease aim to slow or stop the attack. The idea is to reset the immune system to stop it from attacking the body. However, it requires toxic cancer drugs to wipe out existing cells in the patient's bone marrow, which is often hazardous.
Researchers from Imperial College London gathered data from 25 centers in 13 countries that have tested autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT). The radical therapy promises to completely relieve MS symptoms for up to five years. However, the medical trial data suggest that only patients who are younger, who do not respond to other therapy, and who have recurring MS, might benefit, the BBC reports.
Dr Paolo Muraro, lead investigator explains that the risks must be carefully weighed up against the benefits. Doctors and patients must take into account that the treatment carries a small risk of death on a disease that is not immediately life-threatening, he adds. Advanced clinical trials are already conducted to test how well AHSCT works compared to existing treatments for Multiple Sclerosis.