Multiple sclerosis is a deeply personal disease. No two people experience MS in exactly the same way, and while the underlying autoimmune event that attacks myelin is consistently at the core of the MS disease process, the signs, symptoms, and progression of the disease can vary enormously from person to person.
Ongoing research is helping to expand the arsenal of treatment options for MS, while placing greater emphasis on a more personalized approach to treating the disease. The publication of the results from the Canadian Bone Marrow Transplantation (BMT) trial in The Lancet represents the culmination of an extensive and collaborative effort funded by the MS Society of Canada’s affiliated Multiple Sclerosis Scientific Research Foundation (MSSRF) to identify a potential treatment for MS involving stem cells. The trial involved a procedure in which selected volunteers living with MS were given high-dose chemotherapy to dismantle the disease-causing immune system, followed by transfusion of their own stem cells to rebuild a healthy immune system that no longer attacks myelin. Given the risks associated with the procedure, individuals who were selected for the trial were those experiencing highly aggressive, inflammatory relapsing-remitting MS that did not respond to available treatments.
The study, titled “Immunoablation and autologous haemopoietic stem-cell transplantation for aggressive multiple sclerosis: a multicentre single-group phase 2 trial”, was led by Drs. Harry Atkins and Mark Freedman at The Ottawa Hospital. Drs. Atkins and Freedman noticed that, following transplantation of the stem cells, the participants showed remarkable improvements in disease course which were maintained over a long period of time. These improvements included the absence of new relapses and inflammatory brain lesions and, in some cases, lasting recovery of function.
Read more about this treatment approach on Dr. Karen Lee’s blog.