Cancer treatment for MS patients gives ‘remarkable’ results

Jan 18, 2016

UK doctors in Sheffield say patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) are showing “remarkable” improvements after receiving a treatment usually used for cancer.

About 20 patients have received bone marrow transplants using their own stem cells. Some patients who were paralysed have been able to walk again.

Prof Basil Sharrack, of Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital, said: “To have a treatment which can potentially reverse disability is really a major achievement.”
Around 100,000 people in the UK have MS, an incurable neurological condition. Most patients are diagnosed in their 20s and 30s.
The disease causes the immune system to attack the lining of nerves in the brain and spinal cord.

The treatment – known as an autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) – aims to destroy the faulty immune system using chemotherapy.
It is then rebuilt with stem cells harvested from the patient’s own blood. These cells are at such an early stage they’ve not developed the flaws that trigger MS.

Prof John Snowden, consultant haematologist at Royal Hallamshire Hospital, said: “The immune system is being reset or rebooted back to a time point before it caused MS.”

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7 comments on “Cancer treatment for MS patients gives ‘remarkable’ results

  • A wonderful opportunity seems to be opening up here. Dealing with these early onset diseases should prioritise development…

    This is not a technology you can patent and we have achieved this without industry backing.

    …especially funded from the public purse



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  • This procedure was brought to our attention in the late 90s when my wife was diagnosed with MS in Calgary. At that time trials were being conducted in Ottawa. One of the side effects that seems to be overlooked in the article is a 20% mortality rate. Perhaps that has been reduced but it was a big disincentive in the 90s.



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  • As a recipient of a donor stem cell transplant in 2012 for treatment of Mantle Cell Lymphoma, I must say that it was obviously the right thing to do.
    There are always risks to any form of procedure, but if the choice is between death without or risk of death with, I will take the risk.
    Median survivability for my disease in 2009 when I was diagnosed was almost 6 years. 15% of patients never made it through initial treatment.
    I am thankful to be a part of the ongoing study of stem cell treatments.



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  • It has been greatly reduced, better chemo compositions. Also the higher percent mortality has a lot to do with whether you are using your own stem cells or someone else’s. Also they are finding that it is sufficient for most to do non-ablative chemo, which means they don’t destroy the bone marrow. The ablative type is very tough, but even it has only about a 1% chance of mortality now.



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  • people for get that MS drugs also have mortality risks. Immune modifying or immunosuppressant drugs have by their own reports, only about 30-40% effectiveness. Which means people with MS are still facing degeneration, just at a slower pace. There are real risks of PML.
    http://www.healthline.com/health/multiple-sclerosis/jc-virus-risks-for-ms-patients
    http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/805028 natalizumab
    http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm424625.htm Tecfidera
    http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=170442 Tecfidera
    http://www.webmd.com/multiple-sclerosis/news/20140325/new-clues-to-link-between-ms-drug-tysabri-and-rare-brain-disease Tysabri
    Right now, the risk of PML in patients treated with Tysabri for more than two years who also take other immune-suppressing drugs and test positive for antibodies to the virus, “is about one in 75 patients,” said study author Eugene Major, a senior investigator at the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) in Bethesda, Md. “That’s a very high risk.” – 1.33% within 2 years.



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  • I am more afraid of the current status quo, than of HSCT side effects/mortality. MS drugs by their own reporting, immune system (suppressants or modifiers) are only about 30-40% effective, which means a person with MS is getting worse, just 60-70% worse. They also too have besides uncomfortable side effects, some significant ones, like heart, liver and kidney problems, as well as PML. . Remember 70-90% of all people carry the JC Virus. http://www.healthline.com/health/multiple-sclerosis/jc-virus-risks-for-ms-patients
    When anyone takes an immune suppressant drug for any length of time, their lymphocytes will start to fall. If they fall too low the JC Virus becomes active The JC virus can be activated when a person’s immune system is compromised because of disease or immunosuppressive medication. The virus can then be carried into the brain, where it infects the white matter of the brain and attacks the cells responsible for making myelin, the protective coating that covers and protects nerve cells. This infection is called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). PML can be disabling, even fatal. This is continually overlooked, why? In PML, the normally harmless “JC virus” attacks the white matter of the brain, stripping nerve cells of their insulation. Without this insulation, nerve cells can’t effectively carry brain signals. The disease causes progressive weakness, paralysis, changes in vision and speech, and problems with thinking and memory. According to the NINDS, 30 percent to 50 percent of patients with PML die within a few months of diagnosis. Those who survive the infection may face permanent disability.
    Dr. Gary Birnbaum, a neurologist and director of the Multiple Sclerosis Treatment and Research Center in Golden Valley, Minn. “What isn’t clear is why the risk escalates dramatically after two years, since JC virus-bearing cells emerge early in the course of treatment,” Birnbaum pointed out.
    Additionally, Birnbaum said it was “disquieting” that researchers found evidence of the JC virus in patients who then tested negative for antibodies to it. “Thus, testing individuals for exposure to JC virus by measuring antibodies to the virus may be insufficient to fully assess their risks for developing PML,” he said.
    http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/805028 natalizumab
    http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm424625.htm Tecfidera
    http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=170442 Tecfidera
    http://www.webmd.com/multiple-sclerosis/news/20140325/new-clues-to-link-between-ms-drug-tysabri-and-rare-brain-disease Tysabri
    Right now, the risk of PML in patients treated with Tysabri for more than two years who also take other immune-suppressing drugs and test positive for antibodies to the virus, “is about one in 75 patients,” said study author Eugene Major, a senior investigator at the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) in Bethesda, Md. “That’s a very high risk.” – 1.33% within 2 years – (worse odds than HSCT) Why is this allowed yet an MS patient can’t chose to have HSCT. All treatments have risks, HSCT isn’t any worse than any of these, and yet the remission rate is, unarguably, way higher than any of the current treatments.



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