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Photo: HSCT researchers Professor Basil Sharrack and Professor John Snowden standing outside Sheffield's Royal Hallamshire Hospital

HSCT works for people with relapsing MS who don't respond to existing DMTs

An international study has shown haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is an effective and safe treatment for people with highly active relapsing MS.

The first international large scale randomised study into HSCT has shown promising results for people with relapsing MS.

Hugely encouraging results

The MIST trial showed HSCT can stabilise relapsing MS and improve disability in people who were still experiencing relapses while taking other disease modifying therapies (DMTs).

The results have been hailed as "hugely encouraging" by researchers Professor Basil Sharrack and Professor John Snowden, who led the UK arm of the trial at Sheffield's Royal Hallamshire Hospital.

Professor Basil Sharrack said: “Almost all patients receiving autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplantation showed no signs of their disease being active a year on from having the treatment. And more importantly, their level of disability improved significantly.”

How did the MIST trial work?

110 people who'd had at least two relapses in the past year while on a DMT were recruited to the trial. Half underwent HSCT treatment and the other half took the DMTs recommended by their neurologist.

Researchers compared HSCT with DMTs by looking at the number of relapses participants had and the progression of their disability. Only one person who had HSCT suffered a relapse, compared to 39 relapses in people taking drug treatments.

If people continued to have relapses on a DMT they could switch to the HSCT arm of the trial. 30 people switched, and their condition improved.

What's next for HSCT?

Our Director of Research, Dr Susan Kohlhaas, praised the results but advised we still need learn more about where HSCT fits in with other DMTs:

“HSCT is an exciting development in MS treatment and we’ve seen incredible results for some people, but it’s also high-risk and won’t be right for everyone. We’re encouraged by the results of this study, but need to know how HSCT compares to the most effective disease modifying treatments for MS.”

Access to HSCT

Making sure HSCT is accessible for people who are eligible should also be prioritised. Susan said:

“As access to HSCT in the UK improves, our priority is making sure everyone who could benefit is able to access it. For some it has been life changing, and having that opportunity shouldn’t depend on your postcode.”

Read the results of the trial on the JAMA website

This news story was updated on 15 January 2019