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.

> Read the conference abstract (search for SS2-8) by visiting the EBMT website
> Read the official trial record by visiting the clinical trials website

What's next for HSCT?

Results were presented at the Annual Meeting of the European Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT). Next they need to be published in a peer reviewed journal.

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:

“The MIST results are important and show this area needs further research. While HSCT appears to be effective for some people with MS, it remains a high-risk treatment that won’t be right for everyone. We now need to know how HSCT compares to existing, less aggressive, MS treatment options.”

Access to HSCT

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

“HSCT will soon be recognised as an established treatment in England. And when that happens our priority will be making sure those who could benefit can actually get it. We’ve seen life changing results for some people and having that opportunity can’t depend on your postcode.”