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New evidence shows potential of AHSCT for highly active relapsing MS

Autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT) has long-term benefits for some people with highly active relapsing MS, according to new research.

The small-scale trial showed that AHSCT stopped relapses and disability progression in over two thirds of people with relapsing MS. The trial involved 24 people who were monitored over five years.

However, we need larger studies to better understand the impact of this aggressive treatment when compared with existing therapies.

What did the trial involve?

AHSCT is an intense chemotherapy treatment being developed for relapsing MS. It aims to stop the damage caused by MS by removing harmful immune cells. The person’s own stem cells are then used to regrow the immune system.

All 24 people on the trial were experiencing severe relapses and worsening of disability before the treatment. This was despite taking disease modifying therapies (DMTs).

As well as halting relapses, some people’s MS symptoms improved, including walking.

However, the aggressive nature of the procedure did carry substantial risks. Most people experienced severe side effects because of the high dose of chemotherapy.

Some of these side effects, including serious infections, appeared years after the transplantation.

A promising trial

Dr Paolo Muraro, one of the authors on the paper said:

“I am excited and proud that the study has been completed successfully.

“Importantly, the trial only involved people with highly inflammatory and active relapsing MS, who were relatively young and early on in their disease course. These are the people who can benefit the most from the treatment, which aims to stop inflammation.”

More research is needed

Dr Aisling McMahon is our Head of Clinical Trials:

“The results of this latest trial are very encouraging. It would be good to see them replicated in larger trials that compare AHSCT with existing MS drugs.

"AHSCT is a hugely promising treatment option for certain people. Although we’ve seen some life changing results so far, it is an aggressive procedure. As with many treatments of this nature, it comes with potentially serious side effects. If you’re considering AHSCT then you should speak to your neurologist, who can discuss your options with you.”

> Read the full article on the American Academy of Neurology website