Researchers have been carrying out a long-term study. This analyzed the effects of a risky therapy that targets MS or multiple sclerosis. And according to the researchers, the treatment could halt the disease by at least 5 years.
Multiple sclerosis is a demyelinating disease. It develops as the insulating covers of the spinal cord and brain nerve cells are damaged. This leads to a disruption of several parts of the nervous system. Which also results in their inability to communicate.
The consequence is a range of different signs and symptoms. These can manifest at a mental, psychiatric, and physical level. The resulting problems target the same area. For the moment, MS’s exact cause is yet to be determined.
MS can have several forms. These can develop new symptoms which appear either progressively or occur in isolated attacks or relapses. Presently, the disease also lacks a certified cure. It is an as yet incurable but not fatal disease.
As researchers are looking for a cure, they have been studying the current treatments. A team of Imperial College London researchers has recently released a new study. This was published in the JAMA Neurology journal.
Available online since February 20th, the paper was titled as follows. “Long-term Outcomes After Autologous Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation for Multiple Sclerosis”. Research on the matter was led by Dr. Paolo Muraro.
The researchers based their study on data gathered from 25 centers. These are spread across 13 countries, and target the use of a risky therapy. This is the AHSCT or autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.
To put it simply, this risky therapy is looking to reset the body’s immune system. It does so as it tries to stop the system from attacking the body. AHSCT is considered a highly risky and dangerous treatment. It acquired this status due to its use of toxic drugs.
These are used in order to eliminate existing faulty cells from the patient’s bone marrow. This is both dangerous, unpleasant and can be hazardous. Only a limited number of patients can choose this treatment method.
Dr. Muraro and his team carried out the first long-term, larger study on the effects of this highly aggressive treatment. It involved 281 patients that underwent this risky therapy. And it followed them for an average of seven years. This is the biggest yet study of its kind. Previous ones involved less than 30 patients.
Eight study participants died within the first 100 after undergoing the procedure. This is because the immune system dismantling can leave the patients very vulnerable. Before it is rebuilt, the patients are subjected to a higher risk of infections.
Out of the 281 involved people, almost half of them benefited from the AHSCT. The response depended on the disease form. 73 percent of the patient with relapsing MS experienced no symptoms worsening within 5 years after the treatment.
Younger patients that also had less severe forms were the most likely to respond to the risky therapy. Still, most of the study patients suffered from progressive MS. This is the disease’s severe form and has no available treatment.
Amongst such patients, just 33 percent saw no worsening of their symptoms after 5 years. In a number of patients, this was also applicable for a 10 years time.
Still, Dr. Muraro himself points out the following. More research and studies are still needed. These will be carried out before AHSCT becomes widely available. The current study also did not include a placebo group.
Presently, this risky therapy was seen to slow down or stop the disease’s progression for a number of years. Which was the study’s target. Research knew that this could happen. But they were unsure how long the treatment effects would last.
The study also showed AHSCT to be most effective in people with ‘active inflammation’ MS in their spinal cord and brain. Still, the treatment does carry a small risk of death. And although debilitating, MS is not immediately fatal. These are all factors which must be taken into account.
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