Multiple Sclerosis Good News at Last
Multiple sclerosis or MS can be a horribly aggressive neurological disease that can quickly sentence the victim to a lifetime of misery confined to a wheelchair. To date, while there are several treatment options, none of then are curative and symptoms of MS inevitably breakthrough.
About 2.3 million people globally suffer from multiple sclerosis. It is twice as common among women than it is in men and has an average age of onset between the ages of 25 and 30. To date multiple sclerosis reduced life expectancy by 5 to 10 years. With this new treatment perhaps all that is about to change.
The new treatment, pioneered by Dr Mark Freedman and Dr. Harry Atkins of The Ottawa Hospital and University of Ottawa, involves wiping out a patient’s immune systems and then generating a new one using the patient’s own blood stem cells. This can't be done however without considerable risks to the patient's liver
Studying the efficacy of any MS treatment has always been challenging because the disease, by its very nature ,waxes and wanes and can go into long remissions. Therefore any study like this must be on a sufficient number of patients and over a sufficiently long period of time.
Freedman's complex procedure was performed on 24 patients who were followed for up to 13 years to confirm the results. One participant died of liver failure due to the treatment (which has since been modified to make it less toxic to the liver) and another required intensive care for liver complications.
But of those who successfully received the treatment, the study found that not a single participant experienced a clinical relapse, there were no new active inflammatory brain lesions that could be detected, not a single participant required drugs to control the disease and, crucially, 70 per cent of participants experienced a complete stop in disease progression. Those are pretty impressive results and you can read the full report here.
It was the first clinical trial to show the “complete, long-term suppression of all inflammatory activity in people with MS,” says Atkins.
Jennifer Molson was 21 in 2002 when she received a stem cell transplant as part of the trial at The Ottawa Hospital. She had been diagnosed with MS six years earlier and the disease had progressed rapidly.
By the time she received the transplant, the formerly active young woman was receiving 24-hour care at The Ottawa Hospital Rehabilitation Center. She couldn’t feed herself, blow dry her hair, shower or dress without help.
Today, Molson is symptom free, relapse free, skiing, driving, working and living life as if she had never had MS.
“I got my life back,” she says.
My belief is that stem cell transplant will be the new treatment of choice for all sufferers of early aggressive multiple sclerosis and that as more doctors get trained in the technology it will become safer and even more effective. If you would like to discuss this further with me you can do so here.