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Saturday, July 9, 2016

Treatment combining chemotherapy and stem cells could be a major advance against aggressive MS -- but there's a significant drawback


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Toxic side effects of heavy chemo could limit use, researcher says

WebMD News from HealthDay
By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, June 9, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- A treatment combining chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant could represent a major advance against aggressive multiple sclerosis, experts say.
This new treatment destroys the immune system with chemo and rebuilds it with the patient's own stem cells. Researchers say it stopped MS relapses and progression in 23 of 24 patients.
According to the results of this small trial, these 23 patients no longer needed medication to control their MS. Moreover, eight showed continued improvement for nearly eight years.
"These patients had highly active MS with lots of relapses and lots of ongoing damage to their brain, but we've been able to stop that," said lead researcher Dr. Harold Atkins. He is an associate professor of clinical hematology at the University of Ottawa in Canada.
The results are noteworthy, Atkins said. "There are lots of drugs and treatments available that are able to slow the disease or temperately halt it, but this one seems to be significant in that it had a long-lasting effect," he explained.
However, it's not for everybody with MS. "Because of the side effects and the rigor of treatment, it is something that should be used with those with the most aggressive MS before they have real damage. This won't work for patients who have advanced disabilities or are in a wheelchair," he added.
And, because the immune system is destroyed, patients have no defense against infections.
Still, Dr. Paul Wright, chairman of neurology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., thinks this therapy is a "breakthrough" in MS treatment.

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