A procedure known as autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT) is being explored as a potential treatment for people with MS.

The treatment aims to stop the immune system from attacking healthy cells by intense immunosuppression, followed by the infusion of stem cells, which can reset the immune system, and consequently reduce inflammation in MS.

The Neurology journal has recently published the results of a multi-centre, phase II, randomized trial to assess the effect of AHSCT compared to the immunosuppressant drug, mitoxantrone.

Patients eligible for the study had either secondary progressive MS or relapsing-remitting forms that accumulated disability in spite of conventional therapy, and presented new and active lesions on MRI.

Four year follow-up

21 patients were recruited from 7 centres in Italy and Spain and were followed for a period of four years after treatment.

The results showed that AHSCT was superior to mitoxantrone in reducing the presence of new lesions on the MRI. It also resulted in a complete suppression of active inflammatory lesions during the four year follow-up while inflammatory activity was still present in 56% of patients treated with MTX. No difference was found in the progression of disability. Therefore, the results from this trial further support phase III studies aimed at evaluating the superiority of AHSCT versus other approved therapies.

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