AAN Logo Here is some good news for patients diagnosed with aggressive forms of multiple sclerosis (MS). According to a recent study, replacing bone marrow that is purposely destroyed by chemotherapy with autologous stem cell can benefit patients suffering from rapidly progressing MS. In this form of treatment, chemotherapy drugs are employed to destroy all blood cells, including the immune cells that attack the body’s own central nervous system.

While conducting the study, 35 people with rapidly progressive MS in an average of 11 years were thoroughly assayed after they went through a transplant. All the subjects had previously undergone several other treatments for MS with little or no effect. Severe disability was reported by most of the participants with an average score of six on a scale of disease activity that ranges from zero being a normal neurological examination to 10 meaning death due to MS. A score of six may signify the ability to walk with a cane or crutch and a seven is mainly in a wheelchair. Volunteers were registered with at least one worsened point on the scale in the year prior to the transplant.

“Keeping that in mind, our feeling is that stem cell transplants may benefit people with rapidly progressive MS. This is not a therapy for the general population of people with MS but should be reserved for aggressive cases that are still in the inflammatory phase of the disease.” remarked study author Vasilios Kimiskidis, MD, of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Medical School in Thessaloniki, Greece.

On completion of the transplant, the probability of participants to have no disease progression allegedly was 25 percent for 15 years. The probability appeared 44 percent for those who had active brain lesions, which are a sign of disease activity, at the time of the transplant. A total of 16 people supposedly witnessed improvement in their symptoms by an average of one point on the scale after the transplant. These improvements probably lasted for an average of two years. Also a decline in the number and size of lesions within the brains of study subjects was purportedly noted.

Two people forming six percent died from complications related to the transplant at two months and 2-1/2 years post-transplant. Additional investigations can be triggered to compare people receiving the treatment with a control group that does not receive the treatment.

The study is published in the March 22, 2011, print issue of Neurology.