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Three years after a small number of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) were treated with high-dose immunosuppressive therapy (HDIT) and then transplanted with their own hematopoietic stem cells, most of the patients sustained remission of active relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) and had improvements in neurological function, according to a study published online by JAMA Neurology.

MS is a degenerative disease and most patients with RRMS who received disease-modifying therapies experience breakthrough disease. Autologous (using a patient’s own cells) hematopoietic cell transplant (HCT) has been studied in MS with the goal of removing disease-causing immune cells and resetting the immune system, according to the study background.

The Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation for Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (HALT-MS) study examines the effectiveness of early intervention with HDIT/HCT for patients with RRMS and breakthrough disease. The article by Richard A. Nash, M.D., of the Colorado Blood Cancer Institute at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center, Denver, and coauthors reports on the safety, efficacy and sustainability of MS disease stabilization though three years after the procedures. Patients were evaluated through five years.

Study results indicate that of the 24 patients who received HDIT/HCT, the overall rate of event-free survival was 78.4 percent at three years, which was defined as survival without death or disease from a loss of neurologic function, clinical relapse or new lesions observed on imaging. Progression-free survival and clinical relapse-free survival were 90.9 percent and 86.3 percent, respectively, at three years. The authors note that adverse events were consistent with the expected toxic effect of HDIT/HCT and that no acute treatment-related neurologic adverse events were seen. Improvements in neurologic disability, quality-of-life and functional scores also were noted.

“In the present study, HDIT/HCT induced remission of MS disease activity up to three years in most participants. It may therefore represent a potential therapeutic option for patients with MS in whom conventional immunotherapy fails, as well as for other severe immune-mediated diseases of the central nervous system. Most early toxic effects were hematologic and gastrointestinal and were expected and reversible. Longer follow-up is needed to determine the durability of the response,” the authors conclude.

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The above story is based on materials provided by The JAMA Network Journals.Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.