Autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation recommended as a standard of care for certain kinds of MS in the U.S.

March 13, 2019

Mark Freedman, Harold Atkins and Marjorie Bowman From left: Mark Freedman, Harold Atkins  and Marjorie Bowman 

The American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation has recommended that stem cell transplantation for MS, which has been pioneered at The Ottawa Hospital, be considered a “standard of care, clinical evidence available” for people with certain forms of the disease.

Their recommendation is based on 16 studies, including a pivotal clinical trial published by Dr. Harold Atkins and Dr. Mark Freedman in 2016.

The Society’s expert panel found that after the transplant procedure, “many patients with MS experienced rapid, complete, and durable control of inflammatory disease activity, with resultant improvement in long-term clinical outcomes.” Preliminary evidence also shows the procedure “appear(s) to be superior” to conventional MS drugs.

The Society recommended the transplant procedure for patients with a high risk of future disability who continue to have inflammation while on MS drugs. They also called for more research to optimize patient selection and transplant protocol.

“It is great to see stem cell transplantation becoming more widely accepted for MS,” said Dr. Atkins and Dr. Freedman. “But patients need to be careful because this procedure should only be done at specialized and reputable academic medical centres.”

Stem cell transplantation can also have serious side effects. People who are interested in this therapy should speak with their own neurologist.

Research at The Ottawa Hospital is possible because of generous donations to The Ottawa Hospital Foundation.

Dr. Atkins is a stem cell transplant physician and scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and associate professor at the University of Ottawa. Dr. Freedman is a neurologist and senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and professor at the University of Ottawa.

Authors: Cohen JA, Baldassari LE, Atkins HL, Bowen JD, Bredeson C, Carpenter PA, Corboy JR, Freedman MS, Griffith LM, Lowsky R, Majhail NS, Muraro PA, Nash RA, Pasquini MC, Sarantopoulos S, Savani BN, Storek J, Sullivan KM, Georges GE. 

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