Patients with multiple sclerosis who received stem cell therapy instead of treatment with mitoxantrone achieved better outcomes over a 4-year-period.
Stem cells were more effective in suppressing the immune system than mitoxantrone, according to research published in Neurology.
Researchers from the University of Genoa in Italy examined 21 patients who received bone barrow to determine if their immune system would be suppressed at the same rate as patients who received mitoxantrone. A dozen patients received mitoxantrone, while 9 patients had stem cells harvested from their bone marrow. The stem cells were reintroduced to the patient’s bodies intravenously. Then, the stem cells traveled to the bone marrow and produced new cells which grew to become immune cells.
After a follow up period of 4 years, patients who received stem cells had 80 percent fewer new brain damage areas than those patients who received mitoxantrone. The stem cell group had an average 2.5 new brain lesions in comparison to 8 new lesions in the mitoxantrone receiving group.
About half (56 percent) of the mitoxantrone treated patients were discovered to have at least one new gadolinium enhancing lesion, which is another type of lesion. The stem cell treatment group had no new gadolinium enhancing lesions found.
“This process appears to reset the immune system,” study author Giovanni Mancardi, MD explained in a press release. “With these results, we can speculate that stem cell treatment may profoundly affect the course of the disease.”
The progression of disability was not different between the 2 groups. The researchers noted the serious side effects that occurred within the stem cell treatment group were anticipated and resolved without further permanent consequences.
“More research is needed with larger numbers of patients who are randomized to receive either the stem cell transplant or an approved therapy, but it’s very exciting to see that this treatment may be so superior to a current treatment for people with severe MS that is not responding well to standard treatments,” Mancardi said.
The researchers noted that the findings of this study are aligned with prior studies, and mentioned that further investigations into the topic are encouraged.