WHAT IS HSCT? – A COMPREHENSIVE DESCRIPTION
HSCT for MS has received a lot of attention in the media in the last few years. It has given people with Multiple Sclerosis new hope in halting their disease progression. HSCT is short for Hematopioetic Stem Cell Transplant. Currently it is the only existing, scientifically proven treatment that completely halts disease progression of Multiple Sclerosis.
Firstly it is worth noting that HSCT has been used to treat cancer since the 1960’s. Despite that it is relatively new as a treatment for Multiple Sclerosis. Perhaps ‘new’ is the wrong word. The first HSCT performed specifically for an autoimmune disease (uveitis) was performed in 1985 by Prof. Shimon Slavin in Israel. The patient remains cured today. The first HSCT performed specifically for MS was at George Papanicolaou General Hospital, Thessaloniki, Greece in 1995. There were earlier observational case studies focusing on the success of HSCT for MS. Patients transplanted for cancer simultaneously had their MS halted. This was an unanticipated side effect of the treatment. Other early studies established the concept that transplantation earlier in the disease life cycle is the most effective. It is more beneficial than transplanting later in the disease evolution when there is a greater degree of irreversible disability.
DR. BURT AND HSCT
Dr Burt at North Western University, Chicago, started working with HSCT treatment in 1996. Prior to that he was a Fellow working at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. While working here he noticed that the leukemia patients he was treating required “re-vaccinating after HSCT. Immunity from earlier vaccination for childhood diseases like the measles and mumps was no longer working. The cells affected by transfusion treatments were losing the “memory” of these original childhood vaccinations.
This realization inspired Dr. Burt. He pondered the feasibility of reprogramming cells. When diseased cells lose their memory perhaps it would be possible to re-program them with ‘good’ memories. He proposed using adult stem cell to facilitate his concept. This would be particularly beneficial for patients with autoimmune diseases.
He tried out his idea on animals in the research lab and—it worked! Soon afterwards the FDA gave its approval for adult stem cell therapy for people suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. Now, 23 years later Dr. Burt continues to hone the procedure. Along with his team of researchers at Northwestern University, he is using this technique to treat patients. They are working on 23 different diseases. The treatment uses adult stem cells extracted from the patients own blood. There is no use of Embryonic stem cells. This removes any ethical dilemma.
Because the procedure involves the use of chemotherapy the treatment is not the most comfortable and is unfortunately quite expensive. However, many who have completed the procedure successfully, claim that it is not unbearable by any means. When administering chemotherapy during HSCT the doses are short and targeted. Therefore this period lasts for only a few days. When giving chemotherapy for cancer the treatment can last for weeks and sometimes months. This batters the body more and requires much longer recovery time. One should bear in mind that cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy are quite different. They are more than likely very sick going in to the procedure. Therefore more likely to experience a greater degree of discomfort than someone relatively fit except for MS. Please see: http://www.hsctstopsms.com/how-hsct-works/.
Currently HSCT is the only scientifically proven treatment that STOPS underlying disease progression in all types of MS. HSCT restores normal immune self-tolerance and produces lasting curative symptomatic improvement for most MS patients. More than 5,000 patients have been treated for MS world wide. The number continues to rise daily. The criteria determining whether you qualify for treatment varies with each facility. We aim to clarify your options and help you to decide the best place to apply for your own treatment.
HSCT IS REGULARLY USED TO TREAT CANCER
HSCT is a standard procedure for treating cancer patients. Thousands of patients are treated annually. This is not the case for Multiple Sclerosis. There are a small number of facilities Worldwide currently performing this procedure for MS. The success of HSCT helps spread the word. The type of MS that you have also plays a part in treatment; see – http://www.hsctstopsms.com/types-of-ms/. The hope is that more will open up as the demand increasingly continues to outweigh the supply. The law of economics surmises that as the number of facilities increases the cost of being treated will reduce accordingly. The optimization of protocol efficiency will also help reduce costs. (Please refer to the menu item entitled “Choosing a facility” to learn more).
Many patients that have had HSCT treatment have celebrated their reprieve. One of the most acclaimed benefits of treatment involves halting the underlying disease progression of MS. This gives back the gift of a future! George Goss, an inspirational pioneer in promoting HSCT said as much. He considered this to be the most exciting part of having HSCT in 2009. After he underwent the procedure in Heidelberg five years ago he described it as “pure gold”. (Please see his blog: http://themscure.blogspot.co.uk/ and check out his HSCT forum on Facebook: Hematopioetic Stem Cell Transplant – MS & Autoimmune Diseases. He has provided invaluable information and support for those seeking HSCT).
Ultimately, living with MS can be both frightening and uncertain. Rapid disease progression can take place quite suddenly. Ten years can elapse with few symptoms. Suddenly one can find oneself in a wheelchair in the space of a few months! Multiple Sclerosis has been described as a “Tiger that cannot be tamed”. HSCT removes this “Sword of Damocles” hanging over the heads of those with MS. It can provide the gift of hope and the luxury of planning a future with loved ones. Unless you live with MS you can have no concept of how magic this prospect can be!
I highly recommend that if you are interested in HSCT and have found this page interesting that you follow up by looking at “Understanding how HSCT works” this will give a good rounded knowledge of the procedure.