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Crohn's Disease Health Center

First Patient to Get Stem Cell Treatment for Crohn's in Remission

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Craig tells WebMD, "I agree with the CCFA. Believe me, a patient has to convince me that this is the absolute right thing for him or her." He says that he worries "about the possibility that I will lose a patient to this therapy."

The type of caution expressed by Craig is well placed, says Richard MacDermott, MD, head of gastroenterology and immunology at Albany Medical College in New York. "This is obviously a truly investigational procedure at the very beginning of the investigational ladder. It has a long, long way to go," MacDermott tells WebMD.

"I don't personally know the [rate of sickness and death] associated with stem cell transplant, but it has got to be significant," says MacDermott, who is a trustee of the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America.

Burt says the procedure "wasn't done in a cavalier or relaxed manner -- the procedure was approved by the FDA." He says, too, that the chemotherapy used in his stem cell protocol is not as toxic as earlier stem cell transplant experiments. "The only complication that we had was a two-day fever," says Burt, who adds that tests done during that two-day period turned up no evidence of infection.

From her perspective, Weiss says she underwent two cycles of chemotherapy and neither was "as bad as my worst days with Crohn's." She says that she started feeling better "almost right away. All the pain didn't leave but it started getting better right away. This is the first time I have had a Crohn's remission in 11 years."

Weiss spent about two and half months in Chicago undergoing pretreatment screening, treatment, and immediate follow-up. She is expected back in Chicago on Aug. 18 for a follow-up exam and then will return again at six months, nine months, and 12 months for follow-up. After 12 months, "I'll go back every year for five years," says Weiss. Craig says that it will take at least five years to confirm a true remission of disease.

Meanwhile, at her home in Mariaville, Maine, population 500, Weiss is enjoying the "first summer of my life." Always interested in horses, Weiss is anticipating applying to college to study "equine science. I have a mare here and now I am able to go out and walk the mare. It is a miracle."

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