March 19, 2018 -- A stem cell transplant may be an effective treatment for multiple sclerosis, an international study suggests.
The treatment involves using cancer drugs to decimate a patient's immune system and then restarting it with a stem cell transplant, BBC News reported.
The study included 100 patients in the United States, England, Sweden and Brazil with relapsing remitting MS, in which attacks are followed by periods of remission.
The patients received either stem cell transplantation or drug treatment (control group). After one year, only one patient of 52 in the stem cell transplant group had a relapse, compared with 39 of 50 in the drug group, BBC News reported.
After an average of three years, the transplants had failed in three patients (6 percent) in the stem cell group, compared with failure in 30 patients (60 percent) in the control group. Disability was reduced in the stem cell transplant group, but worsened in the control group.
The interim findings were released at the annual meeting of the European Society for Bone and Marrow Transplantation.
"The data is stunningly in favor of transplant against the best available drugs -- the neurological community has been skeptical about this treatment, but these results will change that," lead investigator Richard Burt, a professor at Northwestern University in Chicago, told BBC News.