Stem Cells Used to Treat Secondary Progressive Patients in Clinical Trial

Click here to receive MS news via e-mail

What may work better than existing drugs to treat severe multiple sclerosis? Stem cells.

A phase 2 clinical study from an international group of research centers compared head-to-head autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT) and mitoxantrone in treating patients with secondary progressive or relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. The findings showed that MRI-detected brain lesions were reduced by 79% in patients undergoing AHSCT compared to patients treated with mitoxantrone.

“Intense immunosuppression followed by AHSCT is significantly superior to mitoxantrone in reducing MRI activity in severe cases of multiple sclerosis,” wrote the authors. “These results strongly support further phase 3 studies with primary clinical endpoints.” Results appeared in “Autologous Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation in Multiple Sclerosis,” published in the journal Neurology.

The trial involved 21 patients with multiple sclerosis whose symptoms were not improving despite treatment with conventional medications. Most needed a cane or crutch to walk at an average age of only 36. All patients initially received an intense round of immunosuppression, as multiple sclerosis is characterized by an immune attack on the central nervous system.

Of the 21 patients, nine had stem cells removed from their bone marrow before immunosuppression. Post-immune suppression, these cells were injected intravenously back into their donors with the hopes of repopulating the bone marrow and generating new immune cells. The other 12 patients were treated with mitoxantrone to further reduce immune system activity.

[adrotate group=”4″]

Disease activity was greatly reduced by AHSCT. “This process appears to reset the immune system,” said lead author Giovanni Mancardi, MD, in a news release from the American Academy of Neurology. “With these results, we can speculate that stem cell treatment may profoundly affect the course of the disease.”

Patients who did not receive AHSCT saw greater disease advancement, with an average of eight new lesions compared to 2.5 new lesions, and showed gadolinium-enhancing lesions, while the AHSCT patients showed none. Side effects of AHSCT were as expected and resolved without detriment to the patient.

“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 multiple sclerosis that is not responding well to standard treatments,” said Dr. Mancardi. Despite the small sample size, the results were significant and no less impressive, giving new hope to patients with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis.

Click here to receive MS news via e-mail


  1. Sharie Demro says:

    I’m 47 years old and was diagnosed in 1991. It was 8 months after I was newly married. I have one son who is 22 years old and graduating this year with a Chemical Engineering degree. Both my husband, son, and whole family are very supportive of me! I’ve been on a variety of MS medication and am currently on Gylena and Plasmapheresis. I am VERY positive and because of this I feel it has helped me tremendously! I am still happy and walking! I am VERY INTERESTED in this and would love a response back! I have two MS doctors. One of me doctors diagnosed me with secondary progressive and the other doctor doesn’t like to label people. In 2010 my walking has gotten worse. Recently, I have been getting bad muscle spasms. PLEASE HELP ME! I will forward all of my doctor files and MRI’s. My cell phone is 920-619-0047.

    • Steve says:

      Sharie, I am 64, was diagnosed MS over 30 years ago, currently have SPRR MS, including spasticity in my legs. I can still use my legs to walk, just not the 100 yard dash. You can well imagine the number of prescriptions I have tried and what effect they have had on me over 30 years and most to little or no avail. From a high of about 10 drugs concurrently, I am down to to 3 drugs, Rebif, An antidepressant and Cannabis. For me about 4 – 6 puffs of the Sativa variety of cannabis stops the twitching and pain without feeling high, because it lacks all the THC in the Indica varieties. Best of Luck, Don’t take any Snake Oil cures and keep going forward! Steve Ruble –

    • Bucca says:

      Hi Sharie-

      I was diagnosed 6 months after our honeymoon 7/91 I was 24, my symptoms at that time were not physically visible. We wanted children and luckily that was easy, this is what happened I woke up one day at 9:00am which had been not happening for me. A typical day in 1991 had been getting up taking a shower and being so exhausted I would have to go back to bed. A month later turns out I am pregnant. The pregnancy had stopped all the pain, sensitivities, vision issues, etc.. It was fantastic! Our daughter had given me not 1 but 2 gifts- her and respite from the MS. My symptoms didn’t fully return until 2 years later. Long story shorter- I tried lots of the abc drugs but my down fall was when I was switching from Avonex to Tysabri. The FDA had pulled it off the market once for a long time then it was available for about 1 year before I was going to change. I needed to be off Avonex for a month and as the month was ending the FDA pulled Tysabri again. It wouldn’t become available for 3 more months. I gradually became worse during this time, going from a cane some times to a walker. Now I am in a wheelchair or scooter full time. I too am positive and hope the stem cell treatment becomes an option that really heals us.
      Maureen- keep up the exercise it definitely helps. I also have massage and I think it kept me mobile longer, it might be worth a try.

  2. Vickie Martin says:

    Hi, I’m Vickie. I have SPMS. I am on four antidepressants~~bupropion XL, buspar, citalipram, Nortriptyline, cyclobenzaprine, ropinerol and Lyrica. Plus I’m on Lipitor, losartan and omeprazole. I’m hoping they come up with some treatment for SPMS. I live in the US and they don’t have any studies for this form of MS that I know of. Stay positive my fellow MSers.

    • Sheri says:

      Dr. Richard Burt is doing the HSCT trial at Northwest in Chicago. It doesn’t sound like you qualify for the study, but he sometes treats on a compassionate care basis. Google search it and maybe he will see you. Good luck.

  3. Rebecca monahan says:

    I have had MS since 1993 worked right up until I had a baby in 2006 and then became slowly worst left leg, left arm . By 2008 I could get up our stairs in the house .My lesion are in my spine C1 and C2 and was wondering if this treatment would work for me..
    I am walking with a walker going to the gym three times a week to maintain my muscle tone..

    Rebecca Monahan

  4. pain says:

    wonderful issues altogether, you just gained a logo new reader.
    What could you suggest in regards to your put up that you just made some days in the past?

    Any positive?

  5. I had the same thing done to treat my SPMS in 2001, and it did wonders. So very glad I got to have it done. I am doing so much better than before the transplant, granted the MS is still there, and a pain in my backside every day, but there are no new lesions forming, and it is better than it was before I had the transplant.

    • Keith says:

      I was diagnosed with MS in 2011. The summer of 2013, I went to Chicago to be evaluated for HSCT treatment by Dr. Ricard Burt for his FDA trial. He thought I was transitioning into SPMS and therefore didn’t fit his trial criteria. He offered to treat me outside of his study and I was treated Dec 2013. Since then, I have had two follow up visits and my MS appears to be halted. There are facilities in Moscow, Isreal, and Puebla Mexico that will treat SPMS. I highly recommend HSCT treatment to anyone with MS. Good luck

  6. Anne Seibright says:

    Hsct is the answer, but it’s not a miracle cure. You should go as early as possible in the disease. If you wait & ponder while your disease progresses up around EDSS. 6.5 , you will hopefully stop disease progression but you will also probably still have quite a bit of damage to overcome…some can be improved upon, but other, typically walking, might not improve. Get your name down asap…then fundraise & study more. Russia is booked until 2018, Mexico can probably take people in late 2015 / early 2016….. Russia is $45,000…. Mexico is $49,000. This is cheap, one month treatment, accomodation. The earlier the better, people who have EDSS of < 3, do brilliantly well. My son went to Russia, 8 months ago. EDSS very high…..

    • Bata says:

      Hi everyone,
      I’ve been diagnoed with SPMS in 2012, 48yrs, walking rapidly deteriorating i think- simply stubborn. ?Still able to get out of the bed, stairs are big challenge, able to walk with 24/7 rollator 5-10 m before fatigue kicks in … EDSS 6-7.5 maby? No conventional medications used not a big fan .
      Interested in HSCT, am I late?

  7. Michele says:

    Hi I was diagnosed in ’92 although I know I’ve had it much longer, I was great untill 2009 when I had a bad attack followed by gradual disease progression. I now walk with a stick and use my luggie when I need to cover any distance. I also have major cognitive issues, and my short term memory has become really bad.
    I would love to go for this treatment and would welcome any advice with regards fundraising.
    I would welcome any comments. Sorry I didn’t mention that I have been on Tysabri for the last seven years.

  8. Rachel says:

    I am 44 and had my first episode at age 10. I had several episodes between 10 and 25, very little disease activity for about 10 years, and for the last year have been experiencing many MS symptoms that are with me every day and do not seem to remit. I have been on many MS drugs and am now taking Tysabri. I also take Gabapentin, Tegretol, and Cymbalta for pain and spasms. I am interested in a stem cell transplant but have been told by my neurologist that no one in the States would do one with me as I do not have new lesions. She did say that there is a doctor in Florence, Italy who might work with me.
    I have been so fortunate to be high-functioning for many years and tend to feel like I am making too much of my current issues. I do want to do what is best for me in the long run and would appreciate any feedback that readers may have. Thank you.

  9. William says:

    I was 1st time diagnosed with PMS in 2013 with weakness in my left leg. My disability is progressing rapidly and will soon be wheelchair dependent. My neurologist is at the University of Mich. would love to be a stem cell candidate.

    • TERRY HELLER says:


      • Simon Cohen says:

        Hi Terry,

        I am 59, am s.p.m.s, wheelchair-bound, but in house a wheeler.
        I am considering HSCT in Moscow (5 kinds of stemcells) or Belgrade (tripple dose). The last week I have contact with both.
        I don’t think I”ll do it, but reading your story….

        I live in The Netherlands (Amsterdam).


      • Raghunath Reddy says:

        A distress call from a father: My son,Srikanth,39, a software professional, is an MS patient for past 7 yrs. He was working in USA. In Sept 2007 he was first struck with bilateral optic neuritis. Extensive work was done (Wayne State University) and was identified with demyelinating disease, very likely MS (or NMO). He was advised to start with Rebiff for early intervention. As he regained his vision, to near normal level within 4 weeks, he was in denial mode and did not believe he could have had MS. Went on working till 2010, ignoring Doctor’s advice for a review 6 months after first attack. Had second attack affecting his right hand and right leg, tremors, loss of fine motor skills, gait,end point ataxia etc. He was not in a position to work. Stopped working. Went to a Neurologist in NJ who did extensive work to have confirmation whether it is progressive MS or NMO. With all tests done, he came to conclusion that it is NMO and not MS (?). He was given monthly dose of immunosuppressants and solumedrol for one year by which time he had another attack-now the right limbs. The neurologist got extensive work done once again. Treatment given was immunosuppressant with copaxone.I guess, his disease had progressed much earlier to secondary stage. When his position was worsening, he visited Johns Hopkins. He was on Tysabri for one year, though he was found positive for JC virus.There were differing opinions on continuation of Tysabri. Shifted to Gilenya after one year on Doctor’s advice, so as to avoid PML. He was mobile within the house with the aid of a walker till 2 yrs back when he returned to India. He is now wheelchair bound. Was in a position to stand and take few steps with support. Now cannot stand on his own.Both legs dysfunctional.He cannot lift, fold, stretch. Cannot feed himself. Dependent on 24×7 attendant.Some difficulty in chewing the food and swallowing. Very slow intake to avoid choking related complications. Garbled speech, very difficult to understand. Bowl movement on alternate days. Loss of bladder control while in sleep. Hearing is good. Poor vision. Not much loss in cognition, I guess. Good permanent memory. He is now on Mitoxantrone for past 15 months(20 mg every 3 months). Since it has limitation of cumulative life-time dose, it cannot go too long. His EDSS, as per my own estimate, may be 9. His general health condition,fortunately, is very good. When he sits in a chair no one takes him to be a patient. 6’tall,160 lbs,very fair complexion & handsome. Married, no children. His latest LVEF is 65% against last year’s 74%. ECG is ggod. All blood tests are good. Healthy Hb of 14%. Free of all viruses, except cytomegalovirus IgG antibody which is positive. His latest MRI of brain and Spine shows that there are no changes when compared with those of last years’. The neurologist has observed some improvement, though not significant, in fillup of few voids, here and there. Guess, it is due to Mitoxantrone. Is HSCT effective while there is no demyelination activity ? He is born in India, now a citizen of USA, not covered with any kind of insurance. He is dependent on me, a retired government employee, 68, with paltry financial resources.As a father I want to preserve him for few more years atleast in the same condition with a hope that he would have the benefit of new medication, including remyelination, rebuilding of lost or damaged axons/synapses.This is my prime responsibility at this stage.I couldn’t have expressed in fewer words, sorry for that. My query: Can he be considered as a candidate for AHSCT to maintain him in the present condition, if not in better ? Willing to take it with associated risks. As a Multiple Myeloma patient, I have undergone Bone marrow transplant (which is same as AHSCT)in 2013 (in good condition now). BMT treatment in India in a speciality hospital for cancer (established & managed by ‘not for profit’ trust organisation) for hospital stay of 24 days which includes 14 days isolation in thoroughly clean environment (inlet air into the entire block let into AC system through a huge air filter, no visitors allowed, many other precautions) costs $10,000/-. They have done no.of BMT’s but no HSCT for MS patients. However, they have the required protocol and are willing and very supportive to undertake my son’s case. Few advise that I should take him to Russia or Israel or Mexico or Canada (?). His present physical condition may not facilitate it, besides, funds. I Look forward to your valuable advice with gratitude.

          • Raghunath Reddy says:

            Thanks Mr.Franks for your swift response. Will be grateful, if you could suggest what is the way. My son can, perhaps, have 3 to 4 more doses of mitoxantrone over next one year and no more later.Any other medication for SPMS ?

          • Ian Franks says:

            I am not a doctor and so I am unable to give any medical advice as to suitable medications. Purely as a matter of information, however, there is a Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis group on Facebook.

      • Farah Nadeem says:

        hi terry my name is farah. I have secondary progressive ms now and was diagnosed in 1999. I am interested in this treatment but have no idea where to start. Please could you advise my email address is

        kind regards


  10. Sandy says:

    I was diagnosed with MS, (lesions on brain) at age 71 , three years ago. The nurse said I must have had it in my body for years…but no symptoms, and a very active person, including my childhood. I decided NOT to take medicine after the doctors tried several infusions of steroids…causing 40 lbs of weight gain. The only symptom as far as MS is neuropathy in my right leg and weakness in my legs. Plus overactive bladder, and fatigue. One doctor even said, ‘MS is multiple symptoms” , not just the one or two. I am still not taking the MS meds, knowing the side-effects are heart, stroke, blindness, paralysis, and things I am already facing just in aging. I am not driving, having the weakness in the legs… but I can climb our stairs, function enough to get to ‘bridge group’ (cards) Sunday School, and beauty shop. My husband is willing and available even though he is at work (selling cars) Am I crazy to just be thankful for what I have, and not inviting medicines that might cripple me worse than I am having to cope?

    • Kay McCleskey says:

      I just turned 69 diagnosed with MS in 2006, but have had it much longer. Brain MRI report stated to many lesions to count. Dr. says brain looks like swiss cheese. I taught scool using cane,walker, wheelchair then had to retire due to severe pain, cognitive issues,and many other symptoms. Took Betasersone 7yrs,stopped due to back surgery for a collapsed spine & didn’t go back on it. I feel better without it even though I know I need something. One Dr says cognitive issues may be from old age, but can’t explain why I still have so many other MS symptoms. Left leg spasms, balance, left leg numbness & severe fatigue getting worse. Started hormone pellets in Jan, they have helped, but I am getting worried & refuse to give up. I am as active as possible yard work, cleaning house, & church. I haven’t reached out before, but I am now. I live in a rual town in Texas. I am getting worse so PLEASE HELP ME. Thank you in advance.

  11. paul says:

    My mate suffers from secondary progressive and canot walk on his own he is 33 years of age and has had this illness for 8 years he is losing a lot of weight now and this stem cell transplant seems the best option right now. So can you help by sending some information of who I can contact. Thanks.

  12. Elaine Maniaci says:

    Have 2nd progressive ms. Was diagnosed October 1999 with RRMS. I now am wheelchair bound. I still excerse 4x week at gym. Tried novantrone but had to stop. Would love to be considered for clinical trial for 2nd progressive ms.

  13. Larry Rosenzweig says:

    Hi. My name is Larry. I am 44 years of age and very fit, despite the MS. My legs are getting worse every month. Major spasticity/weakness in legs and difficulty walking. I would love to take part in any trial.

  14. Lauren says:

    Hi all, I was diagnosed with mild rrms in 2002 which has progressed in to secondary progressive in 2010. I walk with a crutch and need a wheelchair for any sort of distance. Im desperate to try stem cell therapy before further progession but having difficulties knowing where to start looking, i live in scotland, uk.
    Any advice would be much appreciated. What type of stem therapy might work with spms?
    Thanks lauren

  15. Colin says:

    I am a 46yo widower. I was diagnosed with SPMS in 1995. I have had several treatments with no success. I have been wheelchair bound for two years. I would give anything a go just to walk again. If anyone knows where I can have HSCT treatment done, please let me know. I am willing to travel overseas.

  16. Alison Matish says:

    I’ve watched my mom for 40 yrs suffer with this horrible disease. My grandma had it to. My mom has secondary progressive MS. I pray everday to GOD to heal my mom. She still walks with a walker. Shes in pain and my dad has to lift her legs to get up steps. Please help me. It’s not fair to anyone who has this disease. My mom had to watch her mom suffer then she was diagnosed. Shes an angle on earth! Never smoked or drank. I wish I could take it from her! Pease call me thanks! Alison 440-310-0456

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *