HSCT Can ‘Cure MS,’ Doctor Doing Stem Cell Procedure in Russia Says in Exclusive Interview

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Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this blog article are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Multiple Sclerosis. 

HSCT can cure MS. That’s the view of one of the world’s foremost proponents of the very successful but, as yet, still experimental therapy for multiple sclerosis patients.

In an exclusive interview for Multiple Sclerosis News Today, I asked Dr. Denis Fedorenko if he believes that HSCT is a cure for MS. His direct reply took me a little by surprise; there was no attempt to skirt around the issue. He went straight to the point.

Dr. Fedorenko and a HSCT patient
Dr. Fedorenko attends to a HSCT patient the Moscow clinic.

“Yes, in my opinion, HSCT can cure the disease,” he said, before emphasizing: “That is my personal opinion.”

Dr. Fedorenko is responsible for both autoimmune diseases and transplantation at the A.A. Maximov Hematology and Cell Therapy Department of the National Pirogov Medical Surgical Center in Moscow, which specializes in the state-of-the-art treatment of hematological, oncological, and autoimmune diseases.

He has conducted HSCT in MS patients since 2005, and told me that many have responded well to the therapy, experiencing benefits beyond a halt in the progression of their disease, as shown by MRI scans. They have actually found improvements in their conditions, being able to do, once again, things that MS had stopped them from doing.

As just two examples of this, I have seen a video of a man repeatedly climbing up and down stairs unaided, while another patient, with whom I have spoken, told me she can now walk twice as far as she could before — with no aid — and that her balance has improved so much that she can not only stand on one leg while getting dressed but has also started to cycle again. “I had not cycled for years,” she said.

But do those improvements last? “Yes, they do,” Fedorenko said. “We have many patients who have had no MS relapses for 10 years. Even at seven to eight years they are rare.”

“Our aims are to stop the disease progressing further, actually make improvements in how a patient experiences MS and significantly improve his or her quality of life,” he said.

The center in Moscow is one of the leading clinics providing Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT) in the world. It includes autologous stem cells, in which bone marrow stem cells are harvested from the patient for transplanting later in the process. And it also involves the use of high dose chemotherapy to eliminate the cause of the disease — autoimmune T-cells — that are responsible for the nervous system tissue damage.

HSCT clinics exist around the world, with other major ones in Mexico, Israel, and the Philippines. But it does not stop there. I have heard about other clinics in Italy, Spain, and the U.K. Still, the procedure itself is relatively new and under investigation in both the U.S. and the European Union, where it is not an approved MS therapy.

Currently, an international clinical trial  into HSCT is being led by Dr. Richard Burt at Northwestern University in Chicago. Assisting him are collaborators at Rush University Medical Center (also in Chicago), the University of São Paulo in Brazil, Uppsala University in Sweden, and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in the U.K. The Phase 3 study began more than 10 years ago, and is expected to finish in late 2018.

Exercise important so HSCT might cure MS

Dr. Fedorenko stressed the need for rehabilitation exercise beginning three months after the procedure, explaining the need to overcome the muscle atrophy that develops when someone is immobile for any length of time.

“Our database shows that quality of life only improves between nine months to a year after transplantation.”

So, what is a “cure” as far as MS is concerned? It really hasn’t been confirmed yet. I recall that when my father was successfully treated for cancer some 45 years ago, we were told that he was considered cured after being cancer-free for five years after treatment.

Could the same be said for multiple sclerosis? Again, Dr. Fedorenko was not afraid to express his views.

“Five years is key in cancer recovery and, similarly, in MS once five years has passed with no symptoms, we should start to think about it as a cure. In the same way, someone with an EDSS of 6.5 may not see significant improvement in what he or she can do but without signs of disease progression, again for five years, should also be considered cured.

“We need to get together with neurologists to define what is considered a ‘cure’ for MS,” he said.

  • This is the first of three blogs centered on HSCT in Moscow. Next week, I will take you through the clinic operation as well as profile Denis Fedorenko himself.

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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Ian Franks is Managing Editor of the Columns division of BioNews Services. He has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media; during which he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain and uses his skills to write his own flourishing specialist MS, Health & Disability blog at www.50shadesofsun.com. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.
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  1. Sandy Henson says:

    I received HSCT treatment in Moscow just a few months ago, returning home at the end of April. The team in Moscow was amazing and I’m so grateful I was able to be treated under the expert care of Dr. Fedorenko and his team. I’m already seeing improvements in my MS symptoms and am quite optimistic about the how I will do as the healing process continues over the next 12 – 24 months.

      • Ian Franks says:

        These are only approximate but Mexico and Russia are around the $50,000 USD mark. Israel is more than $100k. I have no idea about any others. The best thing to do is contact the clinics direct.

      • Loni says:

        I know someone who had it done in mexico and it was 54,500. Which includes 4wks of medical treatment, stay/living space, plane tickets. All she had to pay additionally was for food for the 4 week stay.

    • Maria Mowczan says:

      Hi Sandy
      My daughter has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of MS a year ago. The treatment available in Australia so far failed her. As we are not sure if she will be accepted for the HSCT trial in Sydney we would like to as soon as possible have her send to Moscow. She is running out of time. Who do we contact in Moscow.

    • Vicki Wilson says:

      I’m from the US and traveled to Russia to be treated by Dr. Fedorenko almost 3 years ago. It doesn’t matter where you live.

        • Vicki Wilson says:

          Jennifer, There is a FB group, called “Russia HSCT for MS & Autoimmune diseases” In the files section you will find the contact information and cost, which is $50K USD currently.

  2. I must say from a patients perspective that was the fourth done outside of the Canadian Trial done with Dr. Mark Freedman and Dr. Harold Atkins my life is spectacularly different than before my transplant… I at my worst was 9.5 in our EDSS scale of disability. I was sent home to my small town hospital after the city had done all they were able, to die… I was told it was now between me and God, is this what I wanted to hear? Well at that point “kind of so!” I had been a quadriplegic already with no movement but my head, was this my life until God chose to take me? If was going to be death was a great option.
    Things instead took an amazing turn and here I am nearing on 5 years post transplant. I’m alive and well, “well of course from my perspective” I’m not dead… I have the ability to roll myself in bed, I can feed myself, and walk “still aided, probably always will be” but I’m no where near where I was before. My disease has been HALTED!!! I do use the “C word” all the time… Lol I actually named one of my blogs the “C WORD” stands for “Cured not cancer.” I’m so grateful for all those who came before me and excited beyond measure for all those to follow…

    • Elizabeth says:

      This is incredible news Fiona. Sorry, just so that I understand you correctly, did you get treatment from Dr. M and Dr. H outside of the trial? If so, that is very interesting. My husband was just turned down by his office. He has PPMS and has an EDSS of 6.5. I don’t understand.
      Anyhow, I am so happy for you Fiona!

      • Fiona says:

        I’m sorry to read about your husband. They do have extremely strict criteria. I was done due to my aggressiveness. I had been sent home to my small town hospital to die. I had done all that could be done. It was now between God and I is what I was told.
        They do ppms in Russia, they just don’t in ottawa

  3. Tracey says:

    Hi 48 year old Mum of one – I was diagnosed with RRMS July 2013 I had a steady decline in my health. Dr Fedorenko gave me my life back on Feb 4th 2015 – I am MS free – lesions on my brain inactive and lesions on my spine diminishing – this little Tassie girl was rescued in Russia – HSCT cured my MS

  4. Amanda Dean says:

    I am currently in my final days of treatment here in Russia, under the care of Dr Fedorenko and his amazing team. The facility is second to none and nothing is left to chance around infection control, or anything to do with that matter. My EDSS on admission was zero. My MS (RRMS) was in remission. However, I did have four lesions on my spine which, according to Dr Fedorenko is a strong indication of more severe disability down the track. I will be leaving this facility 100% free of MS. His words, not mine. What I find so incredibly frustrating is the absolute blind resistance from neurologists in recommending this as a first line treatment for those diagnosed with MS. I have handled the procedure with the utmost of ease. In fact, it has been far easier on me than all of my three pregnancies – hands down. The earlier you can access this treatment, the easier it will be for your body to cope. My body only had to cope with the chemo, and even then I experienced NO side effects. If you’re coming into the treatment on the back foot, whether that be from pre-existing MS symptoms, or from years on immunomodulating drugs, then of course it is going to be harder for you. The chemo is adding an extra stress to your body. For me, chemo was the ONLY stress which I firmly believe has made this whole process so much easier. Early intervention is key. Not waiting until these so called ‘wonder’ MS drugs fail. If they were so amazing, why are people still progressing on them? And that doesn’t even begin to take into consideration the devastating effects that prolonged usage of immunosuppressants has on the body. Liver deterioration is one of many, many examples. It is not rocket science though as to why this treatment is not already readily available around the world. There simply is no money in a cure. And people living with MS are a living (not so well in most cases), breathing cash cow for pharmaceutical companies and their share holders.

    • Miliss says:

      Thank you Amanda, your post is inspiring and your situation similar to my own. I am wanting early intervention. I have lost partial use of my right hand and don’t want to wait until I am truly disabled.

    • Loretta says:

      I loved reading your story – you give people hope! It was just the thing I needed to read tonight. I am heading over to Russia in a month and was feeling a little unsure of myself. Not now!! Thank you.

  5. Chris Donally says:

    Had this same hsct procedure done at the Ruiz clinic in Mexico last October to treat 5 years of secondary progressive ms with an edss of 5. Eight months later the changes are unbelievable after 5 years of just getting worse and worse it all seems be be going onto reverse and I am just getting better and better. An absolute life saver I can not understand you they are not just doing this now as the regular ms treatment it would keep a lot of people out of wheelchairs if caught early enough.

    • ms_interest says:

      Hi Chris,

      Were you worried about Mexico being outpatient?
      Is the protocol less effective, as you have to have “after care” with injections back home?
      How was your Mexico experience?

      Regards, ms_interest

  6. Linda tyler says:

    I agree with chris Donally. Let’s go. Yes expensive but with the results they are getting think of the $$$$ in the end that would be saved with all these people able to live life to its fullest!!!!

  7. Kate says:

    Real happy to read all the above comments. My son was treated by Dr Fedorenko Dec 2014.
    All the staff were amazing. DR F is an amazing person who genuinely cares for his patients. My son handled the treatment well. His edss was 6.5 (spms) according to his neuro before treatment. DR F said he was more of a 7 when we left Russia. He got deconditioned after treatment went to an edss 8 on his return. He is now probably back to base 6.5-7. He is slowly getting stronger.
    There has been some slight improvements eg. Heat intolerance has improved for him and can hold a glass to drink. No new or active lesions on Mri Spasms/clonus are a problem for him when he walks with a frame.
    Hoping by strengthening muscle and with time he will keep improving.
    Previously he had mitoxantrone treatment 6 years before hsct as his disease was very agressive. That was way worse for him than the hsct in Russia.
    If only we knew about the treatment in Russia earlier.
    Forever grateful to Dr Fedorenko/Anastasia for accepting my son and for ever grateful to Kristy Cruise for sharing her story on 60 minutes in Aust.
    I wish that everyone that wanted to do hsct had the chance to do it before there is permanent disability which cannot be reversed.
    Ms is so unpredictable it is best treated asap. One never knows when the next flare up will be. You need to stop this disease asap if you can.
    Good luck everyone seeking hsct.

    • Good evening, I’m so glad that your sons disease has been halted like the rest of us, I’m the one that posted up top and am holding out hope that with all the effort he is putting into strengthening he will get stronger everyday.
      I went to the gym nearly everyday when I came home and I worked with a personal trainer who worked wonders with my abilities. No that I will always be thinking of you both. You can contact me anytime through my website http://www.fionasfight.com I am really excited to hear how he is progressing.

    • Beverly gilmar says:

      How expensive is this treatment? I’m on a very limited income of disability. I’ve had MS since I was 18 am now 54. My left side has gotten very weak over last8 years & can no longer lift by leg back at all the back muscles of leg & arm are no longer of any use. I used to go to gym every day I just want my life back. I’ve been given narcotics for the severe pain I experience 24/7 which is only killing me. Please if anyone can give me an idea on the cost of this treatment. I’m from Alberta Canada.

      • Robert says:

        I heard the treatment was 50k in Russia & the same in Mexico.So you have some kind of ideal of pricing for this treatment.Good luck & may the lord be with you.I pray for all of us that have this disease.Take care of yourself and look into getting this done before it’s to late.thete is a lot of good advise on this web site to read so do some research before you make your discussion.Good luck 🙏🙏👍👍

  8. Diana pullos says:

    I am 17months post HSCT in Moscow, was EDSS 6.5 according to my neuro and Dr Fedorenko and in the last month I have started standing and walking longer than pre HSCT. I sincerely thank Dr Fedorenko and Anastasia for their wonderful help and Kristy Cruise for her bravery in sharing her experience and knowledge. The ONLY negative is WHY we weren’t told sooner and WHY we are forced, some in a very fragile condition, to travel overseas for this help.

  9. Dr. Fedorenko have me back my life, and Imwill be eternally grateful. I had HSCT in July of 2014 and am continuing to improve. I walk with a cane instead of rollator, danced at our sons’ wedding in May, work out with a trainer three times a week, and still noticing thing I can do again every day! Grateful to God and Dr. Fedorenko every day.

  10. Lorraine Athorne says:

    I was diagnosed in Aus in 2013 with Fulminant MS. I arrived in Russia in Feb 14 only just. A week before I was to leave for Russia my neurologist via skype asked my Dr when was I leaving to which my Dr replied 5 days the reply was “IF YOU MAKE IT” by then I had aggressive white matter disease and was in a pretty dire state. To Dr Fedorenko I was a neurologist nightmare and a heamotologists dream. I was by myself in Russia so Dr Fedorenko brought in one of his previous patients (the wonderful Anastasia)to visit with me. This is a Dr like no other you will ever meet he believes in treating the whole person (idiosyncrasies and all). He is genuine in wanting to achieve the best Quality Of Life for his patients their families etc. The recovery can be hard mine has been particularly hard mainly due to the white matter disease but I have found ways to manipulate the obstacles of this. I was lucky that my disease was very active so I have seen a reduction in lesions however my scans here do say innumerable lesions (train wreck). In terms of a cure how do you define that? In my case I am not dead and I have certainly stopped the disease in its tracks. Anyone choosing to be treated by Dr Fedorenko will not be disapointed.

  11. J Bruno says:

    Thank you so much for publishing this story. This is a very uplifting story to hear. Thank you Dr. Federenko for this interview and and for being at the forefront of treating a broader variety of MS patients. Thank you to all of the the brave warriors who have undergone this treatment and written about their journeys making it so much easier for those who follow. So happy that this treatment is expanding to other countries making it accessible to many more people.

  12. Natalie says:

    Hi Ian,
    Great article to read and great to see this information out there for the world to read. I was treated by Dr Fedorenko in October 2014, EDSS 5/6 and now maybe a 1. I’m defiantly a poster girl for success, halting disease progression and significant improvement.. Maybe that’s why the ‘patient’ photo is of me??
    I can’t speak highly enough of Dr Fedorenko and the whole team in Moscow, thank you forever x

    • Ian Franks says:

      Hi Natalie, I am so pleased to hear of your successful treatment – and such an improvement to your EDSS rating. The photo was provided by Dr Fedorenko’s assistant Anastasia, glad you don’t mind it being used.

  13. Billy says:

    Done in Belgium one year ago after 10 years of RRMS ! Hard time but incredible results today. Hope it will be available for everyone !

  14. I underwent successful HSCT in Russia, for PPMS, almost 3 years ago. Dr. Fedorenko and his team are amazing, the quality of care was first rate. My EDSS was a 6, I was using a trekking pole to walk, I’m now a 5, and only need the trekking pole if walking longer distances or traveling, but not for my daily errands. I saw many improvements during the first year, and have worked hard at rehabilitation.

  15. ms_interest says:

    Amazing to read peoples experience and results. Did people go for myeloablative or non-myeloablative HSCT? I see from recent trials that myeloablative results are better. Does anyone know of any hospitals that do not have inclusion criteria?

  16. Eddie Nash says:

    Thank you so much Ian!!!!
    My wife was CIDP and was treated by Dr Richard Burt in Chicago.
    Fantastic results! Dr Fedorenko and his assistant Anastasia are what the rest of the medical community SHOULD aspire to! MONEY is THE REASON the neuros and the medical community in general do not “believe in HSCT!” People being “cured” makes no-one any money. Even after my wife’s leaving her neuros office on a walker and returning post HSCT from Chicago, his response was, “I STILL DO NOT BELIEVE IN HSCT!” But then again he lost $229,000 dollars a year just for the IVIG he provided in his office. Plus no office visits or prescription credits from big pharma. GOD BLESS DR. FEDORENKO!

  17. Sharon Cole says:

    I would love to go have this done but can’t afford to be off work to do it. Was diagnosed with MS Dec 2014.

    • Laura erkkila says:

      Sharon, I certainly understand the constraints of a budget, but I think you should start by doing as much research as you can. There is a lot of info on HSCT on Google and Facebook, including fundraising. I am on the waiting list for Mexico. I have had MS for 21 years and my EDSS is 7. For the very first time in 21 years, I am actually excited about a treatment. I can’t get to Mexico soon enough! I wish I had known about this sooner. As Eddie Nash stated, very few neurologists in the US recognize HSCT as an approved method to treat MS. It’s all about money. Good Luck! I hope you find a way to obtain HSCT!

    • Yes, Catherine, Dr. Fedorenko treats PPMS, with an EDSS up to 6.5. He performed successful HSCT for my PPMS almost 3 yrs ago. My EDSS was 6 at the time. My progression has stopped, and I’ve experienced many improvements. But, for HSCT to be considered successful, it just has to stop further progression.

      • Elizabeth Schembri says:

        Hi Vicki,
        I am so encouraged to hear that your PPMS has stopped and that you have experienced improvements. My husband also has PPMS and is at about a 6.5 currently. We just received word to next steps. My fear is that with the wait list, by the time we get in, his symptoms will have advanced too much. We will see I guess.
        Would you mind describing some of the improvements you have experienced? It’s a bit difficult to connect with other PPMSers who have had treatment in Russia. Thanks so much!

        • Vicki Wilson says:

          Elizabeth, You can read my improvements on my blog, http://www.kickinms.com There is also a FB group, just for us with PPMS interested in HSCT, “HSCT for PPMS”. You will find the other facilities that will treat PPMS with HSCT. One with a shorter waiting list is in Pueble, Mexico, Dr. Ruiz is a Mayo Clinic trained doctor, and just started accepting International patients around 15 months ago. Several with PPMS have gone and had successful outcomes.

  18. ms_interest says:

    Dear all,

    I am extremely keen to get this done in Russia. However I am in the fortunate / unfortunate position of not starting conventional DMD’s. I have RRMS though (for 12 years=). I am *very* worried that I will be rejected, purely based on previous decision to not start DMD. Are they at all flexible / consider individual cases?

    Regards, ms_interest

  19. Jerry Denick says:

    I’ve been PPMS since 2009 ! I have been monitoring the progress of HSCT for several years ! I have known about Dr. Federenko and Dr. Burt for several years and yet I receive this information, today! Imagine my surprise ! This stuff is ‘old news’ not ‘new’ news ! Dr. Burt has been doing this procedure on ,exclusively, RRMS patients since 1995 ! There are treatment facilities in Tel Aviv, Russia, the U.S. and Germany. But they have not received the ‘press’ that should be afforded to this ‘miraculous’ life giving therapy ! This HSCT should be the end of MS as we know it !

  20. The level of chemotherapy used will affect the risks involved in the procedure, with more aggressive chemotherapy carrying higher risks and more severe AHSCT has been shown to reduce relapses for some people, and some have experienced a stabilisation or even an improvement in their level of disability. Others however have found that the treatment has not had any benefits.

    • Ian Franks says:

      Hello Eddy, thanks for your comment. Yes, it is true that HSCT has a risk but so do all DMDs/DMTs. For that matter, all surgical operations also involve risks.

  21. Louise says:

    Thank God for Dr Fedorenko! I had HSCT in Moscow in 2014. The best decision I have made for my health and quality of life. I was SPMS with an EDSS of 6.0 and progressing. I was deteriorating 1 point per year. My disease is halted with my largest lesions reduced and no new or active lesions. My EDSS now is 4.5. It was an amazing experience. I would do it again in a heartbeat. I will be forever grateful for Dr Fedorenko and team for giving me quality of life.

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