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For a man who is at the forefront of HSCT treatments given to patients with both relapsing and progressive types of multiple sclerosis, Dr. Denis Fedorenko is a modest and quietly spoken family man.
At the A.A. Maximov Center in Moscow, Dr. Fedorenko is responsible for autoimmune diseases and transplantation. But what does the world know about the man himself; what about Denis?
Professionally, he is a hematologist and that, of course, explains why he was first attracted to the world of HSCT — it being a hematological therapy, not a neurological one.
He graduated from the Medical Military Academy as a doctor in 1999, and spent two years working as a GP before completing a postgraduate degree in hematology and immunology at the same medical school in St Petersburg. He finally completed his medical training in 2005. That was when he joined the A.A. Maximov Center, and that same year was when Moscow started treating multiple sclerosis patients.
When he first joined the center, doctors were using the myeloablative HSCT procedure, a cancer treatment, to also treat autoimmunology patients. That was changed to non-myeloablative for MS and similar diseases.
But isn’t myeloablative more effective?
“No, it is not, as far as MS and other autoimmune illnesses are concerned,” Dr. Fedorenko said.
“Cancer is a fatal illness and so our goal is to save the patient’s life. We have to treat both red and white cells. But MS is not fatal and so our goal is different. Now we are seeking to halt the disease and give the patient an improved quality of life. To do this, we only need to treat the lymphoid cells, not the red cells that carry oxygen. And that, in simple terms, is the difference between myeloablative and non-myeloablative HSCT.
“When treating autoimmune diseases, we need the correct treatment, not one designed to fight cancer. We have found non-myeloablative therapy is just as effective in autoimmune cases, is less toxic and has a lower risk or mortality,” he said.
These days, the doctor has created a family of very happy HSCT veterans. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say they adore him, not only for the treatment but also for the way he is with his patients. Especially for how he is always ready to reassure and comfort them, and to explain the procedure; in short, for his excellent bedside manner.
Julia Browning, who was a patient of Dr. Fedorenko just three months ago, said: “He’s lovely with all his patients, always ready to talk and is so calming when you encounter darker moments. He instills confidence.”
Family man: Married with baby son
Denis Fedorenko, 39, was born in a small town in central Russia in December 1976. He is married to another doctor, a dermatologist named Anna. But the female Dr. Fedorenko is not working at the moment because the couple have a young son, Artem. He is nearly 8 months old.
Asked about how he spends his free time and whether he has a hobby, Dr. Fedorenko did his best to suppress a laugh. “All I need to do is relax and enjoy time with my family,” he said. “I have no time for a hobby. At most, I enjoy an occasional walk in a forest.”
Dr. Fedorenko is dedicated to his wife, son, and the many patients who pass through the A.A. Maximov Center.
As I reported a week ago, he believes he can cure MS with autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation – and there are plenty of satisfied patients who agree with him, although there are some who entertain doubts.
It must be noted that places that offer HSCT, a stem-cell transplant and all-important chemotherapy procedure, are providing a treatment that is still being tested and has not yet been approved for MS. The myeloablative procedure is, of course, approved as a cancer therapy.
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