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National MS Society Cites aHSCT As Viable Treatment Option for Specific People Living with Multiple Sclerosis

October 8, 2021

The National MS Society has reviewed evidence on the use of autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (aHSCT) for the treatment of multiple sclerosis and concluded it could be an option specifically for people who have very aggressive relapsing-remitting MS and have not benefitted from disease modifying therapies (DMTs).
 
"Because of effective clinical research, we now have strong evidence that autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation is an important treatment option for some people with MS under specific circumstances," said Cyndi Zagieboylo, President & CEO of the National MS Society. "The National MS Society’s role is to communicate what is known so that effective treatments can be accessed. This includes supporting people with MS and their healthcare providers in considering options, ensuring that scientifically rigorous research explores unanswered questions, and advocating for affordable access and equity of healthcare. We are committed to our mission: We will cure MS while empowering people affected by MS to live their best lives."

AHSCT is a type of bone marrow transplantation that attempts to reset the immune system, which is responsible for damaging the brain and spinal cord in MS. The stem cells used during the procedure are ‘autologous’ meaning they are derived from your own body. It is a one-time procedure that can significantly reduce and potentially eliminate disease activity in some people. There are risks including serious infections associated with the treatment that require follow up and supportive care to reduce them. Since MS is different for each person, the individual should discuss treatment options with their MS specialist or physician to determine what is best for their MS. 

Studies show aHSCT may be a safe and effective treatment in people who:  
  • have relapsing-remitting MS  
  • are less than 50 years of age  
  • have had MS for less than 10 years  
  • have breakthrough disease activity (new inflammatory lesions on MRI and/or relapses) despite treatment with a high-efficacy DMT or are unable to take a high-efficacy DMT  
Factors including older age, greater disability and certain health conditions (for example, heart or lung disease) are associated with increased risk of life-threatening side effects following aHSCT.   
   
It is crucial that aHSCT is performed at a treatment location that is accredited by the Foundation for Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT). An MS specialist can assist with selecting a treatment center for care during and after aHSCT. 
 
The Society’s MS Navigators can provide support to those seeking information and resources and can be reached at 800-344-4867 or contactusnmss@nmss.org.

To learn more about aHSCT, visit: www.nationalmssociety.org/aHSCT.
 
Additional Resources:
In 2020, the National Medical Advisory Committee of the National MS Society released an article reviewing evidence related to the optimal use of aHSCT for specific people with MS, which was published in JAMA Neurology (online October 26, 2020).

There is currently one clinical trial on aHSCT in MS in the United States. The BEAT-MS clinical trial is randomly assigning eligible participants to undergo aHSCT or receive certain DMTs to compare the costs, safety and effectiveness of the two treatments. For details and to locate the site nearest you, visit the study website.

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis, and there is currently no cure for MS. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and it affects women three times more than men.

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© 2021 The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is a tax exempt 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Its Identification Number (EIN) is 13-5661935.