18 January 2016

Ground breaking treatment for MS features on Panorama

On Monday 18 January, a pioneering treatment for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) developed at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals will be featured on BBC Panorama.

The programme aired at 8:30pm and called “Can you stop my Multiple Sclerosis?” follows four patients with relapsing/remitting MS and tells their remarkable stories. The treatment, which is called autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT) destroys the faulty immune system using chemotherapy.

It is then rebuilt with stem cells harvested from the patient's own blood; these cells are at such an early stage they've not developed the flaws that trigger MS.

The groundbreaking treatment involves collecting the patient’s own bone marrow stem cells and freezing them. The patient is then given a high dose of chemotherapy before the stem cells are thawed and re-infused into the patient’s blood to reboot their immune system.

Prof John Snowden, Consultant Haematologist, Royal Hallamshire Hospital said: "The immune system is being reset or rebooted back to a time point before it caused MS." Around 20 patients have been treated to date at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield.

Professor Basil Sharrack, Consultant Neurologist at Sheffield Teaching Hospital’s NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The new treatment is showing some remarkable results in the small number of patients we have treated so far. It is important to stress however that this treatment is unfortunately not suitable for everyone. The treatment is only suitable for patients with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis disease who have had two or more significant relapses in the previous twelve months, failed to respond to standard drug treatment and who have had the illness for no more than 10 years.

This treatment is not effective in patients with primary or secondary MS. These initial results need to be confirmed on a much larger scale and over a longer period. That is why we are taking part in a major international clinical research trial - MIST - together with hospitals in the United States, Sweden and Brazil - which is assessing the long-term benefits of this treatment.” Around 100,000 people in the UK have the incurable condition that causes a person’s immune system to attack the nerve fibres and their lining in the brain and spinal cord. The team from BBC Panorama were given exclusive access to follow four of Sheffield’s patients to receive the new treatment.

Professor John Snowden said: “The treatment has been developed thanks to a unique partnership we have here at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital between the neurology and haematology departments. The treatment has traditionally been used to treat bone and blood cancers.”

Holly Drewry, one of the patients who were treated at the Royal Hallamshire Hosiptal in Sheffield, could only dream of walking to the shops with her daughter Isla. Now, thanks to this pioneering stem cell treatment, that dream has become a reality. Holly said: "It's been amazing. I got my life and my independence back and the future is bright again in terms of being a mum and doing everything with Isla." Two years on she has suffered no relapses and there is currently no evidence of active disease on her scans.

For further information on the treatment and research trial, please see www.sth.nhs.uk/panorama or call our dedicated hotline on 0114 2715934

Watch Panorama's "Can you Stop my Multiple Sclerosis?"

Help support future research

Help support future research by donating to the Sheffield Hospitals Charity Stem Cell Therapy Multiple Sclerosis Fund

If you would like to make a donation to support research in this area of treatment please contact Sheffield Hospitals Charity on 44(0) 114 271 1351 or visit http://www.sheffieldhospitalscharity.org.uk/why-help-patients/multiple-sclerosis.aspx


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