Difficulties accessing NHS stem cell transplants (also known as HSCT or AHSCT) for multiple sclerosis were highlighted in national newspapers this weekend. The articles reported how strict medical criteria often mean that people are not eligible for NHS treatment; some people who have been turned down have paid for private treatment at clinics in the UK and overseas. People in Scotland also struggle to get referrals despite the Scottish Health Technologies Group approving HSCT as an NHS treatment for highly active relapsing remitting MS.
One of the newspapers approached us for a comment but did not include our statement in their article – here’s our statement:
The MS Trust would like to see HSCT available at more specialist centres in the UK for people who have been shown to benefit the most. Several studies are being planned or are underway which will make the potential of HSCT clearer, helping us understand who is most likely to benefit from it and how it compares to other treatments, both in the short and in the long term.
We know that HSCT can be very effective for people with highly active multiple sclerosis, but it is an aggressive and demanding treatment which carries a degree of risk and involves a lengthy recovery period. This makes it unacceptable for some people, while others welcome the potential of HSCT to “hit their MS hard” with a single course of treatment.
We recently interviewed Prof Basil Sharrack, a consultant neurologist involved in HSCT research in Sheffield. He answers some of the most frequently asked questions and describes StarMS, a new clinical trial which will recruit nearly 200 participants at 19 research centres around the UK. The study will compare highly effective disease modifying drugs with HSCT over a 24 month period. Find out more on the study website.
More about autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT)
Autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) uses high doses of chemotherapy drugs to wipe out harmful cells in your immune system. Your own stem cells are used to “regrow” your immune system so that it no longer attacks myelin or causes inflammation in the brain and spinal cord.
Read more about stem cell transplants for MS
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