Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Stem cell trial gets $2M shot in arm


In response to "unexpected" positive results, a local research facility conducting a bone marrow stem cell transplant therapy trial has been awarded additional funding.

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada announced yesterday that the Ottawa Health Research Institute, a University of Ottawa-affiliated arm of the Ottawa Hospital, will receive $2.4 million over five years to continue and further develop the trial begun in October 2000.

The procedure, which early on resulted in one death and carries potentially serious side effects, involves employing a patient's bone marrow cells to replace a diseased immune system with a new, purified one.

A similar procedure has attained positive results in cancer patients, but has rarely been applied to the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as MS, an often-debilitating, chronic condition affecting the brain and spinal cord.

More than two dozen patients with rapidly progressive disease were selected for the initial stages of the trial; 18 have received the transplant therapy.


Another transplant recipient died during the procedure four years ago, effectively bringing further treatment to a halt for more than a year. The transplant program resumed in March 2004, after modifications were made to the procedure.

Most of the patients who have undergone the transplant procedure have seen their condition stabilize or improve, the MS Society reported. Moreover, additional, unexpected improvements to their condition have been witnessed.

"The hope was that treatment would stabilize progression of the disease, but researchers have found that some patients have experienced improved vision and improved walking ability," reported Ottawa Health Research Institute spokeswoman Jennifer Paterson.

"Part of this money will go to finding out what is causing that tissue repair. Additional funds will go to transplants for six more patients."