Autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplantation for multiple sclerosis: a position paper and registry outline
While substantial progress has been made in the development of disease-modifying medications for multiple sclerosis (MS), a high percentage of treated patients still show progression and persistent inflammatory activity. Autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT) aims at eliminating a pathogenic immune repertoire through intense short-term immunosuppression that enables subsequent regeneration of a new and healthy immune system to re-establish immune tolerance for a long period of time. A number of mostly open-label, uncontrolled studies conducted over the past 20 years collected about 4000 cases. They uniformly reported high efficacy of AHSCT in controlling MS inflammatory disease activity, more markedly beneficial in relapsing-remitting MS. Immunological studies provided evidence for qualitative immune resetting following AHSCT. These data and improved safety profiles of transplantation procedures spurred interest in using AHSCT as a treatment option for MS.
An open call among MS neurologists as well as among experts in stem cell transplantation in Germany started in December 2021 to join a series of virtual meetings.
We provide a consensus-based opinion paper authored by 25 experts on the up-to-date optimal use of AHSCT in managing MS based on the Swiss criteria. Current data indicate that patients who are most likely to benefit from AHSCT have relapsing-remitting MS and are young, ambulatory and have high disease activity. Treatment data with AHSCT will be collected within the German REgistry Cohort of autologous haematopoietic stem CeLl trAnsplantation In MS (RECLAIM).
Further clinical trials, including registry-based analyses, are urgently needed to better define the patient characteristics, efficacy and safety profile of AHSCT compared with other high-efficacy therapies and to optimally position it as a treatment option in different MS disease stages.