HSCT can cure MS, says Moscow’s Dr Fedorenko

Last week I interviewed Dr Denis Fedorenko, the leading HSCT doctor in Moscow. I wrote this article for MS News Today, where it first appeared two days ago. It is being reproduced here just in case you missed it the first time, when it appeared under the following headline: 

HSCT Can ‘Cure MS,’ Doctor Doing Stem Cell Procedure in Russia Says in Exclusive Interview

HSCT can cure MS. That’s the view of one of the world’s foremost proponents of the very successful but, as yet, still experimental therapy for multiple sclerosis patients.

In an exclusive interview for Multiple Sclerosis News Today, I asked Dr Denis Fedorenko if he believes that HSCT is a cure for MS. His direct reply took me a little by surprise; there was no attempt to skirt around the issue. He went straight to the point.

Dr. Fedorenko and a HSCT patient
Dr Fedorenko attends an HSCT patient in Moscow.

“Yes, in my opinion, HSCT can cure the disease,” he said, before emphasizing: “That is my personal opinion.”

Dr Fedorenko is responsible for both autoimmune diseases and transplantation at the AA Maximov Hematology and Cell Therapy Department of the National Pirogov Medical Surgical Center in Moscow, which specializes in the state-of-the-art treatment of hematological, oncological, and autoimmune diseases.

He has conducted HSCT in MS patients since 2005, and told me that many have responded well to the therapy, experiencing benefits beyond a halt in the progression of their disease, as shown by MRI scans. They have actually found improvements in their conditions, being able to do, once again, things that MS had stopped them from doing.

As just two examples of this, I have seen a video of a man repeatedly climbing up and down stairs unaided, while another patient, with whom I have spoken, told me she can now walk twice as far as she could before — with no aid — and that her balance has improved so much that she can not only stand on one leg while getting dressed but has also started to cycle again. “I had not cycled for years,” she said.

But do those improvements last? “Yes, they do,” Fedorenko said. “We have many patients who have had no MS relapses for 10 years. Even at seven to eight years they are rare.”

“Our aims are to stop the disease progressing further, actually make improvements in how a patient experiences MS and significantly improve his or her quality of life,” he said.

The center in Moscow is one of the leading clinics providing Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT) in the world. It includes autologous stem cells, in which bone marrow stem cells are harvested from the patient for transplanting later in the process. And it also involves the use of high dose chemotherapy to eliminate the cause of the disease — autoimmune T-cells — that are responsible for the nervous system tissue damage.

HSCT clinics exist around the world, with other major ones in Mexico, Israel, and the Philippines. But it does not stop there. I have heard about other clinics in Italy, Spain, and the UK. Still, the procedure itself is relatively new and under investigation in both the U.S. and the European Union, where it is not an approved MS therapy.

Currently, an international clinical trial  into HSCT is being led by Dr Richard Burt at Northwestern University in Chicago. Assisting him are collaborators at Rush University Medical Center (also in Chicago), the University of São Paulo in Brazil, Uppsala University in Sweden, and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in the U.K. The Phase 3 study began more than 10 years ago, and is expected to finish in late 2018.

Exercise important so HSCT might cure MS

Dr Fedorenko stressed the need for rehabilitation exercise in the first three months following the procedure, explaining that there was a need to overcome muscle atrophy that develops when someone is immobile for any length of time.

“Our database shows that quality of life only improves between nine months to a year after transplantation.”

So, what is a “cure” as far as MS is concerned? It really hasn’t been confirmed yet. I recall that when my father was successfully treated for cancer some 45 years ago, we were told that he was considered cured after being cancer-free for five years after treatment.

Could the same be said for multiple sclerosis? Again, Dr Fedorenko was not afraid to express his views.

“Five years is key in cancer recovery and, similarly, in MS once five years has passed with no symptoms, we should start to think about it as a cure. In the same way, someone with an EDSS of 6.5 may not see significant improvement in what he or she can do but without signs of disease progression, again for five years, should also be considered cured.

“We need to get together with neurologists to define what is considered a ‘cure’ for MS,” he said.

Ian Franks

Ian Franks enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media; during which he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain and uses his skills to write his own flourishing specialist Health & Disability blog at http://www.50shadesofsun.com. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

20 thoughts on “HSCT can cure MS, says Moscow’s Dr Fedorenko

  1. Hi, my name is Patrick from the UK. I have ppms first diagnosed in 2006. I would like to know about treatment in Russia. How I go about it and what are the costs and chances of getting it.

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    • Hi Patrick, the contact details for Moscow are as follows:
      Denis A. Fedorenko MD, PhD, and Anastasia K.Panchenko
      The A.A. Maximov Department of Hematology and Cellular Therapy
      National Pirogov Medical Surgical Center
      70 Nijnia Pervomayskaya
      Moscow 105 203
      Russia
      Call number:.+7 903 170 8606
      E – mail: panchenkoak@mail.ru
      E – mail: msclerosis@yandex.ru
      Web site: http://www.gemclinic.ru
      The cost of treatment is in the region of $50,000 – US dollars.
      They have treated PPMS.
      The first step is to contact Anastasia to discuss your individual case.
      Hope it all works out for you.

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  2. Hi my name is Aisha I sent a email to Anistasia about my situation I have SPMS I’m Bedbound and wheelchair-bound but all I would like is my life back and get rid of this MS it’s kill me. Please. Help me.

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  3. I would love for it to be you to do this treatment for me as I have three young kids two of my children have seen me walk my youngest one hasn’t and I want to see her grow up I’ve had this MS for 13 years it’s time for it to go only have rid of it Thank you again

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  4. I haven’t received a reply from Anistasia yet but how much is the treatment in In English pounds. A good thing to know first LOL thank you from Aisha 33 from UK thank you

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    • Long-term prognosis after HSCT is good but, of course, not perfect. So far, most patients are reporting they are still clear five years after surgery. However, some do say it didn’t work for them. The best thing to do is to talk to the clinics. They have different requirements for accepting you, so be sure to contact more than one.

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      • Hi Ian, do you know if the outcome of the surgery and whether MS recurs after if has anything to do with the degree of severity of MS? I’ve read that somewhere, but I don’t know if the source was valid. However, you seem like a person who knows a lot about the subject matter.

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      • Hi, so far, tremendous results have been achieved in halting MS progression. Some have reported maintaining that for 5 years or more. Is HSCT suitable for everyone. Regrettably, no (and that includes me). Does everyone who has HSCT benefit? No there are a minority who don’t experience the benefits enjoyed by most.

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  5. Thank you for the info Ian and also can the treatment sort out headaches and a ringing in my ears which is getting me down a Lot

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  6. Hi my mum had MS I got diagnosed 5 years ago with symptoms going back 30 years my worse thing is I cannot walk very far hate this can you help at all please Sir

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