Over the last decade, hematopoietic stem cells transplantation (HSCT) has been increasingly used in the treatment of severe progressive autoimmune diseases. We report a retrospective survey of 183 multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, recorded in the database of the European Blood and Marrow Transplantation Group (EBMT). Transplant data were available from 178 patients who received an autologous graft. Overall, transplant related mortality (TRM) was 5.3% and was restricted to the period 1995-2000, with no further TRM reported since then. Busulphan-based regimens were significantly associated with TRM. Clinical status at the time of transplant and transplant techniques showed some correlations with toxicity. No toxic deaths were reported among the 53 patients treated with the BEAM (carmustine, etoposide, cytosine-arabinoside, melphalan)/antithymocyte globulin (ATG) regimen without graft manipulation, irrespective of their clinical condition at the time of the transplant. Improvement or stabilization of neurological conditions occurred in 63% of patients at a median follow-up of 41.7 months, and was not associated with the intensity of the conditioning regimen. In this large series, HSCT was shown as a promising procedure to slow down progression in a subset of patients affected by severe, progressive MS; the safety and feasibility of the procedure can be significantly improved by appropriate patient selection and choice of transplant regimen.
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