Are Stem Cell Transplants the Way Forward for Systemic Sclerosis?

According to a story from Healio, Dr. Soumya Chatterjee of the Cleveland Clinic is convinced that the best way forward for treating systemic sclerosis (also known as scleroderma) is autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplant. This procedure may be especially important for patients with diffuse cutaneous systemic sclerosis, which is one of the most lethal forms of the disease. Dr. Chatterjee’s claims follow the release of several recent studies that suggest that stem cell transplant has substantial advantages over other common treatment methods.

About Systemic Sclerosis

Systemic sclerosis, which is also referred to as scleroderma, describes a group of autoimmune diseases that can cause system-wide effects in the most severe cases. The mechanism of this disease is believed to be an autoimmune response in which the immune system mistakenly attacks body tissue. Some factors that may contribute to triggering the autoimmune response include mutations of the HLA genes and exposure to certain materials, such as certain solvents, white spirits, ketones, and silica. Symptoms are broad ranging and systemic, including kidney failure, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, stroke, headaches, facial pain, congestive heart failure, skin abnormalities, high blood pressure, chest pain, indigestion, and many more. Treatments are varied and depend on the symptoms, but most patients take medications in an attempt to suppress the autoimmune response. In severe cases, life expectancy is around 11 years from onset. To learn more about systemic sclerosis, click here.

Greater Long Term Benefits

The most recent study, which was released in early 2018, compared treatment with cyclophosphasmide, a chemotherapy agent with immune system suppressing properties, to autologous stem cell transplant. An autologous transplant is one in which stem cells from the patient’s own body are used. This latest trial was conducted over the course of a ten year period and provides the most convincing data. This study found that the procedure provided significant long term benefits and advantages, such as greater event free survival and overall survival.

While there is an increased risk of harmful complications, the differences in benefit made these risks worthwhile according to Dr. Chatterjee. Chatterjee presented his conclusions at Biologic Therapies Summit VIII, which took place from May 16th-17th of this year.


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