Among the small amount of countries that offer experimental stem cell treatment for MS, Russia is one of them. The A.A. Maximov Department of Hematology and Cellular Therapy, National Pirogov Medical Surgical Center located in Moscow, Russia offers an HSCT (hematopoietic stem cell treatment) for MS. This treatment although in it’s early stages, has proven to be one of the new leading treatments available with many patients around the world witnessing huge improvements in their health as a result.
Currently, stem cell therapy is an unapproved treatment for MS in many countries including the United States. For this reason, patients across the US have now considered treatment overseas in Russia. For those who are interested in getting stem cell treatment for MS in Russia, there are a few things to consider before booking your flight to Russia. In this article, we’ll examine basic information about the treatment and the processes involved.
It is important to also speak to your health professional for further information and to contact the medical center in Russia directly if you have any unanswered questions.
What is Non-myeloablative HSCT?
There are two kinds of HSCTs offered to MS patients; myeloablative HSCT and non-myeloablative HSCT. In Moscow, the medical center offers non-myeloablative treatment for MS. Non-myeloablative treatment is a less harsh procedure. This treatment uses chemotherapy to treat the patient’s immune system so that the lymphocyte population is diminished and not completely removed.
The patient is then infused with their own bone marrow using immunosuppressant drugs so that the immune system can replenish itself with new B and T cells that have no memory of having MS. This therapy basically resets the immune system, however does not erase it completely so the patient need not be revaccinated with childhood vaccines etc.
Do I qualify for Stem Cell Treatment for MS in Russia?
Due to the nature of the treatment, it is important to understand that the this stem cell therapy may work for some patients and not others. As a result, the medical center in Russia outlines a criteria for patients that need to be met in order to be eligible for the procedure.
1) Must be in overall good health including heart and renal functions.
2) Must have an EDSS score of 6.0 or lower.
3) All forms evolutionary MS (RRMS, SPMS, and PPMS) with MRI lesion activity or where the patient’s EDSS score lowered by 1.0 or more in one year are treated.
4) Earlier, patients above 50 were not qualified, however, recent success with HSCT for older patients, more patients above the age of 50 are flying in for it.
Individuals should seek medical advice to check whether you are fit and eligible for this treatment before making any travel plans and booking of treatment.
The Facilities at AA Maximov in Russia
To give insight to what is expected during your stay in Russia, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the facilities at the medical center you will receive treatment at. The hospital is the most popular for stem cell therapy and well equipped to care for the patient’s pre and post-operation. The second floor has rooms for various routine procedures and examinations carried out before and after the actual procedure.
The third floor on the other hand is where the actual HSCT procedure and chemotherapy takes place. There are 10 beds, and 5 beds are used for cancer patients whereas the other 5 are used for autoimmune diseases, like MS. Since this floor is used for chemotherapy, and the patients come out with very low immunity, the infrastructure supports an extremely sterile and isolated environment. Patients are kept in rooms that are completely sealed, wiped down with antibacterial, and have their own sterile ventilation and plumbing system. Even the food given to patients staying here is cooked twice to ensure that all bacteria are dead.
The only visitors allowed in these rooms are the doctor and a nurse. No other visitors are allowed because of the patients’ compromised immunity and the severe risk of contracting an infection.
The Team who will be Treating you
Dr. Denis Fedorenko and his team of qualified doctors is a very knowledgeable and friendly team to be in the hands of. MS patients from all over the world flock to him for treatment and have left with happy results.
Some cases have resulted in a few complications post-op but even with this treatment being experimental, the TRM (treatment-related mortality) rate is at 0%! He has co-authored and authored many medical articles on his pioneering treatment for MS. Dr. Fedorenko has treated over 200 patients for MS and is a skilled professional and very helpful.
While he can speak in English and is happy to answer queries and explain each procedure, the staff is not necessarily bilingual but it does not really cause any hindrance.
Stem Cell Treatment for MS (non-myeloablative HSCT) Steps
1) Pre-operational examinations: This one week period is used to perform some routine tests to ensure that the patient is free of illnesses and fit enough to undergo the procedure.
2) Mobilization: Injections are given to stimulate stem cell growth in the body before they are extracted for the procedure. There is mild pain or fever which can be easily treated with mild pain killers or fever reducers. This procedure continues for 4 days (twice a day)
3) Apheresis: This process is when blood is collected and then separated into its separate parts. This is also what’s done when you donate blood. The immune cells, red blood cells, and stem cells are separated from whole blood, and while the red blood cells are returned to your body right then, the rest is frozen and stored for the infusion later on.
4) Chemotherapy: In 4 days, the immune system will be almost destroyed so that the new cells can be translated back into the body. At this stage the patient experiences discomfort due to the heavy chemotherapy as well as faces risk of infections and other immunity risks. The patient is now cared for very carefully and is not allowed to have any visitors for a while.
5) Transplant: The stem cells that were extracted earlier are not reintroduced into the body to proliferate and bring the immune system back to life. There are generally some discomforts experienced here like fever, diarrhea, nausea, cough etc.
6) Engraftment: This is the step when the body is left to rest so that the immune system rebuilds and starts learning to defend the body against foreign objects again. Blood tests will prove how well the immune system has been growing. The patient can now go back to the US and continue their recovery at home.
7) Recovery: For a minimum of 12-18 months and up to 5 years, patients see the reversal of their MS symptoms and actually experience 45-80% of their symptoms disappear. This is how long the stem cell treatment for MS will take in order to see long term impact of the treatment.
1) Stem Cell Transplants: https://fromrussiawithlisa.wordpress.com/stem-cell-transplants/
3) About HSCT: http://msslick.com/about-hsct/
4) Getting into HSCT treatment if you have MS: http://themscure.blogspot.in/2011/06/getting-into-hsct-treatment-if-you-have.html