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Nov 2016
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Dr. Harry Atkins

Stem cell transplant defeats myasthenia gravis

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We can add another disease to list of conditions that can now be treated with bone marrow stem cell transplants: myasthenia gravis (MG).

This week, CTV News in Ottawa told the story of Anne Scott, a 58-year-old Kemptville, Ontario woman whose MG refused to respond to conventional therapies.

MG is an autoimmune disorder like multiple sclerosis (MS).  It interrupts communication between the muscles and the nerves, which can make swallowing and breathing difficult.

While most patients can be treated with conventional therapies, some, like Scott, cannot.  She had to be placed on life support a dozen times.

Under the supervision of The Ottawa Hospital’s Dr. Harry Atkins, Scott underwent a chemotherapy/stem cell procedure. Essentially, it involves one using a patient’s own blood stem cells to rebuild their immune system after it has been wiped out by chemo therapy. If all goes  well, the rebuilt immune system is free of the disease.

Dr. Atkins has had success using this approach to treat patients with MS, Stiff Person’s Syndrome, neuromyelitis optica and Crohn’s disease. The procedure has been used to treat leukemia and other forms of blood-based cancer for decades.

Scott, who was able to attend her daughter’s wedding  shortly after undergoing the procedure, was one of seven patients in a study led by Dr. Atkins, the results of which have been reported in in JAMA Neurology  All seven patients no longer need treatment for MG and are symptom-free.

You can find out more about the study here.

6 thoughts on “Stem cell transplant defeats myasthenia gravis”

  1. Joan Rose Hukezalie says:

    God bless you Dr Atkins. If you ever want to do a trial on someone with Fibromyalgia call me.

  2. Waleed Jarrar says:

    Dear Doctor

    How i can contact you? I’m interested to have more details about this my son he is 12 years old and he suffer from mystinia graves since he was 4 years old

    1. Joe Sornberger says:

      Thank you for your comment. We are not doctors, we were reporting on the findings by doctors at The Ottawa Hospital. TOH has published a guideline for people seeking more information and you can find it here.

  3. As a 57 year-old male with MG for 3 years now, I am ecstatic to learn of this successful procedure …
    Although not a candidate, this news for me is astonishing and encouraging. I hope that one day there will be a simple therapy for all MG patients, as well as other autoimmune and neuromuscular disorders. It is my dream to have a remission or therapy that will allow me to have a normal lifestyle again.

  4. Tamblyn Green says:

    Are they looking for more test subjects? I’m in the US, but I’m willing to travel there. I’m currently receiving plasmapheresis twice a week.

    1. Joe Sornberger says:

      Our understanding is this treatment is available only to Canadians covered by Canadian health insurance. However The Ottawa Hospital has produced a guide for patients looking for more information. You can find it here: http://www.ohri.ca/newsroom/newsstory.asp?ID=514
      The hospital may be able to put you on to similar treatments/trials in the U.S.

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