The drumbeat for access to stem cell therapy can be heard across the land. This is the new magic pill, the silver bullet that will slay the monster, multiple sclerosis. Expectations are sky high, out of control in a troubling way. I am lucky enough to be in an FDA approved trial of Mesenchymal stem cells in treating MS, And I am skeptical, reasonably hopeful but counting on nothing.
In 2004, Biogen, a Boston based biotechnology giant, introduced Antegren, by popular account, a wonder drug. MS patients fell over each other to be treated with it in an unprecedented wave of miracle madness. The name Antegren was changed to Tysabri, which played to mixed reviews until 2006, when Biogen and partner Elian yanked the drug off the market.
There had been patient deaths from the PML virus. In January, 2012, the FDA changed the labeling for Tysabri to indicate that testing positive for anti-JC virus (JCV) antibodies presented a public danger. Wall Street had predicted Tysabri could become a $3 billion drug. I don’t think so.
Things are seldom what they seem.
I am not suggesting this FDA approved stem cell trial poses any danger to patients. We are using autologous cells, our own, which eliminates any risk of rejection. I feel quite safe, the only possible danger being disappointment.
My point is simple. Neither doctors nor patients can know with any certainty what the outcome of this trial will be. Don’t spend your money before you earn it. Doctors have their hopes but promise nothing. I expect little or no return of function but maybe, just maybe, reaching a measure of stasis, an illness stopped in its tracks. Who knows?
I vote for optimism and hope but caution against any of us setting ourselves up for bitter disappointment.
Follow Richard on Twitter at rmcjourneyman.