Stem cell trial in UK to treat Crohn s disease

Added On August 30, 2018

Crohn's disease is a painful and chronic intestinal disease which affects at least 115,000 people in the UK. 

Current treatments of the disease include medicines to reduce inflammation. But such drugs have varying results, and surgery is often needed to remove the affected part of the bowel. 
In extreme cases, patients who undergo multiple operations over many years, may need a final operation that diverts the bowel from the anus to an opening in the stomach and allows stools to be collected in a pouch. 
SOUNDBITE (English) JAMES LINDSAY, Queen Mary University of London and Barts Health NHS Trust
"We are using stem cell transplantation to see if this can help patients who have Crohn's disease that's not responding to all standard therapists. So, stem cell transplantation is when you use stem cells which are the body's own building blocks from which the whole immune system is grown, and you use the stem cells to reset the immune system that in a patient with Crohn's disease has become allergic to the contents, if it's got. And therefore, causes ulceration and really quite devastating symptoms for the patient."
In the trial, patients undergo chemotherapy and hormone treatment to mobilize their stem cells, which are then harvested from their blood. Further chemotherapy is used to break down their faulty immune system.
After the collected stem cells are re-introduced into the body, they evolve into new immune cells, effectively giving the patient a second immune system.
SOUNDBITE (English) JAMES LINDSAY, Queen Mary University of London and Barts Health NHS Trust
"The trial is just beginning, and the most important aspects of it, either we're using a much lower intensity of drugs in order to collect stem cells and then to reset the body's immune system. And we also carefully following patients. So that if they improve after transplant, but then develop symptoms of the disease that we can re-treat them with standard drugs which we hope will mean a stem cell transplantation will have a longer duration of benefit."
The current clinical trial, called "ASTIClite", is a follow up to the team's 2015 'ASTIC' trial, which looked at using a similar stem cell therapy. 
Although the therapy in the original trial did not cure the disease, researchers found many patients experienced some benefits from the treatment, which prompted a further clinical trial.
The new research could lead to new treatments not just for UK patients but for many sufferers around the world.
SOUNDBITE (English): JAMES LINDSAY, Queen Mary University of London and Barts Health NHS Trust
"So, that's a really important question. So traditionally Crohn's disease has been a disease of the northern hemisphere, particularly common in Europe and North America. but over the course of the last 20 years, there's been a real increase in the instance of Crohn's disease in other countries, particularly the Middle East, India and Asia. And has been excellent studies coming out of China and Hong Kong, looking at the increasing incidence of Crohn's disease in the Chinese population. And so, it seems to me, the where is Europe's or increasing Crohn's disease maybe 30 or 40 years ago, other countries beginning to see that increase now. And so, therefore, that the changes that we see and the benefits that we can see in treating patients on Crohn's disease, I am sure can be spread outcross of the world."
The new method of changing the immune system in Crohn's disease patients has also been found to be successful in treating multiple sclerosis.