New treatment on the horizon
I keep seeing news stories about new treatments for Crohn’s Disease and I wanted to highlight one that I find really interesting.
When most people hear that someone has Crohn’s Disease, the immediate thought is that it’s a stomach ailment that makes you go to the bathroom a lot. What they don’t realize is that it is, in fact, an autoimmune disease. If you think about it, this makes sense- Crohn’s patients, or at least my Crohn’s patient, become sicker more easily than healthy patients.
Well, researchers in Seattle, WA are testing a new way to treat Crohn’s by essentially putting in a new immune system into the person with Crohn’s. Pretty cool right?
The researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center were recently improved to begin trials to see if whether bone-marrow transplants from healthy patients into patients with severe Crohn’s Disease can cure them. Can you imagine if this works- a cure for severe Crohn’s Disease? That would be incredible.
“It’s swapping out an old, diseased immune system for a new immune system, which we hope — and our research would support — will take care of the Crohn’s disease,” said Dr. George McDonald, the study’s principal investigator in an article in the Seattle Times.
The trial is being performed on a group of patients with treatment-resistant Crohn’s (patients who don’t respond to, say, Remicade or other medications). The bone marrow being transplanted through the trial is coming from either a sibling of the patient or an unrelated donor.
According to the trial’s site, places that have tried allogeneic transplantation have seen their Crohn’s disappear for 15 years! (Note: these patients were having the transplantation because they had leukemia in addition to Crohn’s. But they were cured of both!)
In addition to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the Crohn’s Allogeneic Transplant Study’s team includes representatives from the University of Washington, Seattle Children’s and the Benaroya Research Institute.
The concept behind this trial does make sense in my mind (although I don’t know the medical issues behind it being that I am not a doctor). But for some cancer patients, bone marrow transplants cause them to go into remission. So the principal behind it seems to be the same for Crohn’s patients in this case.
But, it should be noted that there are negatives: bone marrow transplants are PAINFUL, difficult for both the patient and the donor, and may not be covered by insurance (read: EXPENSIVE). Think big needles, operating rooms, chemotherapy or radiation (to kill the current bone marrow cells in order to make room for the new ones), and long hospitalizations. I think the recipients of a bone marrow transplant have to remain in the hospital for weeks afterwards to avoid bacteria and contracting infections until the new bone marrow kicks in and starts producing new cells. This isn’t a treatment for someone who likes instant gratification. Now, I have no idea if this will be the same for Crohn’s patients- I just know that this is what cancer patients go through.
So you have to weigh the pros and cons:
Pro: Possible cure of Crohn’s
Con: Hospitalization, high cost, might not work
If given the opportunity, would you do it?
In order to participate in the trial, the patient needs to have tried all conventional Crohn’s treatments without any success and be between 18 and 60. For more information on this, visit the trial’s site here.
Entry filed under: Treatment.