Importance: Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) represents a potentially useful approach to slow or prevent progressive disability in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS).
Objective: To compare the effect of nonmyeloablative HSCT vs disease-modifying therapy (DMT) on disease progression.
Design, setting, and participants: Between September 20, 2005, and July 7, 2016, a total of 110 patients with relapsing-remitting MS, at least 2 relapses while receiving DMT in the prior year, and an Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS; score range, 0-10 [10 = worst neurologic disability]) score of 2.0 to 6.0 were randomized at 4 US, European, and South American centers. Final follow-up occurred in January 2018 and database lock in February 2018.
Interventions: Patients were randomized to receive HSCT along with cyclophosphamide (200 mg/kg) and antithymocyte globulin (6 mg/kg) (n = 55) or DMT of higher efficacy or a different class than DMT taken during the previous year (n = 55).
Main outcomes and measures: The primary end point was disease progression, defined as an EDSS score increase after at least 1 year of 1.0 point or more (minimal clinically important difference, 0.5) on 2 evaluations 6 months apart, with differences in time to progression estimated as hazard ratios.
Results: Among 110 randomized patients (73 [66%] women; mean age, 36 [SD, 8.6] years), 103 remained in the trial, with 98 evaluated at 1 year and 23 evaluated yearly for 5 years (median follow-up, 2 years; mean, 2.8 years). Disease progression occurred in 3 patients in the HSCT group and 34 patients in the DMT group. Median time to progression could not be calculated in the HSCT group because of too few events; it was 24 months (interquartile range, 18-48 months) in the DMT group (hazard ratio, 0.07; 95% CI, 0.02-0.24; P < .001). During the first year, mean EDSS scores decreased (improved) from 3.38 to 2.36 in the HSCT group and increased (worsened) from 3.31 to 3.98 in the DMT group (between-group mean difference, -1.7; 95% CI, -2.03 to -1.29; P < .001). There were no deaths and no patients who received HSCT developed nonhematopoietic grade 4 toxicities (such as myocardial infarction, sepsis, or other disabling or potential life-threatening events).
Conclusions and relevance: In this preliminary study of patients with relapsing-remitting MS, nonmyeloablative HSCT, compared with DMT, resulted in prolonged time to disease progression. Further research is needed to replicate these findings and to assess long-term outcomes and safety.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00273364.