Autologous Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation for Stiff-Person Spectrum Disorder: A Clinical Trial

Neurology. 2021 Feb 9;96(6):e817-e830. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000011338. Epub 2020 Dec 14.


Objective: To test the hypothesis that autologous nonmyeloablative hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is safe and shows efficacy in the treatment of stiff-person spectrum disorder (SPSD).

Methods: Twenty-three participants were treated in a prospective open-label cohort study of safety and efficacy. After stem cell mobilization with cyclophosphamide (2 g/m2) and filgrastim (5-10 µg/kg/d), participants were treated with cyclophosphamide (200 mg/kg) divided as 50 mg/kg IV on day -5 to day -2; rabbit anti-thymocyte globulin (thymoglobulin) given intravenously at 0.5 mg/kg on day -5, 1 mg/kg on days -4 and -3, and 1.5 mg/kg on days -2, and -1 (total dose 5.5 mg/kg); and rituximab 500 mg IV on days -6 and +1. Unselected peripheral blood stem cells were infused on day 0. Safety was assessed by survival and National Cancer Institute common toxicity criteria for adverse events during HSCT. Outcome was assessed by ≥50% decrease or discontinuation of antispasmodic drugs and by quality of life instruments.

Results: There was no treatment-related mortality. One participant died 1 year after transplantation of disease progression. Of the 74% of participants who responded, 47% have stayed in remission for a mean of 3.5 years; 26% did not respond. Compared to nonresponders, responders were more likely to have pretransplantation intermittent muscle spasms (16 of 17 vs 0 of 6), normal reflexes (12 of 17 vs 0 of 6), and positive CSF anti-glutamic acid decarboxylase serology (12 of 14 vs 2 of 6). Compared to responders, nonresponders were more likely to have lead pipe rigidity (4 of 6 vs 0 of 17) and EMG-documented simultaneous contraction of agonist/antagonist limb muscles (4 of 6 vs 1 of 17). Pre-HSCT use of prescription serotonin selective receptor inhibitor (SSRI) or serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) was more common in those who relapsed or never responded (9 of 12) compared to those responders who never relapsed (0 of 11).

Conclusion: In this cohort, HSCT was safe, but the beneficial effect of HSCT was variable and confined predominately to participants with episodic spasms and normal tendon reflexes without simultaneous cocontraction of limb agonist/antagonist muscles who were not taking SSRI or SNRI antidepressants.

Classification of evidence: This study provides Class IV evidence that, for a subset of people with SPSD, autologous nonmyeloablative HSCT improves outcomes.

Clinicaltrialsgov identifier: NCT02282514.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Stiff-Person Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Stiff-Person Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Stiff-Person Syndrome / therapy*
  • Transplantation, Autologous


  • Immunosuppressive Agents

Associated data