Comparative Effectiveness of Autologous Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant vs Fingolimod, Natalizumab, and Ocrelizumab in Highly Active Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis

JAMA Neurol. 2023 Jul 1;80(7):702-713. doi: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2023.1184.


Importance: Autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplant (AHSCT) is available for treatment of highly active multiple sclerosis (MS).

Objective: To compare the effectiveness of AHSCT vs fingolimod, natalizumab, and ocrelizumab in relapsing-remitting MS by emulating pairwise trials.

Design, setting, and participants: This comparative treatment effectiveness study included 6 specialist MS centers with AHSCT programs and international MSBase registry between 2006 and 2021. The study included patients with relapsing-remitting MS treated with AHSCT, fingolimod, natalizumab, or ocrelizumab with 2 or more years study follow-up including 2 or more disability assessments. Patients were matched on a propensity score derived from clinical and demographic characteristics.

Exposure: AHSCT vs fingolimod, natalizumab, or ocrelizumab.

Main outcomes: Pairwise-censored groups were compared on annualized relapse rates (ARR) and freedom from relapses and 6-month confirmed Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) score worsening and improvement.

Results: Of 4915 individuals, 167 were treated with AHSCT; 2558, fingolimod; 1490, natalizumab; and 700, ocrelizumab. The prematch AHSCT cohort was younger and with greater disability than the fingolimod, natalizumab, and ocrelizumab cohorts; the matched groups were closely aligned. The proportion of women ranged from 65% to 70%, and the mean (SD) age ranged from 35.3 (9.4) to 37.1 (10.6) years. The mean (SD) disease duration ranged from 7.9 (5.6) to 8.7 (5.4) years, EDSS score ranged from 3.5 (1.6) to 3.9 (1.9), and frequency of relapses ranged from 0.77 (0.94) to 0.86 (0.89) in the preceding year. Compared with the fingolimod group (769 [30.0%]), AHSCT (144 [86.2%]) was associated with fewer relapses (ARR: mean [SD], 0.09 [0.30] vs 0.20 [0.44]), similar risk of disability worsening (hazard ratio [HR], 1.70; 95% CI, 0.91-3.17), and higher chance of disability improvement (HR, 2.70; 95% CI, 1.71-4.26) over 5 years. Compared with natalizumab (730 [49.0%]), AHSCT (146 [87.4%]) was associated with marginally lower ARR (mean [SD], 0.08 [0.31] vs 0.10 [0.34]), similar risk of disability worsening (HR, 1.06; 95% CI, 0.54-2.09), and higher chance of disability improvement (HR, 2.68; 95% CI, 1.72-4.18) over 5 years. AHSCT (110 [65.9%]) and ocrelizumab (343 [49.0%]) were associated with similar ARR (mean [SD], 0.09 [0.34] vs 0.06 [0.32]), disability worsening (HR, 1.77; 95% CI, 0.61-5.08), and disability improvement (HR, 1.37; 95% CI, 0.66-2.82) over 3 years. AHSCT-related mortality occurred in 1 of 159 patients (0.6%).

Conclusion: In this study, the association of AHSCT with preventing relapses and facilitating recovery from disability was considerably superior to fingolimod and marginally superior to natalizumab. This study did not find evidence for difference in the effectiveness of AHSCT and ocrelizumab over a shorter available follow-up time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Fingolimod Hydrochloride / therapeutic use
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis*
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting* / drug therapy
  • Natalizumab / therapeutic use


  • Natalizumab
  • ocrelizumab
  • Fingolimod Hydrochloride