A SUFFERER of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) from near Fairford returned from Mexico last month following a £44,000 transplantation procedure in the hope of combating the neurological disease.
Alison Gordon, 53, from Marston Hill, was diagnosed with MS in 1998, and was coping well with the condition until 2010 when she had a ‘major relapse’.
“Since then it has gradually got worse until the end of 2015 when I discovered HSCT (Hematopoietic stem cell therapy),” she explained.
Alison applied to facilities in Mexico and Russia at the start of last year, before being accepted into the former for treatment to begin on January 2 and last until January 28.
HSCT was previously considered a dangerous procedure and generally reserved for those with life-threatening diseases, though with the survival rates having increased its use has been expanded to patients with autoimmune diseases.
“The procedure has an 85-88 per cent success rate, which means it [her condition] will never get worse than it is now,” Alison explained.
The therapy involves new stem cells being produced in the patient’s body, before one million cells per one kilogram of bodyweight are taken, she said.
Five days of chemotherapy follows, ‘where your immune system and stem cells are wiped out’.
The new ‘naïve’ cells are then put back into the body to reboot the immune system and hopefully keep the patient relapse free.
Alison said there can also be a ‘systematic improvement’ meaning the level of MS can also reduce over time.
“Obviously, it’s too early to say how much of an impact it has had,” she said, having returned home from Puebla in Mexico with her partner Pete on January 29.
“But the actual treatment was fantastic. The doctors were very committed, very dedicated.
“They have a zero per cent mortality rate in Puebla for the treatment, so they know what they’re doing.”
19 other patients were undergoing treatment at the same time as Alison, who was able to fund everything herself thanks to a large inheritance left to her by her dad.
“They were always jabbing you with injections to encourage the stem cells to grow – and doing blood tests twice a day for two weeks – after we’d had the infusions,” she said.
Immediately after the treatment, Alison said “I could think very clearly, which I haven’t been able to do for a long time”.
“Before, I’ve always had bad fatigue but that was gone immediately afterwards.
“It came back quite quickly again but they said it will be a bit of a roller coaster where you feel great then back down again – then eventually you’ll go up and stay back up again.
“I should know how successful the treatment was in about six months to one year,” she added.