Clinical stem cell therapies for severe autoimmune diseases.
Snowden JA., Martin-Rendon E., Watt SM.
Severe autoimmune diseases (ADs) are a major source of disability and reduced quality of life and may result in shortened life expectancy, particularly in treatment-resistant patients. For several decades, allogeneic and autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) has been the focus of scientific investigation as a potential means of delivering 'one-off' intensive treatment in severe ADs. Improvements in the clinical safety of HCST were followed by its increasing use in recent years as an experimental treatment for severe and resistant ADs. European and North American registries have accumulated between one and two thousand procedures. Retrospective analyses and prospective studies have demonstrated the feasibility, safety and initial efficacy data in various ADs. Profound cell biological changes induced by HSCT leading to stabilization or reversal of organ damage have been characterized. These have also shed light on basic disease mechanisms and support investigation of more specific cellular therapy in ADs. There is clear potential for harnessing a profound immunological effect through HSCT. However, there is a need for an ongoing balance against evolving non-transplant treatments for ADs. Ideally, these issues should be resolved in phase III studies, in which HSCT approaches are compared with the best comparator.