New therapy for scleroderma

(SOURCE: MGN)

By: Ivanhoe Newswire
February 19, 2020

MADISON, Wis. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — There is new hope for patients with a rare autoimmune disorder. In mild cases, scleroderma causes areas of hardened skin. But in severe cases, it can also cause deadly hardening of internal organs like the lungs. A transplant typically used to treat cancer is having remarkable results for patients who had little hope of surviving.

A year ago, Chuck Beschta couldn’t walk more than a few minutes without stopping to rest.

“Just going out and doing normal activities outside like raking the lawn, mowing the grass, shoveling the driveway, whatever—snow blowing, those became impossible,” Beschta said.

After months of testing, he was diagnosed with severe scleroderma, which was hardening his skin but even worse. It was hardening his lungs, making it hard to breathe.

“He was getting worse despite the best therapy we had to offer,” Kevin McKown, MD, rheumatologist at the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison, described.

Dr. McKown recommended a stem cell transplant newly approved for scleroderma to re-boot chucks immune system.

Dr. McKown told Ivanhoe, “There’s a process by which they try to remove the autoreactive immune cells, the cells that are caught in the immune process and then they infuse that back in and hope that the body will basically take up and graft that immune system.”

Beschta saw almost immediate results. His skin was softer, and his breathing improved. He hopes his scleroderma has been cured.
“I think we can be optimistic and so far, the people who have been followed out as far as ten years out don’t seem to be getting it back,” Dr. McKown said.

Without a transplant, less than half the patients, like Beschta, who have diffuse scleroderma and severe lung disease live ten years past diagnosis. Stem cell transplants are commonly used to treat leukemia and lymphoma, cancers that affect the blood and lymphatic system.

Contributors to this news report include: Pam Coshun, Producer; Sandy Kowal, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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