CNN logo

Infoseek/Big Yellow

Pathfinder/Warner Bros

Barnes and Noble

Health banner

Experimental treatment gives new hope to MS patients

Family November 17, 1997
Web posted at: 5:27 p.m. EST (2227 GMT)

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- At one point, Ellen Wright was crippled by multiple sclerosis. She was confined to a wheelchair, unable to walk, use her arms, or even speak. Today, as she takes a leisurely stroll along the coast of Los Angeles, she proves that it is possible for an MS sufferer to walk again.

The experimental treatment that gave her back her motion has brought new hope to others struggling with the disability.

Dr. Stephen Forman of City of Hope Hospital near Los Angeles gave Wright an autologous bone marrow transplant, removing, treating and reinserting her own marrow.

Researchers believe the symptoms of multiple sclerosis begin in the bone marrow, the base camp of the immune system, where many defensive cells are formed.

"Most people seem to think that MS develops because the immune system has interacted with something that caused it to see a person's own nerves as foreign, and reacting against it," Forman said.


For at least some people with MS, a bone marrow transplant may replace the troublemakers with a friendlier immune system.

"Our idea is to give such intensive therapy that we wipe out the bad cells that are causing the disease and assume that the new immune system that redevelops afterwards will not develop those cells that cause the disease, or won't do it for a very long time," Forman said.

It is considered ideal to make the transplant early in the course of the disease, before it does too much permanent damage.

Nobody knows how long the good effects will last. But most doctors and their patients feel that improvement for any length of time is worthwhile, Forman said.

"I think the idea is that if we can reset the clock and a person will go 10, 20, 30 years before they have any manifestations again, is that a good thing? I think we would agree, and the patients would agree that it is."

The procedure carries serious risks. Some people die from infections. But Wright felt the chance to regain a life was worth the risk of losing it.

"All of the things we take for granted every day start being cut off," she said.

Her family, she says, also felt the risks were worth taking. As she walked along cliffs near her home, she recalled a conversation she had with her daughter, after her treatment.

"I said to her, do you think that any of the wishes that we make ever really do come true? And she turned to me so strongly, and said, 'I wished for you to get better, and see, you did.'"


Related sites:

Note: Pages will open in a new browser window

External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.

Infoseek search  

Message Boards Sound off on our
message boards

You said it...
To the top

© 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.

Terms under which this service is provided to you.