Montreal

Experimental multiple sclerosis therapy stops disease in its tracks

A Pointe-Claire man says a risky treatment for multiple sclerosis has given him his life back.

'The progression of the disease has been fully stopped,' says Pointe-Claire man

Alexandre Normandin, who is a practising physician, says after being diagnosed with MS he gained more empathy for his patients. (CBC)

Pointe-Claire man says he knows from personal experience that new stem cell treatments could give someone with multiple sclerosis a second chance.

It's allowed me to sort of lead a normal life, which is all I've ever wanted- Alexandre Normandin

Alexandre Normandin was diagnosed with the degenerative disease eight years ago, in his third year of medical school at McGill University.

He said what started out as a little numbness on his left temple, turned out to be rapidly progressing MS. 

"The way it was going, it wouldn't be surprising, within months [or] years, to wind up in a wheelchair," he told CBC's Daybreak host Mike Finnerty

When Normandin found out an experimental stem cell therapy — a myeloablative transplant — was being offered at the Ottawa General hospital in 2008, he didn't hesitate to sign up. 

The treatment was risky — Normandin had to go through 15 days of chemotherapy in order to completely wipe his immune system and eliminate the mutation that caused his MS. 

But it worked.

Years later, Normandin runs his own medical practice. 

"The progression of the disease has been fully stopped … I still have some fatigue, I still have some issues with balance, but in general compared with what the alternative would have been, I think it's a miracle cure," he said.

"It's allowed me to sort of lead a normal life, which is all I've ever wanted. It's not fully normal but it's the closest to normal that it could have been."

Researchers are still pursuing stem cell therapies as a treatment for MS. 

Earlier this year, the Multiple Sclerosis Scientific Research Foundation awarded a $4.2 million grant to researchers at the Ottawa Hospital and Health Sciences Centre (HSC) Winnipeg to support a clinical trial for another type of stem cell therapy — mesenchymal stem cell therapy.

Corrections

  • Alexandre Normandin received a myeloablative bone marrow transplant for his multiple sclerosis, not mesenchymal stem cell therapy, as originally stated in this article.
    Apr 28, 2015 12:44 PM ET

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