Four years after experimental MS treatment, West Island doc hopeful
Published Tuesday, April 2, 2013 10:11PM EDT
MONTREAL—A young West Island doctor says he's benefitting from an experimental treatment for MS.
Alex Normandin was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, when he was a med student. Doctors warned him he was suffering from an aggressive form of the illness and would likely need a wheelchair.
But things turned out very differently for him. After his diagnosis, Normandin learned about bone marrow stem cell transplants. He decided to go to the Ottawa General Hospital and undergo an experimental procedure.
It's been four and a half years since the transplant—and Normandin is strong and healthy.
When he was a third-year medical student, he felt something that he knew was potentially dangerous.
“I started to feel numbness in my temple,” said Normandin. It was numbness that kept increasing and wouldn't go away.
After undergoing a series of tests, Normandin learned his diagnosis. Facing a future in a wheelchair, he headed to Ottawa for a bone marrow stem cell transplant involving high dose chemotherapy.
“They replace your bone marrow with stem cells so it's able to reboot the immune system,” said Normandin.
MS researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute carried out a study on patients who had the Freedman-Atkins treatment and the results show a positive trend.
“Well the first observation was that this treatment, more than any other in the past, had essentially stopped new relapses of multiple sclerosis,” said a cautious Dr. Amit Bar-Or from the Neuro.
The director of the experimental therapeutics program at the Neuro, Bar-Or warned there was one tragic turn of events from the trial.
“A relatively young individual died from the procedure, which underscores at the end of the day that this is a risky procedure, and one of the conclusions is that this is unlikely to be a treatment that is going to made available broadly for people with multiple sclerosis,” said Bar-Or.
Normandin says in his case, taking the risk was well worth it, he's not even taking medication anymore.
“I still have some problems with fatigue and sometimes balance and energy, but in general, it's been a constant slope upwards,” said Normandin.
With a budding practice and patients of his own to treat, he's hopeful it will continue that way.