Skip to content

Stem Cell Treatment ‘Game Changer’ For MS Finds International Study

March 19, 2018

Doctors say a stem cell transplant could be a “game changer” for many patients with multiple sclerosis.

Results from an international trial show that it was able to stop the disease and improve symptoms.

It involves wiping out a patient’s immune system using cancer drugs and then rebooting it with a stem cell transplant.

Louise Willetts, 36, from Rotherham, is now symptom-free and told me: “It feels like a miracle.”

A total of 100,000 people in the UK have MS, which attacks nerves in the brain and spinal cord.

Just over 100 patients took part in the trial, in hospitals in Chicago, Sheffield, Uppsala in Sweden and Sao Paolo in Brazil.

They all had relapsing remitting MS – where attacks or relapses are followed by periods of remission.

The interim results were released at the annual meeting of the European Society for Bone and Marrow Transplantation in Lisbon.

The patients received either haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) or drug treatment.

After one year, only one relapse occurred among the stem cell group compared with 39 in the drug group.

After an average follow-up of three years, the transplants had failed in three out of 52 patients (6%), compared with 30 of 50 (60%) in the control group.

Those in the transplant group experienced a reduction in disability, whereas symptoms worsened in the drug group.

Prof Richard Burt, lead investigator, Northwestern University Chicago, told me: “The data is stunningly in favour of transplant against the best available drugs – the neurological community has been sceptical about this treatment, but these results will change that.”

The treatment uses chemotherapy to destroy the faulty immune system.

Stem cells taken from the patient’s blood and bone marrow are then re-infused.

These are unaffected by MS and they rebuild the immune system.

Prof John Snowden, director of blood and bone marrow transplantation at Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital, told me: “We are thrilled with the results – they are a game changer for patients with drug resistant and disabling multiple sclerosis”.

Prof Basil Sharrack, neurologist at Royal Hallamshire Hospital, told me: “This is interim analysis, but with that caveat, this is the best result I have seen in any trial for multiple sclerosis.”

‘Lived in fear’

Louise was diagnosed with MS in 2010 when she was only 28.

She told me: “MS ruled my life and I lived in fear of the next relapse.

“The worst time was not being able to get out of bed because I had no stability in my body – I struggled to walk and even spent time in a wheelchair.

“It also affected my cognition – it was like a brain fog and I misread words and struggled to keep up with conversations.”

The BBC’s Panorama filmed her undergoing her transplant in October 2015 and she is now back to full health.

She got married to her partner Steve, on the first anniversary of her transplant, and their baby daughter Joy is now a month old.

“I feel like my diagnosis was just a bad dream. I live every day as I want to, rather than planning my life around my MS.”

The transplant costs around £30,000, about the same as the annual price of some MS drugs.

Doctors stress it is not suitable for all MS patients and the process can be gruelling, involving chemotherapy and a few weeks in isolation in hospital.

Dr Susan Kohlhaas, director of research at the MS Society, said the stem cell transplant HSCT “will soon be recognised as an established treatment in England – and when that happens our priority will be making sure those who could benefit can actually get it”.

She added: “We’ve seen life-changing results for some people and having that opportunity can’t depend on your postcode.”


First Disabled Ensemble Led By Disabled Conductor

March 19, 2018

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra is thought to be the first professional orchestra in the world to form an ensemble of disabled musicians.

The group is led by a disabled conductor, James Rose, who has cerebral palsy.

He does not have control of his arms so uses a baton attached to his head to lead the musicians.

Google Maps In London Offers Wheelchair Friendly Routes

March 19, 2018

Wheelchair users travelling in London and other worldwide cities on public transport can now get accessibility information from Google Maps.

Users will be able to filter for “wheelchair accessible” advice when planning journeys in the capital.

However disability groups warned the information needs to be up-to-date and accurate in order to be helpful.

The service is initially available on desktop and will be rolling out across iPhone and Android devices.

It has also been launched in New York, Tokyo, Mexico City, Boston, and Sydney with plans to roll it out across other locations.

The London information covers the underground, bus, DLR and tram networks and will be added for the overground at a later date.

‘Not entirely accurate’

Alan Benson, chair of disability access group Transport for All said: “Getting around the London network on a restricted basis takes a lot of knowledge and confidence, something that I have built up over many years.

“For someone that does not have that knowledge it can be quite daunting. However having accessibility information in an app the same as everyone else is great.

“The problem is however that the information is not entirely accurate.”

Mr Benson warned for example, that the lifts at Brixton underground station are going to be out of action until September and this information is not included in the Google Maps feature.

He said: “The wrong information is worse than no information. If you don’t have any information you won’t take the journey. The wrong information will destroy people’s confidence.”

The new feature was announced by Google Maps product manager, Rio Akasaka in a blog post.

He said: “Information about which stations and routes are wheelchair friendly isn’t always readily available or easy to find.

“To make public transit work for everyone, today we’re introducing ‘wheelchair accessible’ routes in transit navigation to make getting around easier for those with mobility needs.”

Google said that before launching the feature it had tested it with various wheelchair users and accessibility groups.

The route information is also supplemented by the knowledge of an area of local people, who can add accessibility information to Google Maps directly.

‘Most accessible walking route’

Ellis Palmer, a BBC reporter and wheelchair user, welcomed the news from Google and highlighted the challenges that he and others with accessibility needs face.

He said: “Anything that makes it easier to get around London as a wheelchair user is always welcome.

“The big problem in getting around London is that only 73 stations are accessible for wheelchair users in any way shape or form.

“Only 50 can be accessed independently and autonomously by wheelchair users without any need for assistance by station staff.

“Buses, however, are 100% accessible, but only have one space for a wheelchair/scooter user – making it difficult if one wants to travel with others with limited mobility.”

Mr Palmer added: “Aside from looking at just public transport options, it would be great if the Google Maps application told the user the most accessible walking route: trying to get around town can be extremely difficult when you find your journey interrupted by pavements that are not level.

“Google’s creation can be a push forward for access in the capital, but only if we recognise there’s still a long way to go before disabled people are able to get around the city the same as their able-bodied counterparts.”

Bollywood Actor Irrfan Khan Has Rare Tumour

March 19, 2018

Bollywood actor Irrfan Khan has revealed on Twitter that he has been diagnosed with a neuroendocrine tumour.

The rare illness affects the cells that release hormones into the bloodstream. Mr Khan did not give any further details of his condition.

He had tweeted on 6 March that he was suffering from a “rare disease” but did not say what it was.

Khan, 51, has acted in more than 100 films including Bollywood hits Piku, Maqbool, Haasil and Paan Singh Tomar.

His English language films include Life Of Pi, Jurassic World, Slumdog Millionaire and The Amazing Spider-Man.

He took to Twitter on Friday to talk about his illness.

His wife, Sutapa Sikdar, had said in a Facebook post on 10 March: “My best friend and my partner is a ‘warrior’ he is fighting every obstacle with tremendous grace and beauty.”

Health experts say neuroendocrine tumours can develop in many different organs in the body and can be cancerous or non-cancerous.

Some tumours can cause abnormally large amounts of hormones to enter the bloodstream and cause symptoms such as heart problems, changes in blood pressure or cramps.

Some neuroendocrine tumours can be treated through surgery or chemotherapy.

Khan is India’s best-known international actor and has also featured in a wide range of well-received roles in Bollywood and independent Hindi films.

In 2013, he won India’s National Film Award for his leading role in Paan Singh Tomar, a biopic about a top athlete who becomes a bandit.

He has also won the Viewers’ Choice Award at the Cannes Film Festival for his portrayal of a lonely accountant who mistakenly receives a lunchbox intended for a colleague in the 2013 film The Lunchbox.

It was also the only Indian film to be selected for competition at the London Film Festival that year.

BBC One To Screen Oscar-Winner Silent Child

March 16, 2018

Oscar-winning British short film The Silent Child is to be shown on BBC One on Good Friday, giving UK viewers the first chance to see it.

Written and directed by ex-Hollyoaks stars Rachel Shenton and Chris Overton, the 20-minute film tells of a young deaf girl who struggles to communicate.

Maisie Sly, a six-year-old girl from Swindon, plays the title role.

She travelled to Los Angeles earlier this month to attend the Oscars and see her film named the winner.

Shenton, who is from Stoke-On-Trent, was inspired to write the film because of her own family’s experience.

When she was 12 her father went deaf after receiving treatment for chemotherapy.

She learned sign language and became a qualified British Sign Language Interpreter and ambassador for the National Deaf Children’s Society.

She and Overton, who is now her fiance, cast Maisie after conducting a nationwide search and auditioning 100 children.

Millions were touched earlier this month when Shenton, 30, used sign language during her Oscar acceptance speech.

She and Overton subsequently revealed they hope to be able to turn their short into a feature-length film.

The Silent Child will be shown on BBC One on 30 March at 19:40 BST.

Stephen Hawking On Communication

March 15, 2018

Two great things we found yesterday that Stephen Hawking said about communication:

Communication, as Stephen Hawking proved by example, isn’t always verbal. However, it is always valuable, whatever its form. Disabled people deserve the freedom to speak, whatever form of communication they are able to use.

PIP Should Be Decided By The NHS, Not The DWP

March 15, 2018

We’ve been asked to publicise this petition to the Government.


Currently the DWP handles the deliberation of PIP and ESA. Disability is a state of being dealing with health, not work and pensions. The decisions for any disability related payments or dictates should be handled by the government’s experts (i.e. health professionals) in the NHS, not DWP.


In August this year the UN criticised the UK government for its treatment of people with disability and stripping people of their livelihoods, dignity and being. This has led to an increase of post-decision making unexplained deaths of people with disabilities. The DWP is not concerned with helping people or listening to experts on health related issues with relying on ‘for profit’ companies making decisions on people with disabilities. The NHS needs to be the decision making body for PIP.