Stem cell transplants to be used in treating Crohn’s disease – Nottingham team involved in new study

Nottingham scientists and clinicians are involved in a new clinical trial which aims to use stem cell transplants to grow a new immune system for people with untreatable Crohn’s disease – a painful and chronic intestinal disease which affects at least 115,000 people in the UK.

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Crohn's disease affects at least 115,000 people in the UK

Nottingham Trent University, the University of Nottingham and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust are involved in the study, which brings together universities and hospitals from across the UK.

Some of the patients for the trial will be selected from Nottingham, and NTU’s John van Geest Cancer Research Centre role will involve analysing the regeneration of the immune system in those who undergo the therapy.

Crohn’s disease is a long-term condition that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system, and results in diarrhoea, abdominal pain, extreme tiredness and other symptoms that significantly affect quality of life.

Current treatments include drugs to reduce inflammation, however the results are variable and surgery is often needed to remove the affected part of the bowel.

In extreme cases, after multiple operations over the years, patients may require a final operation to divert the bowel from the anus to an opening in the stomach, called a stoma, where stools are collected in a pouch.

The new ‘ASTIClite’ study, being led by Queen Mary University of London and Barts Health NHS Trust, is being funded with £2 million from a Medical Research Council and National Institute for Health Research partnership.

Patients are being recruited from centre across the UK, including Nottingham, with the trial being co-ordinated through the Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Sheffield.

The use of stem cell transplants to wipe out and replace patients’ immune systems has recently been found to be successful in treating multiple sclerosis.

This new trial will investigate whether a similar treatment could reduce gut inflammation and offer hope to people with Crohn’s disease.

In the trial, patients undergo chemotherapy and hormone treatment to mobilise their stem cells, which are then harvested from their blood. Further chemotherapy is then used to wipe out their faulty immune system.

When the stem cells are re-introduced back into the body, they develop into new immune cells and give the patient a fresh immune system.

In theory, the new immune system does not adversely react to the patient’s own gut to cause inflammation, and it will also not act on drug compounds to remove them from their gut before they have had a chance to work.

Professor Graham Pockley, Director of the John van Geest Cancer Research Centre, said: “This is an opportunity to apply the skills and expertise we have developed to improve the diagnosis and treatment of cancers to support a large clinical trial which hopes to establish a new treatment for this horrible disease.

“The information we gather will be used by the wider research team to better understand the development of the new immune system and how it influences the disease and its response to therapy.”

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The stem cell transplant process

Professor Yash Mahida, Professor of Medicine at the University of Nottingham and one of the researchers leading Gastro-intestinal research as part of the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre, said: “This trial has the potential to transform patient’s lives which are greatly impacted by the debilitating effects of Crohn’s disease.

“It is an important part of the work we are doing at the Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre to advance our knowledge of inflammatory bowel disease."

Chief investigator, Professor James Lindsay from Queen Mary University of London and Barts Health NHS Trust, said: “Despite the introduction of new drugs, there are still many patients who don’t respond, or gradually lose response, to all available treatments.

“Patients often don’t want to go through bowel surgery, and we also try to avoid them having to have a permanent stoma, which can have a profound effect on a person’s life.

“We’re hoping that by completely resetting the patient’s immune system through a stem cell transplant, we might be able to radically alter the course of the disease. While it may not be a cure, it may allow some patients to finally respond to drugs which previously did not work.”

  • Notes for editors

    Press enquiries please contact Dave Rogers, Head of Communications, on telephone +44 (0)115 848 8782, or via email; or Sarah Mcleod, Press and Public Affairs Manager, on telephone +44 (0)115 848 8735, or via email.

    The study was funded by a Medical Research Council and NIHR partnership created to support the evaluation of interventions with potential to make a step-change in the promotion of health, treatment of disease and improvement of rehabilitation or long-term care.


    Nottingham Trent University

    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) was named University of the Year 2017 at the Times Higher Education Awards, and Modern University of the Year in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018. These awards recognise NTU for its high levels of student satisfaction, its quality of teaching, its engagement with employers, and its overall student experience.
    NTU has been rated Gold in the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework – the highest ranking available.

    NTU is one of the largest UK universities. With 30,000 students and more than 4,000 staff located across four campuses, the University contributes £900m to the UK economy every year. It is one of the UK’s most environmentally friendly universities, containing some of the sector’s most inspiring and efficient award-winning buildings. 96% of its graduates go on to employment or further education within six months of leaving.

    Our student satisfaction is high: NTU achieved an 88% satisfaction score in the 2018 National Student Satisfaction Survey.

    The University is passionate about creating opportunities and its extensive outreach programme is designed to enable Nottingham Trent to be a vehicle for social mobility. NTU is among the UK’s top five recruiters of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

    NTU is home to world-class research, and won The Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2015 – the highest national honour for a UK university. It recognised the University’s pioneering projects to improve weapons and explosives detection in luggage; enable safer production of powdered infant formula; and combat food fraud.

    With an international student population of over 3,000 from around 100 countries, the University prides itself on its global outlook

    NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre (BRC)

    The NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) is improving the health of millions of people with common diseases like asthma and arthritis. We drive innovation in experimental science and translate research into breakthrough treatments, innovative technologies and new medicines. Our world-leading research is in six areas including gastrointestinal and liver diseases
and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) which supports all areas of research. The NIHR Nottingham BRC is a partnership between Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and the University of Nottingham, supported by Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust. It is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).www.nihr.ac.uk

    The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR): improving the health and wealth of the nation through research.

    Established by the Department of Health and Social Care, the NIHR:

    ·          funds high quality research to improve health

    ·          trains and supports health researchers

    ·          provides world-class research facilities

    ·          works with the life sciences industry and charities to benefit all

    ·          involves patients and the public at every step

    This work uses data provided by patients and collected by the NHS as part of their care and support and would not have been possible without access to this data. The NIHR recognises and values the role of patient data, securely accessed and stored, both in underpinning and leading to improvements in research and care. Read more

Stem cell transplants to be used in treating Crohn’s disease – Nottingham team involved in new study

Published on 13 August 2018
  • Subject area: Sciences including sport sciences
  • Category: Press office; Research; School of Science and Technology

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