Dianne MacDonald, study participant.
Donor funding was a catalyst in providing the Arthritis Program with the resources needed to initiate a landmark trial. In 2014, Health Canada granted approval to the Arthritis Program to conduct the first mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) trial for knee osteoarthritis in North America.
A portion of MSCs contain stem cells, which are form many cell types including bone and cartilage cells. Under the leadership of Arthritis Program clinician scientist Dr. Jas Chahal, an Orthopedic Surgeon at Toronto Western Hospital, and Dr. Sowmya Viswanathan, an Affiliate Scientist at the Buchan Arthritis Research Centre at the Krembil Research Institute and Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto, the MSC clinical trial comprises 12 patients between the ages of 40 and 65 who have moderate to severe osteoarthritis in their knees.
Researchers are studying MSCs after they have been injected into the patient’s knee. They hope to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of cell treatment while improving the symptoms of osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis. The team is evaluating how well the different doses of cells worked in patients in terms of their pain, symptoms, quality of life, and also how their x-ray and MRI scores have improved.
Eleven patients have received the MSC injection thus far.
Study Participant: “I’m a big advocate.”
Dianne MacDonald is one of the study’s participants. Dianne – a retired dietitian, mother of three and grandmother of seven – lived a very active life of skiing, tennis and travelling; however, repeated injuries to her knees led to arthritis which forced her to give up those pursuits due to pain.
“It impacts your life in so many ways,” says Dianne. “I’m not one to fuss, but even just walking on hard surfaces, like concrete floors, became too much. It was very frustrating because being active is important to me. I was looking for a solution and wanted to avoid total joint replacement.”
It was at a consultation with her orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Darrell Ogilvie-Harris, that she learned about the trial. Two years ago, Dianne received an injection of 10 million cells taken from her hip. Even though this phase of the trial is focused on safety, Dianne says she felt moderate improvements almost immediately.
“After two to three months I could go walking at the mall and not experience severe pain anymore,” says Dianne. “I used to wake up in the night, and that’s no longer an issue. It’s continued to improve over the past year.”
Dianne is excited to participate in this type of groundbreaking research. “I believe MSCs hold tremendous promise and I think these types of studies will help make a difference. I’m a big advocate.”
“We are learning a lot about the differences between arthritis patients and how some respond better than others to cell therapy,” says Dr. Viswanathan. “The key to making cell therapy work will be figuring out exactly why the cells work so well in some patients, and using that to treat the patients more effectively.”
The team will use this information to plan a larger trial with more patients using these cells, and will include a control group to see how patients do when they receive cell treatment versus other treatments, on a blinded basis. They are also working on technologies that can enhance the biological activity of MSCs, which will make them more effective in treating the arthritis, even at lower doses.
“The future of osteoarthritis treatment will be related to biologics,” says Dr. Chahal. “The use of mesenchymal stromal cell technology holds promise to represent a key strategic player in preventing disease and treating patients.”
To support future mesenchymal stem cell research please contact Anette Larsson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 416 603 5800 x4059.