While autologous stem cell transplants—in which the patient’s own hematopoietic cells are removed and then returned after high-dose chemotherapy is given to suppress the immune system – have been used to treat Crohn’s patients, the benefits have not always been permanent, probably because the risk genes for Crohn’s are still present. “Autologous transplantation following chemotherapy beats the disease down but the Crohn’s tends to come back," McDonald said.
More information about CATS can be found on the website www.cats-fhcrc.org, which includes a patient-eligibility questionnaire. In general, patients must be 18 to 60 years of age and have failed all existing conventional treatments but be healthy enough to undergo a bone marrow transplant. A matched donor of bone marrow must be found from either a sibling or an unrelated person who has volunteered to donate marrow. Private insurance must cover the cost of the transplant and related medical expenses.
Crohn’s disease is usually discovered in adolescents and young adults but can occur from early childhood to older age. The incidence of Crohn’s disease varies in different parts of the world with rates of four to nine persons per 100,000 people in North America. According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, a leading advocacy organization, Crohn’s may affect more than 700,000 Americans. Of those affected by Crohn’s, about 10 percent suffer from the most severe form for which no treatment is completely effective.