Published online Mar 21, 2015. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v21.i11.3330
Peer-review started: October 3, 2014
First decision: October 29, 2014
Revised: November 18, 2014
Accepted: January 16, 2015
Article in press: January 16, 2015
Published online: March 21, 2015
AIM: To study the results of stem-cell therapy under a Compassionate-use Program for patients with recurrent anal fistulae.
METHODS: Under controlled circumstances, and approved by European and Spanish laws, a Compassionate-use Program allows the use of stem-cell therapy for patients with very complex anal fistulae. Candidates had previously undergone multiple surgical interventions that had failed to resolve the fistulae, and presented symptomatic recurrence. The intervention consisted of limited surgery (with closure of the internal opening), followed by local implant of stem cells in the fistula-tract wall. Autologous expanded adipose-derived stem cells were the main cell type selected for implant. The first evaluation was performed on the 8th postoperative week; outcome was classified as response or partial response. Evaluation one year after the intervention confirmed if complete healing of the fistula was achieved.
RESULTS: Ten patients (8 male) with highly recurrent and complex fistulae were treated (mean age: 49 years, range: 28-76 years). Seven cases were non-Crohn’s fistulae, and three were Crohn’s-associated fistulae. Previous surgical attempts ranged from 3 to 12. Two patients presented with preoperative incontinence (Wexner scores of 12 and 13 points). After the intervention, six patients showed clinical response on the 8th postoperative week, with a complete cessation of suppuration from the fistula. Three patients presented a partial response, with an evident decrease in suppuration. A year later, six patients (60%) remained healed, with complete reepithelization of the external opening. Postoperative Wexner Scores were 0 in six cases. The two patients with previous incontinence improved their scores from 12 to 8 points and from 13 to 5 points. No adverse reactions or complications related to stem-cell therapy were reported during the study period.
CONCLUSION: Stem cells are safe and useful for treating anal fistulae. Healing can be achieved in severe cases, sparing fecal incontinence risk, and improving previous scoring.
Core tip: Our group has performed various clinical trials with adipose stem cells. Patients with very complex fistulae, multiple previous surgeries, and treatment failure are generally not able to enter these studies despite the benefit and “last chance” of cure. We present the results of a Compassionate-use Program, which enabled the application of stem-cell therapy to these patients, under strict regulations. Ten patients were treated, and after one year of follow-up, we conclude that adipose stem cells are effective and safe, and 60% of the patients achieved complete healing.