Moving gene therapy into high gear
Gene therapy, still experimental but beginning to enter the clinic, attempts to utilize advanced molecular methods to treat and even reverse genetic diseases. The field started in earnest about 25 years ago and has had many setbacks along the way to its recent earliest successes.
International collaboration has been critical. Children’s Hospital Boston is one of the founding members of the Transatlantic Gene Therapy Consortium (TAGTC), a new collaboration that seeks to facilitate a more rapid advancement of this technology for treating human diseases. It was initiated shortly after the first trials of gene therapy for X-linked Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (X-SCID) (in both Paris and London) reported leukemia as a serious side effect. The TAGTC was formed to address this setback, developing safer gene therapy reagents, sharing the costs of their development, and then implementing new gene therapy trials for rare diseases across multiple international sites.
First Clinical Trial of Gene Therapy for Pain Shows Substantial Pain Relief for Patients
In the first clinical trial of gene therapy for treatment of intractable pain, researchers from the University of Michigan Department of Neurology observed that the treatment appears to provide substantial pain relief. In a study published online in the Annals of Neurology last week, the researchers showed that the novel agent NP2 is safe and well-tolerated. In addition, measures of pain in the treated patients suggested that NP2 may provide a substantial analgesic effect.
EU Clinical Trials Register goes live
Public online register gives access to information on clinical trials. The EU Clinical Trials Register (https://www.clinicaltrialsregister.eu) was launched today by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The online register gives for the first time public access to information on interventional clinical trials for medicines authorised in the 27 EU Member States and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. The database also allows the public to search for information on clinical trials authorised to be carried out outside the EU if these trials are part of a paediatric investigation plan. See also Clinical Trials Databases.
Gene therapy a reality for Parkinson's
A groundbreaking study headquartered in Detroit has found that half the Parkinson's patients treated with gene therapy (NLX-P101) had lasting, "clinically meaningful improvements" without serious side effects, the Henry Ford Health System announced Tuesday.
The study is the first time gene therapy has proven successful in Parkinson's patients and could substantially improve the lives of one million Americans with the degenerative disorder, said Dr. Peter LeWitt, director of movement disorders and lead author of the study.
NVGT Embraces Cell Therapy with Name Change
The Dutch Society of Gene Therapy (NVGT) has officially changed its name last Friday to the Netherlands Society of Gene and Cell Therapy (NVGCT), a change intended to better reflect the intimate relationship between the two fields.
The NVGCT is dedicated to promoting basic and clinical research in gene therapy and cell therapy within the Netherlands. By connecting scientists, clinicians, patients, public and government we wish to contribute to the development of gene and cell therapy for various diseases. The society aims to facilitate the exchange of information and technology, improve communication towards the public and provide education within the professional community.
Zinc finger gene therapy produces HIV-resistant CD4 T-cells
Gene therapy that interferes with co-receptors on the surface of T-cells can protect these cells from HIV infection, representing a potential first step toward achieving a "functional cure," researchers reported at the 18th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), taking place this week in Boston.
HIV uses two different surface co-receptors, CCR5 and CXCR4, to enter CD4 T-cells. If the co-receptors are blocked or disrupted, the virus is unable to enter cells. Two presentations on Monday looked at using gene therapy to create cells that lack these receptor proteins and therefore are protected from infection.
New Anti-HIV Gene Therapy Makes T-Cells Resistant to HIV Infection
An innovative genetic strategy for rendering T-cells resistant to HIV infection without affecting their normal growth and activity is described in a paper published in Human Gene Therapy, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
A team of researchers from Japan, Korea, and the U.S. developed an anti-HIV gene therapy method in which a bacterial gene called mazF is transferred into CD4+ T-cells. The MazF protein is an enzyme (an mRNA interferase) that destroys gene transcripts, preventing protein synthesis. The design of this mazF gene therapy vector ensures that synthesis of the MazF protein is triggered by HIV infection. When HIV infects treated T lymphocytes, MazF is induced, blocking HIV replication and, essentially, making the T-cells HIV resistant.
Gene therapy to fix memory loss in Alzheimer's patients study
A latest research by scientists at the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease (GIND) in San Francisco has revealed that a new gene therapy technique might hold the key to Alzheimer's cure. The study found that increasing the levels of EphB2, a protein responsible for regulation of neural communication in the brain, alleviated symptoms of long-term memory loss in mice.
Cognitive processes such as learning and memory retention require effective communication between brain cells called neurons. This communication involves release of chemicals that stimulate cell surface receptors present on the nerve cells. The process, called neurotransmission, is impaired by amyloid plaques, which build-up to abnormally high levels in the brains of Alzheimer's patients and are believed to be the root cause the disease.
The Use of Gene Therapy in Treating Retinitis Pigmentosa and Dry Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
Irv Arons recently completed a comprehensive treatise on the use of gene therapy for treating retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and the dry form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The report introduces RetroSense Therapeutics and its efforts to develop a gene therapy treatment to restore vision in those suffering from RP (first) and dry AMD (second). Included are sections on alternative therapies for both RP and AMD, including retinal implants (for RP), stem cells, and sustained release drugs and a few other options. In addition, there is a short writeup on other applications of gene therapy in ophthalmology.
NIH RAC and CliniGene Co-host a Scientific Symposium on 'Retroviral and Lentiviral Vectors for Long-Term Gene Correction: Clinical Challenges in Vector and Trial Design'
In past safety symposia, the NIH Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC) reviewed clinical and molecular data concerning leukemias caused by insertional mutagenesis at or near oncogenes in two trials for X-linked Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Disease (X-SCID) involving transduction of CD34+ hematopoetic stem cells by retroviral vectors. Since these discussions, investigators have reported advances in the field, including clinical benefits in trials studying other clinical indications (e.g., adenosine deaminase deficient-SCID, adrenoleukodystrophy). In addition, research has focused on alternative vectors, either lentiviral vectors or modified retroviral vectors designed to decrease the risk of enhancer-mediated insertional mutagenesis.
Given these developments, as well as recent reports of myelodysplasia in a trial for chronic granulomatous disease and the finding of a relative clonal population of cells in a trial for thalassemia, the RAC and the European Network for the Advancement of Clinical Gene Transfer and Therapy (CliniGene) are holding this symposium (December 9-10, 2010, Bethesda).
First patient being treated by Stem cell therapy
An unnamed person suffering from a spinal cord injury has become the first patient to receive Stem Cell Therapy for his/her injuries and is being treated at the Shepherd Center, a 132-bed hospital in Atlanta specializing in spinal cord and brain injuries. The treatment is being sponsored by Geron Corp. of Menlo Park, California. Without releasing any information about the patient or the nature of the injury, doctors have said that the treatment will be one of first to test the effectiveness and safety of such a process and tests will be conducted to see whether the treatment restores sensation or enables the patient to regain movement.
Leading gene therapy researcher retracts more papers
Savio Woo of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York has retracted two more papers this week, the blog Retraction Watch reported today. That brings Woo’s total number of retractions this year to six, following an investigation that found evidence of scientific misconduct committed by two of his postdocs.
Four of the six retracted papers, including the two most recently pulled, describe a technique that harnesses a viral enzyme called ‘phiBT1 integrase’ to shuttle genes into the mouse genome, particularly in the liver. The retractions for all of these papers merely cite “data irregularities”. Michele Calos, a geneticist at Stanford University, says her lab was unable to reproduce the phiBT1 work and found numerous factual errors in the published procedures. Also, Woo’s team claimed that phiBT1 only inserted into the genome at the regions between genes—a key advantage of the technique because it reduced the odds that an insertion would disrupt the function of a normal gene. But that didn’t hold up in her lab, Calos notes.
Gene Therapy Stops Blood Disorder in Patient, Ending Need for Transfusions
A 21-year-old man with a blood disorder who needed monthly transfusions to survive since he was 3 had his condition halted by a gene therapy procedure. The man suffered from beta thalassemia, a common genetic disease that reduces red blood cell production. He was treated in Paris in 2007 and hasn’t needed a transfusion in two years, according to a study published today in the journal Nature. The therapy, being developed by closely held Bluebird Bio of Cambridge, Massachusetts, is the latest in a series of successful gene treatments. Bluebird, backed by four venture capital firms and Genzyme Corp., the world’s largest maker of drugs for rare genetic diseases, plans to treat nine more patients who have thalassemia or sickle cell anemia. The company also is developing a gene therapy that has helped patients with a rare vision disorder to see.
Gene Doping Detectable With a Simple Blood Test
German scientists from Tübingen and Mainz have developed a blood test that can reliably detect gene doping even after 56 days. Scientists at the universities in Tübingen and Mainz have developed a test that can provide conclusive proof of gene doping. "For the first time, a direct method is now available that uses conventional blood samples to detect doping via gene transfer and is still effective if the actual doping took place up to 56 days before," Professor Perikles Simon, MD, PhD from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany explained. "This represents a relatively low-cost method of detecting several of the most common doping genes," Simon stated in the presentation of the process.
Public Workshop on Cell and Gene Therapy Clinical Trials in Pediatric Populations
The FDA will convene a one-day workshop (November 2, 2010 - 8:00 AM-5:30 PM) to facilitate an exchange of information about best practices in conducting cell and gene therapy clinical trials in pediatric populations. Cellular and gene therapies are the subject of great interest as novel products that potentially may improve the lives of patients by restoring lost function and modifying the nature and course of diseases. However, these therapies are not without risks: indeed, the novelty of these products contributes to their real and potential risks. Conducting clinical trials with novel products in pediatric patients requires special scrutiny to ensure that the rights of subjects are protected and that potential risks and benefits are appropriately balanced.
The purpose of the workshop is to gather information from Institutional Review Boards (IRBs), gene and cellular therapy clinical researchers, and other stakeholders regarding best practices related to cell and gene therapy clinical trials in pediatric populations, as well as challenges and considerations in the review of these clinical trials.
New Hope Against Melanoma
By taking a different approach, scientists have developed the next promising cancer treatment: targeted gene therapy. Skin cancer is scary, and it's tricky. If caught early it is easily treatable, but if not, it's potentially deadly. Even the best dermatologists can't spot everything. Targeted gene therapy is the latest treatment recognized by the New England Journal of Medicine. The new approach is proving fruitful when it comes to patients with the deadliest form of skin cancer: metastasized melanoma.
Gene Therapy to Treat Epilepsy a Step Closer
Current antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) have many side-effects, among others slowing down brain activity, which in turn reduces patients' ability to react. These side-effects could be eliminated if genes that counteract seizures could be introduced into the brain. Professor Merab Kokaia at Lund University in Sweden has obtained promising results in animal experiments.
CliniGene Competitive Call for Additional Project Partners
Programme title: CliniGene, (Contract number LSHB-CT-2006-018933), the European Network of Excellence for the Advancement of Clinical Gene Transfer and Therapy.
CliniGene seeks additional partners to enter its Joint Programme Activity on the topics:
Topic 1. Non-viral integrating systems for clinical gene therapy and development of human iPS, in particular transposon based technology;
Topic 2. AAV for in vivo gene therapy, in particular mechanisms leading to tight transcription regulation;
Topic 3. Technology transfer to SMEs for: (i) systems which have benefited from common evaluation and fine-tuning inside the NoE; (ii) a technology that is believed to complement the CliniGene current portfolio with view to performing side to side comparisons with gene transfer technologies already evaluated within CliniGene.
Study Shows Hope for Gene Therapy
Researchers have launched a new gene-therapy trial for children with a rare disease known as "bubble boy syndrome," reflecting fresh hopes that the strategy of delivering working genes can be used to treat many intractable ailments.
In the new study, sponsored in the U.S. by investigators at Children's Hospital Boston and expected to open at five sites around the world, scientists plan to enroll 20 boys with SCID-X1, which stands for severe combined immunodeficiency, X-linked—a genetic condition that affects boys and leaves them unable to fight germs. Without treatment, which is currently possible only by bone-marrow transplantation, most children die before age one.
A Step Closer to Gene Therapy for HIV
In a first step toward a gene-based therapy for HIV, researchers have successfully modified stem cells to resist the virus and used them to treat patients. Two years after the stem cells were used in a pilot study with four patients, descendants of those modified cells could still be found in their blood and bone marrow, along with some of the anti-HIV proteins the engineered cells were designed to produce, according to John Rossi, PhD, of City of Hope in Duarte, Calif., and colleagues.
Oncolytic vaccine therapy shows promise in melanoma, SCC studies
Efficacy and safety results of phase 2 studies provide support for undertaking pivotal trials investigating an oncolytic vaccine therapy, granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF)-encoding oncolytic herpes simplex virus (OncoVEXGM-CSF, BioVex), for treating metastatic melanoma (MM) and head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).
The herpes simplex virus on which OncoVEX-GM-CSF is based is genetically modified to replicate selectively in tumor cells and engineered to express a gene for GM-CSF, an immune-stimulating protein. The vaccine is injected into tumor deposits. As the virus replicates, it causes tumor cell lysis, leading to cell death and production of an immunogenic "soup" containing tumor antigens and GM-CSF. Through these mechanisms, the vaccine can eradicate the local tumor and serve as a vaccine matching each patient's tumor antigen profile that can induce a systemic immune response, which is, hopefully, sufficiently potent to eradicate tumor cells at distant, uninjected sites as well as to prevent future recurrences.
First-in-man gene therapy for advanced heart failure promising in small study
In the first clinical test of a gene therapy for heart failure, administration of a gene that upregulates an enzyme involved in myocardial contraction and relaxation appeared to improve symptoms, functional status, and ventricular volumes in patients with severe systolic heart failure. The small dose-finding study, reported here at the Heart Failure Congress 2010, sponsored by the Heart Failure Association of the European Society of Cardiology, is something of milestone and, its researchers say, paves the way for studying the novel treatment in larger clinical-outcomes trials.
Gene Therapy Reverses Muscle Weakness in MD
Patients with certain forms of muscular dystrophy (MD) may be able to achieve long-term restored muscle control with gene therapy, according to research presented Friday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy, held May 17 to 22 in Washington, D.C.
Following a successful trial that showed gene expression in patients three months after receiving a genetic transfer, Jerry R. Mendell, M.D., of Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and colleagues conducted a randomized controlled trial of three patients with limb girdle MD (LGMD) in which the extensor digitorum brevis muscle received genetic therapy while the control side received saline to evaluate whether long-term gene expression was achievable.
Gene Therapy Plus Chemotherapy Ups Odds for Success in Treating 'Bubble Boy' Disease
Gene therapy combined with chemotherapy may lead to immune system improvement in patients with bubble boy disease, according to a study to be presented at the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy 13th Annual Meeting.
Beginning in 2001, researchers from the University of California Los Angeles and the National Human Genome Research Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health, treated 10 patients with adenosine deaminase severe combined immunodeficiency (ADA-SCID), commonly referred to as bubble boy disease.
‘Dead as Doornail’ Gene Therapy Revival Spurs Genzyme
Five years ago, doctors drilled a hole into Jean Erickson’s skull, pushed in a needle and injected a cold virus modified to help transport a gene into her brain. The gene’s job was to create a mini-factory within her brain cells to pump out dopamine, a chemical that regulates physical movement. Since then, Erickson has lived more comfortably with Parkinson’s disease, a disorder that robs patients of mobility. “I stopped freezing up,” said Erickson, 71, a former pre- school director who lives in Castro Valley, California.
New Gene Therapy Breakthrough in Humans is Result of Research Pioneered at OHSU's Primate Center
A promising gene therapy method first developed through animal studies at Oregon Health & Science University has now been successfully tested using human cells. Today, the scientific journal Nature published results of a study conducted at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom where a nucleus from one embryo was transferred to another.
It is believed that by using this method of gene transfer, genetic diseases carried in cell mitochondria might be prevented, and maternally-based diseases that are frequently passed from generation to generation could be halted.
UF-led effort creates virus reference standard that can improve patient safety in clinical trials
The use of viruses as vehicles for delivering genes to replace malfunctioning or missing ones holds promise for treating many disorders. Adeno-associated viruses are one type of vector being used increasingly in human gene therapy clinical trials and laboratory studies leading up to those trials. But differences in the way researchers determine the administered doses have made it difficult to accurately compare results from various studies.
Nanotech robots deliver gene therapy through blood
U.S. researchers have developed tiny nanoparticle robots that can travel through a patient's blood and into tumors where they deliver a therapy that turns off an important cancer gene. The finding, reported in the journal Nature on Sunday, offers early proof that a new treatment approach called RNA interference or RNAi might work in people.
Scientists Still Hopeful About Gene Therapy's Promise
Twenty-five years ago, it seemed as if gene therapy was on the verge of revolutionizing medicine. But that revolution never occurred, and scientists realized that they had been overly optimistic about how quickly they could develop such therapies. Now, however, there are signs that the field of gene therapy is making definite progress, even if the revolution is still on hold. The concept of gene therapy is simple. Some diseases are caused by damage to a single gene — for example, cystic fibrosis and hemophilia. Give patients the healthy gene, and in theory, the disease is cured.
Gene Therapy a Step Closer to Restoring Eyesight to Some Blind Patients
Researchers have moved a step closer toward fully restoring the eyesight of people with a rare genetic disorder. A new study shows the treatment is safe and effective, and could pave the way for helping cure more common causes of blindness. Leber's congenital amaurosis is an extremely rare condition that causes blindness in approximately 4,000 people in the United States.