A new form of gene therapy for boys with the life-threatening condition known as “bubble boy” disease appears to be both effective and safe, according to a collaborative research team Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center and other institutions conducting an international clinical trial.Early data suggest that the therapy may help patients avoid the late-developing leukemia seen in a quarter of those with the disease in pioneering gene therapy trials in Europe more than a decade ago.Eight of nine boys recruited to date into the trial are alive between 12 and 38 months after treatment, with none of the infections associated with the disease, more formally known as X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome (SCID-X1), the research team reported Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).Gene therapy alone generated functioning immune systems in seven of the eight. Genetic studies of the boys’ new T-cells, which are critical components of the body’s immune system, reveal that the viral vector used to deliver the gene therapy did not lead to an expansion of cells with vector insertions near known cancer-causing genes, raising cautious hopes about the vector’s long-term safety. One child died of an overwhelming infection present at the time gene therapy began. Left untreated, boys with SCID-X1 usually die of infection before their first birthday.The investigators will continue to monitor the patients for any signs of treatment-related leukemia for 15 years. In the prior European trials — which were the first to demonstrate gene therapy’s potential to cure a disease — leukemia appeared two to five years after treatment. This outcome was one of several events that together slowed clinical progress in gene therapy for many years.The modified vector created for the current trial is a self-inactivating gammaretrovirus, designed to deliver its payload effectively while minimizing the chance of inadvertently turning on genes, called oncogenes, which could lead to leukemia.“Our goal was to take the molecular data from the prior trial and use it to produce a vector that would remain effective and at the same time reduce the risk of leukemia,” said David A. Williams, HMS Leland Fikes Professor of Pediatrics, chair of the hematology/oncology division at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, director of clinical and translational research at Boston Children’s Hospital, principal investigator for the gene therapy trial’s U.S. sites, and corresponding senior author of the NEJM paper.“The efficacy data from our study is clear: The vector does work to correct the disease. And by a surrogate endpoint, we have improved the treatment’s safety, although it’s too early to say that we’ve completely eliminated the long-term risk of leukemia,” he said.After a single round of treatment, six of the seven boys for whom the gene therapy was successful had achieved the trial’s primary efficacy endpoints: a T-cell count greater than 300 cells per microliter of blood and T-cell proliferation in response to stimulation with phytohemagglutinin (a test used to measure T-cells’ ability to react to pathogens).The seventh boy received a second round of gene therapy and remains healthy despite relatively low T-cell counts. The eighth surviving patient was successfully treated with a conventional hematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cell transplant after gene therapy failed to stimulate T-cell production.“Only a minority of babies with SCID-X1 have the optimal donor for standard transplant, a brother or sister who is tissue-type matched,” said co-lead author Sung-Yun Pai, assistant professor of pediatrics at HMS and a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s. “For the rest, gene therapy is a therapeutic option that avoids the need to find an alternative donor and avoids complications of allogeneic transplant such as graft-versus-host-disease.”The core question of the trial was whether the new self-inactivating viral vector could safely and successfully shuttle a gene called the IL-2 receptor gamma (IL2RG) subunit into the patients’ hematopoietic stem cells. In boys born with SCID-X1, mutations render the IL2RG gene inactive, robbing the children of the ability to produce a functional immune system.In addition to Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s, Necker Children’s Hospital in Paris, Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA are participating in the international clinical trial.“This trial represents the best in collaborative efforts from a number of the leading gene therapy centers worldwide that allowed us to accomplish its goals in a relatively short period of time,” Williams said. “The success of the trial was also critically dependent on funding from the National Institutes of Health.”Adapted from a Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center news release.
Published on December 28, 2013 at 8:20 pm Contact Jesse: [email protected] | @dougherty_jesse Facebook Twitter Google+ After the game, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim and three players echoed the same reaction to center Baye Moussa Keita’s hustle-filled performance.“Baye’s great.”Said Boeheim, guards Trevor Cooney and Tyler Ennis and forward C.J. Fair. It was as if Keita’s strong post defense and novel hustle is simply what they expect.Because, frankly, it is.“Baye’s good every game. He does what he does,” Boeheim said. “He’s active and a tremendous defensive player. Every year we’ve had him he’s helped us and he helps us win.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textIn No. 2 Syracuse’s (12-0) 78-62 win over No. 8 Villanova (11-1) in front of 28,135 in the Carrier Dome on Saturday, Keita breathed energy into a listless SU team in the first half and was a stalwart in the paint with Rakeem Christmas and DaJuan Coleman looking on from the bench.Keita held Wildcats forward JayVaughn Pinkston — who was averaging 16.5 points per game heading into the game — to a measly three points, which came when Keita wasn’t even in the game.“Every time I go in I try and pick the energy up,” Keita said. “It’s what I bring to the table and we needed that today.”Christmas picked up two early fouls and Coleman sat the entirety of the second half because — as Boeheim said after the game — his knee was bothering him. Boeheim also said that with Villanova’s small and speedy lineup, he only wanted to play one big man at a time, which turned into 23 minutes for the lanky center.In the first half, Keita tipped in a Tyler Ennis miss in the thick of Syracuse’s game-changing 20-0 run. When he got to the middle of the zone on the other end of the floor he slowly lifted his arms above his head. And as his arms rose, so did the Syracuse crowd, which had been stunned by the Orange’s uncharacteristically slow start.“We count on him coming off the bench,” point guard Tyler Ennis said. “We expect that from him everyday.”Aside from the tip-in — Keita’s only two points — his presence was felt on the defensive end. He forced Pinkston to travel late in the first, and with the Orange pulling away at the end of the second, he altered shot after shot and added two blocks to his stat line.His second and final block came on Villanova’s final possession when he pinned Kris Jenkins’ lay up against the backboard.When the final buzzer sounded he gave a huge fist bump and a celebratory cry.“People probably thought we were done after our start,” Keita said. “So there were a lot of emotions at the end.” Comments