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New cancer case halts US gene therapy trials

Posted on: 15 January 2003, source: New Scientist
Nearly 30 US gene therapy trials were halted on Tuesday following the announcement that a second child in a pioneering French gene therapy trial has developed leukaemia following the treatment. The French trial is testing a treatment for "bubble boy" disease, or X-SCID (X-chromosome-linked Severe Combined Immunodeficiency). The initial results of the trial were hailed one of the first great successes for gene therapy. But the trial was halted in October 2002 following the first diagnosis of leukaemia in one of the boys. Three similar US gene therapy trials were suspended at the same time. A similar trial in the UK was not halted, as British doctors argued that without the treatment many of patients would certainly die.

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'Miracle' gene therapy trial halted

Posted on: 3 October 2002, source: New Scientist
A "miracle" gene therapy treatment for children suffering from the fatal "bubble boy" disease has been halted in France, after one of the patients developed leukaemia as a direct consequence of the treatment. However, British doctors argue that without the treatment many of the patients are certain to die, and say a similar trial in UK will continue. Boys with X-SCID (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency) have a faulty copy of a gene on their X chromosome that makes an immune protein called interleukin-2. As a result, they have no resistance to infection and die unless treated. In 2000, a team led by Alain Fischer at Necker Hospital, Paris, carried out the first gene therapy treatment, which replaced the faulty gene. It was one of only a handful of successful gene therapy trials in people. In April 2002, the mother of a Welsh boy treated at Great Ormond Street hospital in London described his progress as "nothing short of a miracle".

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