Systemically delivered adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors are now in early-phase clinical trials for a variety of diseases. While there is a general consensus on inclusion and exclusion criteria for each of these trials, the conditions under which vectors are infused vary significantly. In this study, we evaluated the impact of intravenous infusion rate of AAV8 vector in cynomolgus macaques on transgene expression, vector clearance from the circulation, and potential activation of the innate immune system. The dose of AAV8 vector in terms of genome copies per kilogram body weight and its concentration were fixed, while the rate of infusion varied to deliver the entire dose over different time periods, including 1, 10, or 90 minutes. Analyses during the in-life phase of the experiment included sequential evaluation of whole blood for vector genomes and appearance of proinflammatory cytokines. Liver tissues were analyzed at the time of necropsy for enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP) expression and vector genomes. The data were remarkable with a relative absence of any statistically significant effect of infusion time on vector transduction, safety, and clearance. However, some interesting and unexpected trends did emerge.
In the mid-1980s, the largest epidemic of anthrax of the last 200 years was documented in a little known series of studies by Davies in The Central African Journal of Medicine. This epidemic involved thousands of cattle and 10,738 human cases with 200 fatalities in Rhodesia during the Counterinsurgency. Grossly unusual epidemiological features were noted that, to this day, have not been definitively explained. This study performed a historical reanalysis of the data to reveal an estimated geographic involvement of 245,750 km2, with 171,990 cattle and 17,199 human cases. Here we present the first documented geotemporal visualization of the human anthrax epidemic.
Anthrax; Rhodesia; Biodefense
Adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors are currently being tested not only in small animal models such as mice but also in large animal models, including pigs, dogs, and horses. Natural exposure to AAV occurs in most of the species used in these studies and potentially elicits a neutralizing humoral immune response to AAV. In this study, we show the prevalence of neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) to several AAV serotypes in these large animals as measured by an in vitro NAb assay and the ability of these NAbs to block AAV transduction in an in vivo mouse model of NAb passive transfer assay. The results of this study clearly show the importance of evaluating large animal models for the presence of AAV NAbs before enrolling them in AAV-mediated gene therapy studies.
Many genetic liver diseases present in newborns with repeated, often lethal, metabolic crises. Gene therapy using non-integrating viruses such as AAV is not optimal in this setting because the non-integrating genome is lost as developing hepatocytes proliferate1,2. We reasoned that newborn liver may be an ideal setting for AAV-mediated gene correction using CRISPR/Cas9. Here we intravenously infuse two AAVs, one expressing Cas9 and the other expressing a guide RNA and the donor DNA, into newborn mice with a partial deficiency in the urea cycle disorder enzyme, ornithine transcarbamylase (OTC). This resulted in reversion of the mutation in 10% (6.7% – 20.1%) of hepatocytes and increased survival in mice challenged with a high-protein diet, which exacerbates disease. Gene correction in adult OTC-deficient mice was lower and accompanied by larger deletions that ablated residual expression from the endogenous OTC gene, leading to diminished protein tolerance and lethal hyperammonemia on a chow diet.
Adeno-associated virus rhesus isolate 8 (AAVrh.8) is a leading vector for the treatment of neurological diseases due to its efficient transduction of neuronal cells and reduced peripheral tissue tropism. Toward identification of the capsid determinants for these properties, the structure of AAVrh.8 was determined by X-ray crystallography to 3.5 Å resolution and compared to those of other AAV isolates. The capsid viral protein (VP) structure consists of an αA helix and an eight-stranded anti-parallel β-barrel core conserved in parvoviruses, and large insertion loop regions between the β-strands form the capsid surface topology. The AAVrh.8 capsid exhibits the surface topology conserved in all AAVs: depressions at the icosahedral twofold axis and surrounding the cylindrical channel at the fivefold axis, and three protrusions around the threefold axis. A structural comparison to serotypes AAV2, AAV8, and AAV9, to which AAVrh.8 shares ~84, ~91, and ~87% VP sequence identity, respectively, revealed differences in the surface loops known to affect receptor binding, transduction efficiency, and antigenicity. Consistent with this observation, biochemical assays showed that AAVrh.8 is unable to bind heparin and does not cross-react with conformational monoclonal antibodies directed against the other AAVs compared. This structure of AAVrh.8 thus identified capsid surface differences which can serve as template regions for rational design of vectors with enhanced transduction for specific tissues and escape pre-existing antibody recognition. These features are essential for the creation of an AAV vector toolkit that is amenable to personalized disease treatment.
AAV vectors; Neurotropism; Capsid structure; Parvovirus; X-ray crystallography; Gene therapy
Gene therapy is emerging as a therapeutic modality for treating disorders of the retina. Photoreceptor cells are the primary cell type affected in many inherited diseases of retinal degeneration. Successfully treating these diseases with gene therapy requires the identification of efficient and safe targeting vectors that can transduce photoreceptor cells. One serotype of adeno-associated virus, AAV2, has been used successfully in clinical trials to treat a form of congenital blindness that requires transduction of the supporting cells of the retina in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). Here, we determined the dose required to achieve targeting of AAV2 and AAV8 vectors to photoreceptors in nonhuman primates. Transgene expression in animals injected subretinally with various doses of AAV2 or AAV8 vectors carrying a green fluorescent protein transgene was correlated with surgical, clinical, and immunological observations. Both AAV2 and AAV8 demonstrated efficient transduction of RPE, but AAV8 was markedly better at targeting photoreceptor cells. These preclinical results provide guidance for optimal vector and dose selection in future human gene therapy trials to treat retinal diseases caused by loss of photoreceptors.
Background and purpose
Nelfinavir can enhance intrinsic radiosensitivity, reduce hypoxia and improve vascularity. We conducted a phase II trial combining nelfinavir with chemoradiotherapy (CRT) for locally advanced inoperable pancreatic cancer (LAPC).
Materials and methods
Radiotherapy (50.4 Gy/28 fractions; boost to 59.4 Gy/33 fractions) was administered with weekly gemcitabine and cisplatin. Nelfinavir started 3–10 days before and was continued during CRT. The primary end-point was 1-year overall survival (OS). Secondary end-points included histological downstaging, radiological response, 1-year progression free survival (PFS), overall survival (OS) and treatment toxicity. An imaging sub-study (n = 6) evaluated hypoxia (18F-Fluoromisonidazole-PET) and perfusion (perfusion CT) during induction nelfinavir.
The study closed after recruiting 23 patients, due to non-availability of Nelfinavir in Europe. The 1-year OS was 73.4% (90% CI: 54.5–85.5%) and median OS was 17.4 months (90% CI: 12.8–18.8). The 1-year PFS was 21.8% (90% CI: 8.9–38.3%) and median PFS was 5.5 months (90% CI: 4.1–8.3). All patients experienced Grade 3/4 toxicity, but many were asymptomatic laboratory abnormalities. Four of 6 patients on the imaging sub-study demonstrated reduced hypoxia and increased perfusion post-nelfinavir.
CRT combined with nelfinavir showed acceptable toxicity and promising survival in pancreatic cancer.
Nelfinavir; Trial; Pancreatic cancer; Hypoxia; Imaging; Radiosensitisation
Epidemic trajectories and associated social responses vary widely between populations, with severe reactions sometimes observed. When confronted with fatal or novel pathogens, people exhibit a variety of behaviours from anxiety to hoarding of medical supplies, overwhelming medical infrastructure and rioting. We developed a coupled network approach to understanding and predicting social response. We couple the disease spread and panic spread processes and model them through local interactions between agents. The social contagion process depends on the prevalence of the disease, its perceived risk and a global media signal. We verify the model by analysing the spread of disease and social response during the 2009 H1N1 outbreak in Mexico City and 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome and 2009 H1N1 outbreaks in Hong Kong, accurately predicting population-level behaviour. This kind of empirically validated model is critical to exploring strategies for public health intervention, increasing our ability to anticipate the response to infectious disease outbreaks.
coupled networks; social response; epidemic spreading; data-driven models; panic spreading
With recent successes in gene therapy trials for hemophilia and retinal diseases, the promise and prospects for gene therapy are once again garnering significant attention. To build on this momentum, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the Muscular Dystrophy Association jointly hosted a workshop in April 2014 on “Best Practices for Gene Therapy Programs,” with a focus on neuromuscular disorders. Workshop participants included researchers from academia and industry as well as representatives from the regulatory, legal, and patient advocacy sectors to cover the gamut from preclinical optimization to intellectual property concerns and regulatory approval. The workshop focused on three key issues in the field: (1) establishing adequate scientific premise for clinical trials in gene therapy, (2) addressing regulatory process issues, and (3) intellectual property and commercialization issues as they relate to gene therapy. The outcomes from the discussions at this workshop are intended to provide guidance for researchers and funders in the gene therapy field.
Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a genetic disorder that arises due to loss-of-function mutations in the low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR) and homozygous FH (hoFH) is a candidate for gene therapy using adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors. Proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) and inducible degrader of LDLR (IDOL) negatively regulate LDLR protein and could dampen AAV encoded LDLR expression.
We sought to create vectors expressing gain-of-function human LDLR variants that are resistant to degradation by human PCSK9 and IDOL and thereby enhance hepatic LDLR protein abundance and plasma LDL cholesterol reduction.
Methods and Results
Amino acid substitutions were introduced into the coding sequence of human LDLR cDNA to reduce interaction with hPCSK9 and hIDOL. A panel of mutant hLDLRs was initially screened in vitro for escape from PCSK9. The variant hLDLR-L318D was further evaluated using a mouse model of hoFH lacking endogenous LDLR and apolipoprotein B mRNA editing enzyme, APOBEC-1 (DKO). Administration of wild type hLDLR to DKO mice, expressing hPCSK9, led to diminished LDLR activity. However, LDLR-L318D was resistant to hPCSK9 mediated degradation and effectively reduced cholesterol levels. Similarly, the LDLR-K809R\C818A construct avoided hIDOL regulation and achieved stable reductions in serum cholesterol. An AAV8.LDLR-L318D\K809R\C818A vector that carried all three amino acid substitutions conferred partial resistance to both hPCSK9 and hIDOL mediated degradation.
Amino acid substitutions in the human LDLR confer partial resistance to PCSK9 and IDOL regulatory pathways with improved reduction in cholesterol levels and improve upon a potential gene therapeutic approach to treat homozygous FH subjects.
AAV; gene therapy; LDLR; PCSK9; IDOL; familial hypercholesterolemia
Candida is an opportunistic fungal pathogen that colonizes the mucosal tract of humans. Pathogenic infection occurs in the presence of conditions causing perturbations to the commensal microbiota or host immunity. Early innate immune responses by the epithelium, including antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) and cytokines, are critical for protection against overgrowth. Reduced salivary AMP levels are associated with oral Candida infection and certain AMPs, including human beta-defensins 1 - 3, have direct fungicidal activity. Here we demonstrate that murine β-Defensin 1 (mBD1) is important for control of early mucosal Candida infection and plays a critical role in the induction of innate inflammatory mediators. Mice deficient in mBD1 exhibit elevated oral and systemic fungal burdens as compared to wild-type mice. Neutrophil infiltration to the sites of mucosal Candida invasion, an important step in limiting fungal infection, is significantly reduced in mBD1 deficient mice. These mice also exhibit defects in the expression of other antimicrobial peptides, including mBD2 and mBD4, which may have direct anti-Candida activity. We also show that mBD1 deficiency impacts the production of important anti-fungal inflammatory mediators including IL-1β, IL-6, KC, and IL-17. Collectively, these studies demonstrate a role for the mBD1 peptide in early control of Candida infection in a murine model of mucosal candidiasis, as well as on the modulation of host immunity through augmentation of leukocyte infiltration and inflammatory gene induction.
Candida albicans; fungal; immunity; inflammasome; beta-defensins; mucosal
Mucopolysaccharidosis VII (MPS VII) is a lysosomal storage disease arising from mutations in β-d-glucuronidase (GUSB), which results in glycosaminoglycan (GAG) accumulation and a variety of clinical manifestations including neurological disease. Herein, MPS VII dogs were injected intravenously (i.v.) and/or intrathecally (i.t.) via the cisterna magna with AAV9 or AAVrh10 vectors carrying the canine GUSB cDNA. Although i.v. injection alone at 3 days of age resulted in normal cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) GUSB activity, brain tissue homogenates had only ~1 to 6% normal GUSB activity and continued to have elevated GAG storage. In contrast, i.t. injection at 3 weeks of age resulted in CSF GUSB activity 44-fold normal while brain tissue homogenates had >100% normal GUSB activity and reduced GAGs compared with untreated dogs. Markers for secondary storage and inflammation were eliminated in i.t.-treated dogs and reduced in i.v.-treated dogs compared with untreated dogs. Given that i.t.-treated dogs expressed higher levels of GUSB in the CNS tissues compared to those treated i.v., we conclude that i.t. injection of AAV9 or AAVrh10 vectors is more effective than i.v. injection alone in the large animal model of MPS VII.
Accurate titration of adeno-associated viral (AAV) vector genome copies is critical for ensuring correct and reproducible dosing in both preclinical and clinical settings. Quantitative PCR (qPCR) is the current method of choice for titrating AAV genomes because of the simplicity, accuracy, and robustness of the assay. However, issues with qPCR-based determination of self-complementary AAV vector genome titers, due to primer–probe exclusion through genome self-annealing or through packaging of prematurely terminated defective interfering (DI) genomes, have been reported. Alternative qPCR, gel-based, or Southern blotting titering methods have been designed to overcome these issues but may represent a backward step from standard qPCR methods in terms of simplicity, robustness, and precision. Droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) is a new PCR technique that directly quantifies DNA copies with an unparalleled degree of precision and without the need for a standard curve or for a high degree of amplification efficiency; all properties that lend themselves to the accurate quantification of both single-stranded and self-complementary AAV genomes. Here we compare a ddPCR-based AAV genome titer assay with a standard and an optimized qPCR assay for the titration of both single-stranded and self-complementary AAV genomes. We demonstrate absolute quantification of single-stranded AAV vector genomes by ddPCR with up to 4-fold increases in titer over a standard qPCR titration but with equivalent readout to an optimized qPCR assay. In the case of self-complementary vectors, ddPCR titers were on average 5-, 1.9-, and 2.3-fold higher than those determined by standard qPCR, optimized qPCR, and agarose gel assays, respectively. Droplet digital PCR-based genome titering was superior to qPCR in terms of both intra- and interassay precision and is more resistant to PCR inhibitors, a desirable feature for in-process monitoring of early-stage vector production and for vector genome biodistribution analysis in inhibitory tissues.
The mechanisms of tolerance in the liver that limit susceptibility to food allergy and that mediate the acceptance of liver transplants even with a complete MHC mismatch remain poorly defined. Here we report that in a model of liver-directed gene transfer cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) responses to non-self antigens are controlled by hepatic regulatory T cells (Tregs) that secrete the immunosuppressive cytokine interleukin (IL)-10 in response to the antigen. In addition, Kupffer cells (KCs), normally thought to initiate immune responses, are rendered tolerogenic in this context. The depletion of KCs results in a complete abrogation of IL-10 production by hepatic Tregs, indicating an interaction between Tregs and KCs in the induction of tolerance.
Our study suggests that hepatic Tregs together with KCs create a local suppressive microenvironment that prevents the establishment of the CTL response. These mechanisms provide pivotal insights and may prove instrumental in the tolerization toward non-self therapeutic proteins delivered to the liver.
Liver tolerance; cytotoxic T lymphocyte suppression; hepatic regulatory T cells; Kupffer cells; interleukin-10
Recent successes of adeno-associated virus (AAV)–based gene therapy have created a demand for large-scale AAV vector manufacturing and purification techniques for use in clinical trials and beyond. During the development of purification protocols for rh.10, hu.37, AAV8, rh.64R1, AAV3B, and AAV9 vectors, based on a widely used affinity resin, AVB sepharose (GE), we found that, under the same conditions, different serotypes have different affinities to the resin, with AAV3B binding the best and AAV9 the poorest. Further analysis revealed a surface-exposed residue (amino acid number 665 in AAV8 VP1 numbering) differs between the high-affinity AAV serotypes (serine in AAV3B, rh.10, and hu.37) and the low-affinity ones (asparagine in AAV8, rh.64R1, and AAV9). The residue locates within a surface-exposed, variable epitope flanked by highly conserved residues. The substitution of the epitope in AAV8, rh.64R1, and AAV9 with the corresponding epitope of AAV3B (SPAKFA) resulted in greatly increased affinity to AVB sepharose with no reduction in the vectors’ in vitro potency. The presence of the newly identified AVB-binding epitope will be useful for affinity resin selection for the purification of novel AAV serotypes. It also suggests the possibility of vector engineering to yield a universal affinity chromatography purification method for multiple AAV serotypes.
Patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) often suffer chronic lung infection with concomitant inflammation, a setting that may reduce the efficacy of gene transfer. While gene therapy development for CF often involves viral-based vectors, little is known about gene transfer in the context of an infected airway. In this study, three mouse models were established to evaluate adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene transfer in such an environment. Bordetella bronchiseptica RB50 was used in a chronic, nonlethal respiratory infection in C57BL/6 mice. An inoculum of ∼105 CFU allowed B. bronchiseptica RB50 to persist in the upper and lower respiratory tracts for at least 21 days. In this infection model, administration of an AAV vector on day 2 resulted in 2.8-fold reduction of reporter gene expression compared with that observed in uninfected controls. Postponement of AAV administration to day 14 resulted in an even greater (eightfold) reduction of reporter gene expression, when compared with uninfected controls. In another infection model, Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 was used to infect surfactant protein D (SP-D) or surfactant protein A (SP-A) knockout (KO) mice. With an inoculum of ∼105 CFU, infection persisted for 2 days in the nasal cavity of either mouse model. Reporter gene expression was approximately ∼2.5-fold lower compared with uninfected mice. In the SP-D KO model, postponement of AAV administration to day 9 postinfection resulted in only a two fold reduction in reporter gene expression, when compared with expression seen in uninfected controls. These results confirm that respiratory infections, both ongoing and recently resolved, decrease the efficacy of AAV-mediated gene transfer.
Adeno-associated virus (AAV) is a member of the family Parvoviridae that has been widely used as a vector for gene therapy because of its safety profile, its ability to transduce both dividing and non-dividing cells, and its low immunogenicity. AAV has been detected in many different tissues of several animal species but has not been associated with any disease. As a result of natural infections, antibodies to AAV can be found in many animals including humans. It has been shown that pre-existing AAV antibodies can modulate the safety and efficacy of AAV vector-mediated gene therapy by blocking vector transduction or by redirecting distribution of AAV vectors to tissues other than the target organ. This review will summarize antibody responses against natural AAV infections, as well as AAV gene therapy vectors and their impact in the clinical development of AAV vectors for gene therapy. We will also review and discuss the various methods used for AAV antibody detection and strategies to overcome neutralizing antibodies in AAV-mediated gene therapy.
adeno-associated virus; AAV; neutralizing antibody; immune response; gene therapy
The possibility that vaccination with adenovirus (AdV) vectors increased mucosal T cell activation remains a central hypothesis to explain the potential enhancement of HIV acquisition within the Step trial. Modeling this within rhesus macaques is complicated because human adenoviruses, including human adenovirus type 5 (HAdV-5), are not endogenous to macaques. Here, we tested whether vaccination with a rhesus macaque-derived adenoviral vector (simian adenovirus 7 [SAdV-7]) enhances mucosal T cell activation within rhesus macaques. Following intramuscular SAdV-7 vaccination, we observed a pronounced increase in SAdV-7-specific CD4+ T cell responses in peripheral blood and, more dramatically, in rectal mucosa tissue. Vaccination also induced a significant increase in the frequency of activated memory CD4+ T cells in SAdV-7- and HAdV-5-vaccinated animals in the rectal mucosa but not in peripheral blood. These fluctuations within the rectal mucosa were also associated with a pronounced decrease in the relative frequency of naive resting CD4+ T cells. Together, these results indicate that peripheral vaccination with an AdV vector can increase the activation of mucosal CD4+ T cells, potentially providing an experimental model to further evaluate the role of host-vector interactions in increased HIV acquisition after AdV vector vaccination.
IMPORTANCE The possibility that vaccination with a human adenovirus 5 vector increased mucosal T cell activation remains a central hypothesis to explain the potential enhancement of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) acquisition within the Step trial. In this study, we tested whether vaccination with a rhesus macaque-derived adenoviral vector in rhesus macaques enhances mucosal CD4+ T cell activation, the main cell target of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)/HIV. The results showed that vaccination with an adenoviral vector indeed increases activation of mucosal CD4+ T cells and potentially increases susceptibility to SIV infection.
The emergence of a new influenza pandemic remains a threat that could result in a substantial loss of life and economic disruption worldwide. Advances in human antibody isolation have led to the discovery of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) that have broad neutralizing activity against various influenza strains, although their direct use for prophylaxis is impractical. To overcome this limitation, our approach is to deliver antibody via adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors to the site of initial infection, which, for respiratory viruses such as influenza, is the nasopharyngeal mucosa. AAV vectors based on serotype 9 were engineered to express a modified version of the previously isolated broadly neutralizing mAb to influenza A, FI6. We demonstrate that intranasal delivery of AAV9.FI6 into mice afforded complete protection and log reductions in viral load to 100 LD50 (median lethal dose) of three clinical isolates of H5N1 and two clinical isolates of H1N1, all of which have been associated with historic human pandemics (including H1N1 1918). Similarly, complete protection was achieved in ferrets challenged with lethal doses of H5N1 and H1N1. This approach serves as a platform for the prevention of natural or deliberate respiratory diseases for which a protective antibody is available.
Recombinant adeno-associated viral vectors based on serotype 8 (AAV8) transduce liver with superior tropism following intravenous (IV) administration. Previous studies conducted by our lab demonstrated that AAV8-mediated transfer of the human low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR) gene driven by a strong liver-specific promoter (thyroxin-binding globulin [TBG]) leads to high level and persistent gene expression in the liver. The approach proved efficacious in reducing plasma cholesterol levels and resulted in the regression of atherosclerotic lesions in a murine model of homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (hoFH). Prior to advancing this vector, called AAV8.TBG.hLDLR, to the clinic, we set out to investigate vector biodistribution in an hoFH mouse model following IV vector administration to assess the safety profile of this investigational agent. Although AAV genomes were present in all organs at all time points tested (up to 180 days), vector genomes were sequestered mainly in the liver, which contained levels of vector 3 logs higher than that found in other organs. In both sexes, the level of AAV genomes gradually declined and appeared to stabilize 90 days post vector administration in most organs although vector genomes remained high in liver. Vector loads in the circulating blood were high and close to those in liver at the early time point (day 3) but rapidly decreased to a level close to the limit of quantification of the assay. The results of this vector biodistribution study further support a proposed clinical trial to evaluate AAV8 gene therapy for hoFH patients.
Diseases of lipid metabolism are a major cause of human morbidity, but no animal model entirely recapitulates human lipoprotein metabolism. Here we develop a xenograft mouse model using hepatocytes from a patient with familial hypercholesterolaemia caused by loss-of-function mutations in the low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR). Like familial hypercholesterolaemia patients, our familial hypercholesterolaemia liver chimeric mice develop hypercholesterolaemia and a 'humanized‘ serum profile, including expression of the emerging drug targets cholesteryl ester transfer protein and apolipoprotein (a), for which no genes exist in mice. We go on to replace the missing LDLR in familial hypercholesterolaemia liver chimeric mice using an adeno-associated virus 9-based gene therapy and restore normal lipoprotein profiles after administration of a single dose. Our study marks the first time a human metabolic disease is induced in an experimental animal model by human hepatocyte transplantation and treated by gene therapy. Such xenograft platforms offer the ability to validate human experimental therapies and may foster their rapid translation into the clinic.
Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a congenital disease associated with high plasma cholesterol levels. Here, the authors recapitulate FH in chimeric mice, in which livers are repopulated with hepatocytes from an FH patient, and successfully correct the disease using adenovirus-mediated gene therapy.
Lung delivery of plasmid DNA encoding the CFTR gene complexed with a cationic liposome is a potential treatment option for patients with cystic fibrosis. We aimed to assess the efficacy of non-viral CFTR gene therapy in patients with cystic fibrosis.
We did this randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 2b trial in two cystic fibrosis centres with patients recruited from 18 sites in the UK. Patients (aged ≥12 years) with a forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) of 50–90% predicted and any combination of CFTR mutations, were randomly assigned, via a computer-based randomisation system, to receive 5 mL of either nebulised pGM169/GL67A gene–liposome complex or 0·9% saline (placebo) every 28 days (plus or minus 5 days) for 1 year. Randomisation was stratified by % predicted FEV1 (<70 vs ≥70%), age (<18 vs ≥18 years), inclusion in the mechanistic substudy, and dosing site (London or Edinburgh). Participants and investigators were masked to treatment allocation. The primary endpoint was the relative change in % predicted FEV1. The primary analysis was per protocol. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT01621867.
Between June 12, 2012, and June 24, 2013, we randomly assigned 140 patients to receive placebo (n=62) or pGM169/GL67A (n=78), of whom 116 (83%) patients comprised the per-protocol population. We noted a significant, albeit modest, treatment effect in the pGM169/GL67A group versus placebo at 12 months' follow-up (3·7%, 95% CI 0·1–7·3; p=0·046). This outcome was associated with a stabilisation of lung function in the pGM169/GL67A group compared with a decline in the placebo group. We recorded no significant difference in treatment-attributable adverse events between groups.
Monthly application of the pGM169/GL67A gene therapy formulation was associated with a significant, albeit modest, benefit in FEV1 compared with placebo at 1 year, indicating a stabilisation of lung function in the treatment group. Further improvements in efficacy and consistency of response to the current formulation are needed before gene therapy is suitable for clinical care; however, our findings should also encourage the rapid introduction of more potent gene transfer vectors into early phase trials.
Medical Research Council/National Institute for Health Research Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation Programme.