The clinical development of advanced therapy medicinal products (ATMPs), a new class of drugs, requires initial safety studies that deviate from standard non-clinical safety protocols. The study provides a strategy to address the safety aspects of biodistribution and tumorigenicity of ATMPs under good laboratory practice (GLP) conditions avoiding cell product manipulation. Moreover, the strategy was applied on a human ATMP for cartilage repair.
The testing strategy addresses biodistribution and tumorigenicity using a multi-step analysis without any cell manipulation to exclude changes of test item characteristics. As a safeguard measurement for meeting regulatory expectations, the project design and goals were discussed continuously with the regulatory authority using a staggered scientific advice concept. Subsequently, the strategy was applied to co.don chondrosphere® (huChon spheroid), a tissue-engineered matrix-free ATMP of human normal chondrocytes. In both the biodistribution and tumorigenicity studies, huChon spheroids were implanted subcutaneously into 40 immunodeficient mice. Biodistribution was studied 1 month after implantation. A skin disc containing the huChon spheroid, two surrounding skin rings and selected organs were analyzed by validated, gender-specific, highly-sensitive triplex qPCR and by immunohistochemistry (IHC).
No human DNA was detected in distant skin rings and analyzed organs. IHC revealed no direct or indirect indications of cell migration. Tumorigenicity was assessed 6 months after huChon spheroid implantation by palpation, macroscopic inspection, histology and IHC. No mice from the huChon spheroid group developed a tumor at the implantation site. In two mice, benign tumors were detected that were negative for HLA-ABC, suggesting that they were of spontaneous murine origin.
In summary, the presented strategy using a multi-step analysis was confirmed to be suitable for safety studies of ATMPs.
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