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Statement From the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America Medical and Research Advisory Committee: Temporary Suspension of Clinical Trials

March 1, 2021 – The Sickle Cell Disease Association of America’s Medical and Research Advisory Committee (MARAC) is aware of the announcement on February 16, regarding the temporary suspension of bluebird bio clinical trials of LentiGlobin Gene Therapy for Sickle Cell Disease and the pause of all commercial use of bluebird bio European gene therapy.

Additionally, on February 22, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) temporarily suspended their unrelated gene therapy trial—Pilot and Feasibility Study of Hematopoietic Stem Cell Gene Transfer for Sickle Cell Disease at Boston Children’s Hospital. The NHLBI stated that this temporary suspension was, “out of an abundance of caution” despite having no indications of harm.

On February 23, another gene therapy trial, Gene Transfer for Patients with Sickle Cell Disease, was also paused by the sponsor Aruvant.

MARAC has investigated the situation and met with bluebird bio to discuss the information available to the public. In the bluebird bio study, two patients developed blood cancer, and a third patient is under investigation for a related problem called myelodysplastic syndrome. The details of these patients are being examined by their doctors and the bluebird bio sponsors. Investigations are trying to determine whether the blood cancer can be linked to the gene therapy vector, the chemotherapy preparation for gene therapy, or damage of the host stem cell. No events occurred in the other clinical trials.


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