Juno Ther­a­peu­tics halts study af­ter more pa­tient deaths

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Juno Ther­a­peu­tics again halted its study of an ex­per­i­men­tal leukemia treat­ment Wed­nes­day af­ter two more pa­tients died of com­pli­ca­tions. It was the sec­ond set­back for the closely watched study, which was pre­vi­ously halted af­ter two pa­tient deaths in July. Com­pany shares plunged more than 27 per­cent in fren­zied trad­ing.

The Seat­tle com­pany said that the lat­est deaths oc­curred ear­lier this week af­ter pa­tients suf­fered a se­vere form of brain swelling, sim­i­lar to the pre­vi­ous two fa­tal­i­ties. Com­pany ex­ec­u­tives in July blamed the deaths on chemo­ther­apy drugs used in a pre-treat­ment reg­i­men, rather than on the com­pany’s ex­per­i­men­tal drug. The Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion granted re­searchers per­mis­sion to re­sume the study sev­eral days later. Juno said Wed­nes­day it’s work­ing with reg­u­la­tors to de­ter­mine what to do next. The com­pany’s ther­apy, known only as JCAR015, is in mid-stage test­ing, a makeor-break phase of de­vel­op­ment that usu­ally fo­cuses on ef­fec­tive­ness.

Juno’s ap­proach is part of a promis­ing, but still un­proven, ap­proach that reengi­neers pa­tients’ im­mune sys­tems to at­tack can­cer. The com­pany fil­ters pa­tients’ blood to re­move white blood cells called T-cells and ge­net­i­cally al­ters them in the lab so they can tar­get can­cer cells. They then re­turn the mod­i­fied cells to the pa­tient. The com­pany is study­ing sev­eral other ge­neal­ter­ing im­munother­a­pies and said those tri­als will con­tinue. Shares of Juno Ther­a­peu­tics Inc. fell $7.96, or 27 per­cent, to $21.92 in af­ter­noon trad­ing.—AP

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