GENE THERAPY: Patients Wary of Controversial Trials
Despite "spectacular results" in treating rare inherited diseases and "more modest results" in treating "more common and complex diseases such as cancer," gene therapy researchers are facing a shrinking pool of willing volunteers, the AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. Researchers at an American Society for Gene Therapy meeting yesterday discussed problems facing what has been termed the "hottest field in science." Much of the trouble stems from a recent federal crackdown following the death of a participant in a University of Pennsylvania trial. In response, federal officials last week proposed fines of up to $1 million for researchers and universities found violating medical research rules for genetic studies. The government also is conducting an in-depth investigation of 70 gene therapy experiments nationwide. In the meantime, researchers have "asked for the public's patience ... as they try to rescue what had been the hottest field in science from the flames of controversy." Savio Woo, the society's president, acknowledged the need for better guidelines for genetic experiments, saying: "Gene therapy is still in its infancy. There can be no substitute for clinical testing of the new treatments in patients. The challenge will be to identify the means in a scientifically and clinically sound way to ensure patient safety" (6/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.