But Dr Stephen Poole, speaking at the British Pharmacological Society’s Winter Meeting in Brighton today (Tuesday), said that research is still “ongoing” to understand why the drug had such an adverse effect in the clinic but not in pre-clinical testing.
Describing the incident as “the most obvious setback for medicines testing since thalidomide”, Dr Poole and his colleagues, from the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC) have, with new tests, successfully reproduced the devastating reaction suffered by the volunteers using human cells in the test tube (in vitro).
Standard preclinical in vitro tests on TGN1412 – the immunotherapy drug responsible for the Northwick Park disaster – failed to predict the catastrophic reaction that would occur when TGN1412 was administered to human subjects.
TGN1412 is from a class of drugs developed to re-balance the immune system for the treatment of autoimmune diseases, where the immune system has started to attack the body, such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
The Northwick Park disaster resulted in the UK Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) suspending all clinical trials of immunotherapy drugs and commissioning NIBSC, a government-funded institute, to investigate why both in vitro human cell tests and in vivo animal tests failed to predict the human immune system’s response to the drug.
“With hindsight testing this drug in man was a mistake, but at the time the standard required pre-clinical tests failed to predict the effects it would have on the six volunteers,” said Dr Poole, who said that the NIBSC’s group’s second paper on TGN1412 was due to be published shortly.
“While we are still investigating why the effect of this drug was so catastrophically different in the clinic than in pre-clinical testing, we have at least managed to develop new pre-clinical tests that should help us to avoid such outcomes in the future.”
Speaking at the British Pharmacological Society (BPS) conference, Dr Poole identifies new pre-clinical in vitro testing of immunotherapy drugs that should help prevent any repetition of the disastrous events that were witnessed at Northwick Park.
These measures include ensuring that such drugs are not tested solely on immune (white blood) cells in isolation. The NIBSC group has shown that having a mixed human cell culture of white blood cells and endothelial cells – the cells that line blood vessels – is a much better indicator of how this type of drug will react in vivo.
The NIBSC group has also developed a technique that dries the drug onto a plastic surface, rather than testing it on cells as a solution in water, which has proven to be a far more reliable indicator of how the drug will react in the human body.
“The aim of our research is to improve the preclinical testing of immunotherapy drugs on human cells in vitro, as well as to establish why the antibody was not toxic in pre-clinical testing,” said Dr Poole.
“We have made significant progress in designing new in vitro tests that hopefully will avoid the consequences that occurred at Northwick Park; indeed such tests could prevent harmful drugs of this type even reaching the animal-testing stage.”
Immunotherapy drugs have the potential to be incredibly important in the treatment of diseases that have so far eluded medical advances, including many forms of cancer, so it is vital that the scientific community has its faith in clinical trials and in immunotherapy fully restored.
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University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
19.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy