9 year old stem cell trial pioneer dies in Batten disease

This is exactly the type of clinical trial news that should be taken extremely carefully with all due respect and grief.

A girl enrolled in a stem-cell trial for a fatal disease has died. In January, the nine-year-old received a brain transplant of neural stem cells derived from fetal tissue. She was one of six children in the trial for Batten disease, in which children rarely live into their teens. An independent group monitoring the trial decided that the death was due to the disease not the experimental treatment and said the trial could continue.

The quote is from Monya Baker’s Niche post.

From the press release on StemCells Incorporations Phase I clinical trial of its proprietary HuCNS-SC®product candidate (purified human neural stem cells):

The trial is designed to evaluate the safety and preliminary efficacy of HuCNS-SC cells as a potential treatment for infantile and late infantile neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (NCL). NCL, which is often referred to as Batten disease, is a rare and fatal neurodegenerative condition afflicting infants and children.

The patient, a nine-year-old girl, was transplanted with HuCNS-SC cells in January 2007 and was due to return this month to the trial site, Oregon Health & Science Universitys (OHSU) Doernbecher Childrens Hospital, for her 12 month follow-up. She was hospitalized nearly two weeks ago, suffering from an apparent viral infection, seizures and respiratory distress before succumbing earlier this week. Based upon the facts and information available at this time, it is the opinion of the principal investigators at OHSU, the independent Data Safety Monitoring Committee, and the Companys medical experts that this death was most likely due to the natural progression of the disease and not related to the HuCNS-SC cells or the transplantation procedure itself. StemCells, Inc. is continuing to investigate the death and has been in contact with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since first becoming aware of the patients condition. The Company expects to provide additional updates about the trial in the future.