Innovative Walloon cancer treatment trial suspended after two deaths

Innovative Walloon cancer treatment trial suspended after two deaths
Credit: Belga

Celyad, an oncological biotechnology company based in Mont-Saint-Guibert, Wallonia, has suspended an innovative CAR T cancer treatment after it led to the deaths of two test patients, according to a press release published on 28 February. 

The company announced its decision to “voluntarily pause” the experimental treatment after the deaths of the patients receiving treatment for bowel cancer. Both the deceased patients died in similar circumstances, however Celyad insists that its decision to suspend the trial was due to an “overriding sense of caution.”

“Our primary commitment is to maintain patient safety, which is why we decided to put the trail on hold while we investigate these events,” said Filippo Petti, Chief Executive Officer of Celyad.

According to the company’s shareholder communications, most test patients involved in the studies are mostly “late-stage patients who have no other options.” 

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CAR T treatments take a patient’s blood and genetically alter their T cells in order to better identify and attack cancer. The treatment is known to sometimes cause adverse effects in patients, triggering a huge immune response that has been known to sometimes cause sepsis and organ failure. 

This is not the first time that CAR T therapy trials have led to the death of patients. In 2016, a similar trial conducted by Juno Therapeutics in Seattle, Washington killed five adult patients with acute leukaemia, triggering a class-action lawsuit. 

Celyad states that it is “working diligently” to better understand the events, stating that 25 patients had previously been administered with the treatment without any complications.

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