Shares of Juno Therapeutics plummeted over 26% on Wednesday after it was announced that the biopharmaceutical company is halting the study of an experimental leukemia treatment due the death of two patients.
Juno’s leukemia study has already been linked to three patient deaths back in July, but company executives pinned the blame on chemotherapy drugs used in a pre-treatment drug cycle. The latest deaths, which occurred earlier this week, come a result of severe brain swelling, which was the same symptom seen in the earlier deaths.
For now, the new therapy, JCAR015, will be put on hold. Juno announced that it voluntarily put the study on pause and informed the Food and Drug Administration about that decision several days ago. CEO Hans Bishop said that the company is still investigating the deaths and has not yet decided whether it will continue developing the treatment.
JCAR015 is a new type of chimeric antigen receptor T-Cell (CAR-T) therapy. The treatment includes the extraction of T-cells from a patient, which then undergo DNA modifications before being infused back into the individual. The altering of the DNA is meant to improve the T-cells’ ability to identify and fight cancer cells.
While CAR-T treatments have proven to be impressively effective in eliminating certain types of blood cancers, the patient deaths in Juno’s study are a major setback for the experimental drug.
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