Following the deaths of five patients, Juno Therapeutics has decided to pull the plug on an experimental cancer treatment that boosts the power of a patient’s immune cells. The news comes just days after the company’s rival, Kite Pharma, announced its success with a similar method, showing there’s still hope for this potentially revolutionary gene therapy.
Called JCAR015, the therapy was being used to treat adults with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a cancer of the immune system. Back in July 2016, three patients died while participating in Juno’s Phase II clinical trial, known as ROCKET, prompting the FDA to suspend the therapy. The trial was eventually allowed to continue, but it was suspended yet again in November following two more deaths. These setbacks, in conjunction with a rash of criticisms accusing the company of hiding the deaths from the public and “going way too fast” with the trials, has finally led Juno to put the brakes on the program entirely.