611 W. Union Street
Benson, AZ 85602
(520) 586-0800

Health Choice Integrated Care crisis Line

AzCH Nurse Assist Line


611 W. Union Street
Benson, AZ 85602
(520) 586-0800

AzCH Nurse Assist Line


powered by centersite dot net

Getting Started
Here are some forms to get started. These can be printed and brought with you so that you can pre-fill out some known info ahead of time. More...

Medical Disorders
Basic InformationLookupsLatest News
Peanut Allergy Patch Shows Middling Results in TrialToxins in Home Furnishings Can Be Passed on to KidsKratom-Related Poisonings Are Soaring, Study FindsFDA Aims to Strengthen Sunscreen RulesBrain Condition CTE Seen in H.S. Football Players: StudyPregnant Women Should Delay Gallbladder Surgery, Study FindsGut Microbes May Help Drive Lupus, Study FindsMost Hip, Knee Replacements Last Decades, Study FindsAHA News: Living Near Convenience Stores Could Raise Risk of Artery-Clogging ConditionPossible Parkinson's 'Pandemic' Looms: Report'Apple-Shaped' Body? 'Pear-Shaped'? Your Genes May TellProtect Your Aging Eyes From Macular DegenerationKidney Failure Patients Face Higher Risk of Cancer DeathHow Inactivity and Junk Food Can Harm Your BrainTattooed and Need an MRI Scan? What You Need to KnowGot the Flu? You Probably Shouldn't Head to the ERStudy Reaffirms Safety of Hepatitis C Meds in Liver Cancer PatientsSmart Steps for Healthy FeetOpioids Overprescribed for Common Children's Fracture, Study SaysNew Hepatitis Meds Are Saving Lives: StudyGun Injuries Bring Especially Tough RecoveriesAspirin Can Help Prevent Colon Cancer, But Many at Risk Don't Take ItAre Scientists Closer to Growing Made-to-Order Kidneys?Worldwide, More Die After Surgery Than From HIV, Malaria: StudyBlood Thinning Drug May Be Safer Option Against Recurrent StrokeStudy Ties Cancer-Causing HPV to Heart Disease, TooDangerous Bacteria May Lurk in Hospital SinksAs U.S. Measles Outbreaks Spread, Why Does 'Anti-Vax' Movement Persist?Cablivi Approved for Rare Clotting DisorderNew Antibiotic Treats Pneumonia, Skin InfectionsOpioid OD Deaths Are Saving Lives Through TransplantationHealth Tip: Know Your Family's Medical HistoryAHA News: High Blood Pressure Top Risk Factor for Stroke in Young AdultsRethinking Blood Pressure ReadingsPsoriasis Meds Might Help Fight Heart Trouble, TooSurgery Restores Movement to Kids With Polio-Like IllnessYou've Fainted. How Long Do You Need to Stay in the ER?Could Germs in Your Gut Send You Into Depression?Health Tip: Prevent the Spread of Head LiceExercise Your Right to Fight DiseaseObesity-Linked Cancers On the Rise Among Young AmericansUnraveling the Mystery of HiccupsAHA: 7 Things That Can Affect the Heart -- And What to Do About ThemStatins Help the Heart, No Matter What Your AgeFirst Generic Version of Advair Diskus Approved for Asthma, COPDMore Smoking, Heart Woes Boost Native Americans' Stroke RiskNearly Half of American Adults Have Unhealthy Hearts: ReportHealth Tip: Avoid Winter Skin RashesHow to Prevent and Treat Eye AllergiesPolar Vortex Brings Frostbite Danger: Protect Yourself
Questions and AnswersLinksBook Reviews
Related Topics

Men's Health
Women's Health

Gene Therapy for Sickle Cell Takes Another Step Forward

HealthDay News
by By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter
Updated: Dec 4th 2018

new article illustration

TUESDAY, Dec. 4, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- A new gene therapy shows early promise against sickle cell anemia, researchers say.

The therapy targets the genetic flaw that causes sickle cell. In a small group of patients, researchers said the therapy appears safe and effective enough to keep moving forward into larger trials.

"We've been talking about using gene therapy for sickle cell anemia for years. Now it's finally coming of age," said Dr. John Tisdale, a scientist with the U.S. National Institutes of Health who is leading the ongoing research.

Sickle cell anemia is an inherited disease that mainly affects people of African, South American or Mediterranean descent. In the United States, about 1 in 365 black children is born with the condition, according to the NIH.

It arises when a person inherits two copies of an abnormal hemoglobin gene -- one from each parent. Hemoglobin is an oxygen-carrying protein within red blood cells.

When those cells contain "sickle" hemoglobin, they become crescent-shaped, rather than disk-shaped. They tend to be sticky and can clot -- causing symptoms such as fatigue and shortness of breath.

Many people with sickle cell also suffer bouts of severe pain due to poor blood circulation. Over time, the disease can damage organs throughout the body, leading to complications like kidney disease and stroke.

"It's a devastating disease," Tisdale said. "People often die early, in their 40s."

He presented the preliminary results this week at the American Society of Hematology's annual meeting, in San Diego.

There are treatments, such as the cancer drug hydroxyurea, which can help prevent severe pain and certain other complications. But the medications don't change the course of the disease.

There is one way to "fix" it, Tisdale said: a bone marrow transplant.

The procedure destroys a person's existing bone marrow stem cells -- which are producing the faulty red blood cells -- and replaces them with stem cells from a healthy donor.

The problem, Tisdale said, is that the donor has to be a genetic match (usually a sibling) who is free of sickle cell.

"That covers about 10 percent of patients," he said. "We need something for the other 90 percent."

That's where gene therapy could come in. Tisdale explained the basics: First, doctors remove a supply of blood-forming stem cells from the patient, before using chemotherapy to wipe out the remaining stem cells.

Next, they use a modified virus to deliver a "therapeutic" gene into the extracted stem cells. The gene is an "anti-sickling" version of the beta globulin gene, which is mutated in sickle cell.

Those genetically modified stem cells are then infused back into the patient -- with the aim of repopulating the body with normal red blood cells.

Tisdale's team initially treated seven patients with severe sickle cell who'd suffered complications from the disease. The gene therapy did produce new red blood cells, but at fairly low levels. So the researchers tweaked the procedure, and tested it in six other patients.

Of those patients, four had been followed for about three months on average as of May 2018. By that point, all had at least as many normal red blood cells as sickle-affected cells.

"We're also seeing a resolution of anemia and pain," Tisdale said.

The short-term side effects included fever caused by a drop in white blood cells, inflammation in the mouth, and chest pain.

This is not the first report of gene therapy being used for sickle cell. Last year, French researchers described the case of a teenage boy who was doing well 15 months after receiving gene therapy. Tisdale said that approach was very similar to the one his team used.

So far, research has focused on people with severe sickle cell.

But ultimately, the hope is to use gene therapy earlier in the course of the disease to prevent complications, said Dr. Caterina Minniti, director of the Montefiore Medical Center's Sickle Cell Center for Adults in New York City.

Minniti, who was not involved in the research, called the early results "very exciting."

Still, she cautioned that it will be a while before the approach is available for widespread use. With any gene therapy, Minniti noted, there are always questions about the long-term "stability" of the inserted gene, and whether it could have any unintended effects in the body.

But overall, she said, the outlook for sickle cell patients is improving. A new drug for preventing complications, called Endari (L-glutamine), received U.S. approval last year, and others are on the way.

"The development of therapies has dramatically accelerated in recent years," Minniti said.

Research presented at meetings is usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on sickle cell anemia.