Two stem cell treatments for heart failure show glimpses of benefit

7th September 2016

Despite a decade of disappointing results in stem cell trials for treating heart failure, two studies have shown some glimpses of clinical benefit, the European Society of Cardiology’s annual congress has been told.

The studies of the therapies in development at CardioCell, a company using stem cells to develop heart treatments, and Celyad, a biopharmaceutical company focusing on developing cell-based remedies for life-threatening diseases, were presented at the weekend at the congress in Rome.

Though Celyad's bone-marrow stem cell treatment was an overall failure, researchers reported that the therapy, given by direct injection into the heart via a catheter, did appear to provide some benefit for a subgroup of patients with severe heart enlargement.

Lead investigator Jozef Bartunek,  from OLV Hospital in Aalst, Belgium, also said there was a greater benefit in patients who received fewer injections, suggesting that the process of administration may be affecting results.

Meanwhile, a 20-patient phase II trial of CardioCell's mesenchymal stem cells (cells that can differentiate into a variety of cell types), which were given via a single intravenous dose to patients with chronic dilated cardiomyopathy, showed a statistically significant improvement in six-minute walking tests  though there was no impact on left ventricle heart function and hospital admission rates, the congress was told.

Researcher Javed Butler, from Stony Brook University in New York, said the trial marks the first time that this particular type of cell had been tested intravenously in patients with any type of chronic cardiomyopathy, adding that seeing some benefit from a single injection was promising.

Further studies would explore using more doses to see if the approach could have a more sustained effect and improve heart function, he added.

Celyad has said it will seek guidance from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) regarding future steps and will look for a partner to continue the development of the stem cell therapy.

Meanwhile CardioCell said it was very encouraged by the degree of statistically significant improvement in patient health and would move on to multi-dose studies.

Cardiomyopathy UK support nurse Robert Hall said: “It’s good to see some positive results reported, though these were small studies and the investigators acknowledge that further, larger studies are needed.”

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