CHDI head scientist Pacifici: ‘hang on in the learning roller coaster ride of Huntington’s disease clinical trials’

With historic clinical trials now aiming for the first effective treatments for Huntington’s disease, affected individuals and their families need to clearly understand the news about these efforts and their implications.

That critical recommendation was offered by Robert Pacifici, Ph.D., the chief scientific officer of the nonprofit HD-treatment-seeking CHDI Foundation, Inc., during an interview on the last day of the organization’s 15th Annual HD Therapeutics Conference, held February 24-27 in Palm Springs, CA.

“Getting to this stage – which we’ve all so been hoping for – is still a bit of a roller coaster ride,” Dr. Pacifici told me. “You have to be able stay in our seats and weather the ups and downs. I think we’re well-poised for some great news, as some of these trials hopefully report out. Even a whisper of efficacy would be just amazing.”

However, there will also be “disappointments, where, despite our best attempts, some of the things that showed so much promise didn’t end up meeting their endpoints,” he cautioned. “But it’s going to be a learning roller coaster. So hang in there. Don’t lose hope.”

The HD-affected (and their caregivers) should keep informed about the trials by consulting their physicians, attending meetings of patient organizations such as the Huntington’s Disease Society of America (HDSA), and keeping abreast of developments in such sources as and this blog, Dr. Pacifici advised.

Become knowledgeable, he urged, “so that you are not disproportionately spooked or elated when these bits of information come out.”

‘Genuinely interested’ in treating HD

Dr. Pacifici began the interview noting the excitement generated by the conference and within the HD field, with a record 380 participants, overflow seating, and more than 100 people turned away. However, CHDI’s goal ultimate goal is not to host well-attended conferences, but to stop HD, he emphasized.

“There are that many people who are genuinely interested in presenting the results and learning about the incredible developments that are unfolding in Huntington’s disease drug discovery and development,” he said of the response to the conference.

Dr. Pacifici also noted the very high quality of the presentations, in comparison with the early years of the event.

“We’re batting 1,000 this time – every single talk very relevant,” he observed.

Considered science fiction a decade ago, the new technologies applied in HD research are transforming the field and allowing for a more thorough analysis of cells in the quest to understand the disease, he added.

Dr. Pacifici cited the example of whole-genome sequencing on individual brain cells, which permits the reading of the DNA sequence of “every single gene in there, and doing that thousands of times.”

You can watch my interview with Dr. Pacifici in the video below. For my video album of the conference, please click here (and check back in the coming days as I add videos).


Source: At Risk for Huntington’s Disease

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