"Because the chemo is inside the red blood cell, there is less exposure,'' she says. And that should translate to less toxicity, she says.
Erytech Pharma in Lyon, France, developed the treatment and funded the study. EryDel, an Italian company, is working on a superblood treatment, EryDex, for the rare genetic disease ataxia telangiectasia (AT). AT starts in childhood and causes neurological problems such as balance issues, problems with motor skills and the immune system, and respiratory infections. Patients can lose the ability to write and talk and walk normally. Many patients die in their 20s.
EryDex loads a steroid drug into red blood cells, then gives it to patients through an IV once a month. More than 200 people have been given the treatment, says Luca Benatti, PhD, EryDel's CEO.
"The [superblood] concept is interesting," says Brian Wolpin, MD, MPH, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center and the Hale Center for Pancreatic Cancer at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Further testing will need to prove whether it will have a substantial impact on the diseases it treats.
Whether the new approach catches on will depend not only on how superior the treatment is, but also on costs, Radu of UCLA says.