VISIONS 2012, the Foundation’s annual conference, taking place in Minneapolis, is only two weeks away. I am very much looking forward to all the science presentations, especially the closing session on Sunday, July 1 — not only because I will moderate, but because it will cover three promising clinical trials, as well the exciting prospect of someday combining therapies.
This blog will provide highlights from the conference as it’s happening, but for those who might be able to make it, here is the Sunday morning line-up:
- Dr. Matthew Vincent, Director of Corporate Development, Advanced Cell Technology (ACT). His company has clinical trials underway for a stem cell treatment for Stargardt disease and dry age-related macular degeneration.
- Dr. David Wilson, who is leading Oxford BioMedica’s StarGen (gene therapy for Stargardt disease) clinical trial at Oregon Health & Science University
- Dr. David Saperstein, representing QLT, Inc., which is conducting an international clinical trial of a drug for certain forms of retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and Leber congenital amaurosis (RPE65 and LRAT mutations)
Not only will they provide the latest updates on their human studies; they’ll also discuss how therapies will likely be used synergistically in the future.
For example, if you are a person with moderate to advanced RP, the ideal solution might be a gene therapy to halt the disease in your existing retinal cells coupled with stem cells to replace the rods and cones you’ve lost.
Or consider this example: Let’s say you have RP and are taking vitamin A to slow the progress of vision loss and a drug becomes available that also slows vision loss. Does that mean you stop taking vitamin A? Maybe not — it depends on if and how the new treatment and vitamin A can work together. (By the way, Dr. Eliot Berson will talk about vitamin A, lutein, and oily fish at the 3:45 p.m. session on Friday, June 30.)
A third example: We are getting closer to the day when your skin or blood may be your own source of stem cells. That magic is done through a process called inducing pluripotent stem cells, and gene therapy may be used to correct the genetic defect so the cells are disease-free when they are put into your retina.
Of course, combination therapies are a ways off, but this closing session will underscore why it is important to consider multiple treatments and not just one approach to saving your vision. I am sure the discussions will be lively and informative.
So, I hope to see you in Minneapolis. If you’re planning to go, make sure you stick around for the grand finale on Sunday.