Top scientist faces probe after 3 children die in clinical trial

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Top scientist faces probe after 3 children die in clinical trial
File Photo: DPA

The Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich is investigating an award-winning scientist, after eight children who participated in an experimental study contracted leukaemia.


The university, consistently rated Germany’s leading academic institution, is extending its investigation into Professor Christoph Klein, director of Haunerschen Children’s Hospital, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports.

Klein has come under suspicion after eight of nine children involved in a gene therapy study which he conducted over a period of several years contracted leukaemia. Three of those children have subsequently died.

Adding to the controversy is that fact that the study was largely carried out on children from developing countries.

The children were all being treated for Wiskott-Aldrich-Syndrome, which is a life-threatening disease.

In the study, which took place at the Medical College of Hanover between 2006 and 2009, scientists were able to provide initial relief to the children by manipulating cells within their bone marrow.

However, this process also caused the bone cancer which the majority of the children subsequently contracted, SZ claimed in an investigative article into the study published on April 22nd.

'Too experimental'

Other doctors have accused Klein, who has been awarded some of the most prestigious scientific prizes in Germany, of failing to consider whether the children could have been treated with less experimental methods.

According to SZ, the syndrome likely could have been handled in a more tried and trusted way, as the methods doctors used to treat the leukaemia could also have been used to treat the original disease.

Klein is also accused of using a technology, retroviral vectors, which had been shown in some studies to cause leukaemia, although in other studies this technique had not produced the bone cancer.

In a statement published on its website, the Haunerschen Children’s Hospital said that SZ had presented the case in “an inappropriate and confusing way.”

The study was conducted “by highly qualified researchers who worked under the strongest ethical codes on a project which has huge importance for the future treatment of Wiskott-Aldrich-Syndrome,” the statement reads.

The hospital also insists that the children’s parents were made fully aware of the potential dangers posed by the study.

Munich University states that its internal investigation will last around six months.


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