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Incorporating Arms in Gene & Cell Therapies

Updated: Feb 17


Cellular and gene therapy clinical trials represent a promising frontier in modern medicine, offering potential groundbreaking treatments for various diseases and conditions. However, the dynamic nature of these trials requires careful management when adding new arms or introducing changes. In this article, we will delve deeper into the process of adding arms to clinical trials involving cellular and gene therapies, as well as the proper submission of changes and new information to regulatory authorities.  The landscape of medical research has witnessed a remarkable transformation with the advent of cellular and gene therapy, heralding a new era of innovative and potentially curative treatments for a myriad of diseases. These groundbreaking therapies leverage the power of genetic modification and cellular engineering to target and remedy the root causes of various debilitating conditions. As the realm of cellular and gene therapies continues to expand, the clinical trial process that underpins their development must evolve in tandem to accommodate the dynamic nature of these experimental treatments.

Cellular and gene therapy clinical trials represent a promising frontier in modern medicine, offering potential groundbreaking treatments for various diseases and conditions. However, the dynamic nature of these trials requires careful management when adding new arms or introducing changes. In this article, we will delve deeper into the process of adding arms to clinical trials involving cellular and gene therapies, as well as the proper submission of changes and new information to regulatory authorities.


The landscape of medical research has witnessed a remarkable transformation with the advent of cellular and gene therapy, heralding a new era of innovative and potentially curative treatments for a myriad of diseases. These groundbreaking therapies leverage the power of genetic modification and cellular engineering to target and remedy the root causes of various debilitating conditions. As the realm of cellular and gene therapies continues to expand, the clinical trial process that underpins their development must evolve in tandem to accommodate the dynamic nature of these experimental treatments.


However, the complexities and novel elements intrinsic to cellular and gene therapy clinical trials necessitate meticulous planning and adherence to regulatory guidelines. One critical aspect of these trials is the process of adding new arms, which refers to the introduction of additional treatment groups or modifications within the study protocol. Additionally, sponsors may need to submit changes or new information throughout the trial's progression to ensure safety, efficacy, and regulatory compliance. Streamlining these processes is vital to enhance the rigor and efficiency of cellular and gene therapy clinical trials.


1. Adding Arms with New Versions of Therapy Product:


When a clinical trial sponsor seeks to add an arm to study a new version of an investigational cellular or gene therapy product (e.g., Product C), specific steps must be followed to ensure regulatory compliance and patient safety.


To begin, the sponsor must submit a Secondary Investigational New Drug Application (IND C) to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This application should include Chemistry, Manufacturing, and Controls (CMC) data and Pharmacology/Toxicology (P/T) information for Product C. The Secondary IND C should also clearly indicate that it is a Secondary IND and reference the Primary IND number for clinical information.


Concurrently, the sponsor must amend the Primary IND (IND A) to incorporate the updated clinical protocol, now encompassing the new arm for Product C. The cover letter for this amendment should indicate that it is a Primary IND and specify the Secondary IND number(s), including IND C. Additionally, the Primary IND should be updated to include a cross-reference to the Secondary IND for CMC and P/T information related to Product C.


It is essential to note that the new Secondary IND C cannot become effective until 30 days after the FDA receives the application unless earlier notification is provided. Moreover, the administration of Product C in the clinical trial cannot commence until IND C is effective, and the Institutional Review Board (IRB) has granted approval of the modified protocol.


2. Adding Arms without New Versions of Therapy Product:


In scenarios where the new arm does not involve a different version of the investigational therapy, the process is somewhat streamlined but still requires adherence to regulatory guidelines.

To add an arm that studies a combination of Product B with a marketed product or investigates the use of investigational Products A and B together, the sponsor must submit an amendment to the Primary IND (IND A). This amendment should include the updated clinical protocol that incorporates the new arm's details.


Additionally, if any additional P/T information supports the new arm, the sponsor must submit it to the relevant IND(s). This ensures that the FDA and other regulatory authorities have a comprehensive understanding of the proposed changes and can assess the safety and efficacy implications.


3. Submitting Other Types of Changes or New Information:


Apart from adding arms to the clinical trial, sponsors may need to submit various other types of changes or new clinical information during the trial's course. For revisions to the umbrella trial clinical protocol that do not involve adding a new arm or other types of new clinical information, the sponsor should submit the revised protocol or new clinical information to the Primary IND (IND A). In such cases, there is no need to submit the information to the Secondary INDs, streamlining the process.


4. New Chemistry, Manufacturing, and Controls (CMC) or Pharmacology/Toxicology (P/T) Information:


As cellular and gene therapy products are continuously evolving, new CMC or P/T information may emerge during the trial's progress. To handle such changes efficiently:

  • Specific CMC or P/T information pertaining to a single product (e.g., Product B) should be submitted solely to the corresponding IND (IND B).

  • If the new information applies to multiple products (e.g., Products A and B), it should be submitted to each relevant IND (INDs A and B). Alternatively, the information can be submitted to IND A, cross-referenced by IND B, as previously mentioned.

  • In cases of new P/T information, the sponsor should also submit an updated investigator brochure to the Primary IND. This ensures that the investigational team, healthcare professionals, and patients have access to the most current and accurate information about the therapy.

5. Clinical Holds and Responses to Hold:


Clinical holds represent a crucial aspect of clinical trial oversight, enabling regulatory authorities to suspend a specific arm or the entire study if safety concerns arise. The process for responding to clinical holds involves coordination between Primary and Secondary INDs.

  • If only one arm is placed on hold (e.g., arm studying Product B), the Primary IND will be placed on partial hold, and the relevant Secondary IND will be placed on hold (or partial hold if appropriate). This measure is taken to protect patient safety while still allowing other arms to progress, if applicable.

  • In cases where the FDA issues an order placing the entire study on clinical hold (e.g., due to a safety issue affecting all product versions), all Primary and Secondary INDs would be placed on hold (or partial hold if appropriate) following 21 CFR 312.42(a) regulations.

  • Responding to a clinical hold requires the sponsor to submit a response to each IND that was placed on hold. However, detailed information responding to each hold comment does not need to be submitted to multiple INDs to avoid redundancy.

  • For example, if the Primary IND was placed on partial hold due to CMC concerns with a product in a Secondary IND, the sponsor should submit the CMC information responding to the hold comments directly to the Secondary IND. The response to hold for the Primary IND can then refer to the Secondary IND for detailed information, streamlining the communication process.

Cellular and gene therapy clinical trials hold tremendous potential for revolutionizing medical treatments, making it essential for sponsors to navigate the regulatory landscape skillfully. Adding arms and submitting changes or new information in these trials requires meticulous planning and adherence to FDA guidelines. Effective communication and coordination between Primary and Secondary INDs ensure that the clinical trial progresses smoothly while prioritizing patient safety and maintaining the integrity of the research.


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