What is a cure and how do we get there?
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The absence of adequate treatment for most of the world's 400 000 individuals with haemophilia makes the development of a cure compelling. Advances in the basic molecular sciences over the past 20 years have resulted in the feasibility of curing haemophilia through the application of gene therapy. However, the reality of this therapeutic strategy is highly complex. In addition, challenges to achieving a cure exist beyond the basic scientific hurdles. Thoughtful attention must also be given to a number of interrelated issues, including ethical considerations in patient recruitment, informed consent and geographical variables of global clinical trials. The global inequalities in healthcare mean that the ethics of international medical research, especially when it includes countries where people usually do not receive quality care, become much more complicated. The majority of haemophiliacs lives in developing countries and is a valuable resource of human subjects who could be enrolled in clinical trials. When recruiting subjects globally, investigators must be ever mindful that the patient population is a precious resource, which must be treated with respect and care. This presents a major challenge for investigators engaged in trials of haemophilia gene therapy to ensure that the informed consent process is current and comprehensive, that therapeutic misconceptions are appropriately managed, and that the roles of the researcher and physician are clear. Global clinical gene-therapy trials are an important and appropriate component in the quest to achieve a cure for haemophilia. When trials follow identical internationally accepted standards, a successful outcome can be achieved for trials including developing countries, if country specific cultural and economic aspects are considered.
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