The University of Birmingham, UK has launched a clinical trial that could lead to ground-breaking new ways to treat patients with two types of chronic liver disease including 1) Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC) or 2) Autoimmune Hepatitis (AIH). The English research center will recruit up to 56 patients as part of the MERLIN trial which is investigating the safety and efficacy of new cellular immunotherapy in patients with PSC or AIH. Both diseases involve inflammation of the bile ducts, which can lead to major liver damage and many of those impacted find themselves in need of a liver transplant. Their present options are limited.
The new cell therapy being studied includes a single infusion of specially selected mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) which will be administered to participants. The first patient received the cells at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, which is run by University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.
Additional clinical centers at John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford and Queen’s Medical Center, Nottingham will open later this year. The study is planned to run till autumn 2020. Sponsored by the University of Birmingham, coordination comes from the Inflammation-Advanced and Cellular Therapy team at Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit (CRCTU) at the University of Birmingham. Trial funding has originated from the EU FP7 Project Merlin and NIHR Birmingham Biomedical Research Centre.
Phil Newsome, Professor