Topical cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator gene replacement for cystic fibrosis-related lung disease

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Jun 17;2016(6):CD005599. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD005599.pub5.


Background: Cystic fibrosis is caused by a defective gene encoding a protein called the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR), and is characterised by chronic lung infection resulting in inflammation and progressive lung damage that results in a reduced life expectancy.

Objectives: To determine whether topical CFTR gene replacement therapy to the lungs in people with cystic fibrosis is associated with improvements in clinical outcomes, and to assess any adverse effects.

Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Cystic Fibrosis and Genetic Disorders Group Trials Register comprising references identified from comprehensive electronic database searches, handsearching relevant journals and abstract books of conference proceedings.Date of most recent search: 05 May 2016.An additional search of the National Institutes for Health (NIH) Genetic Modification Clinical Research Information System (GeMCRIS) was also performed for the years 1992 to 2015.Date of most recent search: 20 April 2016.

Selection criteria: Randomised controlled studies comparing topical CFTR gene delivery to the lung, using either viral or non-viral delivery systems, with placebo or an alternative delivery system in people with confirmed cystic fibrosis.

Data collection and analysis: The authors independently extracted data and assessed study quality. Authors of included studies were contacted and asked for any available additional data. Meta-analysis was limited due to differing study designs.

Main results: Four randomised controlled studies met the inclusion criteria for this review, involving a total of 302 participants lasting from 29 days to 13 months; 14 studies were excluded. The included studies differed in terms of CFTR gene replacement agent and study design, which limited the meta-analysis. One study only enrolled adult males, the remaining studies included both males and females aged 12 years and over.Risk of bias in the studies was moderate. Random sequence generation and allocation concealment was only described in the more recent study; the remaining three studies were judged to have an unclear risk of bias. All four studies documented double-blinding to the intervention, but there is some uncertainty with regards to participant blinding in one study. Some outcome data were missing from all four studies.There were no differences in either the number of respiratory exacerbations or the number of participants with an exacerbation between replacement therapy or placebo groups at any time point. Meta-analysis of most respiratory function tests showed no difference between treatment and placebo groups, but the smallest study (n = 16) reported forced vital capacity (litres) increased more in the placebo group at up to 24 hours. A further study reported a significant improvement in forced expiratory volume at one second (litres) at 30 days after participants had received their first dose of favouring the gene therapy agent, but this finding was not confirmed when combined with at second study in the meta-analysis. The more recent study (n = 140) demonstrated a small improvement in forced vital capacity (per cent predicted) at two and three months and again at 11 and 12 months for participants receiving CFTR gene replacement therapy compared to those receiving placebo. The same study reported a significant difference in the relative change in forced expiratory volume at one second (per cent predicted) at two months, three months and 12 months.One small study reported significant concerns with "influenza-like" symptoms in participants treated with CFTR gene replacement therapy; this was not reported on repeated use of the same agent in a larger recent study.There was no other evidence of positive impact on outcomes, in particular improved quality of life or reduced treatment burden.Two studies measured ion transport in the lower airways; one (n = 16) demonstrated significant changes toward normal values in the participants who received gene transfer agents (P < 0.0001), mean difference 6.86 (95% confidence interval 3.77 to 9.95). The second study (n = 140) also reported significant changes toward normal values (P = 0.032); however, aggregate data were not available for analysis. In the most recent study, there was also evidence of increased salt transport in cells obtained by brushing the lower airway. These outcomes, whilst important, are not of direct clinical relevance.

Authors' conclusions: One study of liposome-based CFTR gene transfer therapy demonstrated some improvements in respiratory function in people with CF, but this limited evidence of efficacy does not support this treatment as a routine therapy at present. There was no evidence of efficacy for viral-mediated gene delivery.Future studies need to investigate clinically important outcome measures.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cystic Fibrosis / genetics
  • Cystic Fibrosis / therapy*
  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator / genetics*
  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Gene Transfer Techniques
  • Genetic Therapy / adverse effects
  • Genetic Therapy / methods
  • Humans
  • Liposomes
  • Male
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Targeted Gene Repair / adverse effects
  • Targeted Gene Repair / methods*


  • Liposomes
  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator