Heart Gene Pioneer Patient Dies

NOV 2006 - In our March 2000 edition of the Voice, we published a letter from
Association member Ed Giers of Cocoa Beach, Florida who wanted to share his
experience with experimental heart gene therapy, hoping to give inspiration to

After a slew of bypasses, angioplasties and
catheterizations, Giers’ condition appeared hopeless. When his wife Ann saw an
article in Time,
describing the gene therapy program at St. Elizabeth’s Medical
Center in Boston,
Giers applied and was accepted in the program. Giers considered this to be a
“last resort.”

After four months of receiving genetically engineered DNA
injected directly into his heart he returned to Cocoa
Beach feeling like a new man. “I
have no more chest or jaw pain, which I used to have just walking to the mail
box. I feel alive again,” he said.

After learning of Giers’ death at age 84 this August, we
contacted Giers’ son Bill who also lives in Cocoa

“Dad died of a cardiac condition, but thanks to the heart
gene therapy, the quality of his life was greatly enhanced,” said Bill. “He and
my mother were able to enjoy seven years of an extended life that otherwise
would not have been possible.”

Program Cited by FDA

However, saying that researchers at St. Elizabeth’s violated
rules for the conduct of gene therapy experiments, the Food and Drug
Administration halted the program shortly after Giers’ treatment.

One of the violations cited by the FDA involved the
acceptance of a cancer patient into the program. The study involves an attempt
to grow new arteries to carry blood to the heart of cardiac patients and is
restricted to heart patients.

The FDA expressed concern that the gene therapy treatment
may have caused the patient’s lung tumor to grow. The program was also cited
for failure to notify the hospital review board of the death of a patient.

“Even though the program has been stopped, they want me to
come back and be examined and tested,” Giers said at the time. “It’s
unfortunate that problems have arisen… I still believe in the treatment. I know
what it has done for me and others who had no hope.”

The current status of heart gene therapy is
unknown, based upon our internet search on the subject. It had still been under
study in our most recent report. We would be interested to hear from any member
who has had experience with this subject.