The blog "Treating achondroplasia" turned nine years old this year. When I started to write the articles for the blog the landscape was completely different: there was really nothing in the horizon towards therapeutic strategies for achondroplasia. Individuals with achondroplasia could only - and, as matter of fact, this is still true today - rely on surgical procedures to correct or improve skeletal problems which come with the typical bone growth impairment caused by the overactive fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 (FGFR3) mutation. Infants with foramen magnum stenosis, children with bowed legs, teens and adults with spinal stenosis sometimes must undergo several surgical interventions to control these and other common neurological and orthopedic complications seen in achondroplasia.
However, things are changing. There are now several potential pharmacological therapies in several stages of development as you can see in the last article published in January in the blog. One of them, vosoritide, is in the last sprint towards approval by two of the most important world regulatory agencies, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Others still have to prove their safety and efficacy in clinical trials and most of them should reach the stage where vosoritide is now. If vosoritide data provided by the developer to EMA and FDA is sound and reliable it is expected that it will be approved and made available next year. This will become a turning point.
Achondroplasia is a genetic disorder of bone development, meaning that the effects of the mutation in FGFR3 are restricted to the life interval when bones grow. FGFR3 is a natural inhibitor of the bone growth process and, because of the mutation, in achondroplasia it is working too much leading to growth arrest.The end of puberty also represents the end of the bone development process. Unfortunately, because of this, adult individuals would have no benefits in receiving a therapy against FGFR3, at least with the intent of achieving bone growth.
Therapies for achondroplasia will benefit children and teenagers and it is expected that the earlier they start a therapy the better would be the outcomes, although this expectation still needs to be confirmed with data coming from the studies in younger children currently ongoing.
Why is important to start the therapy early? Because it is during the first two years of life (and specially during the first year) that children experiment their highest growth velocity rate. Of course, achondroplasia is already identifiable before birth but it is unlikely that a pharmacological intervention so early in life will be available soon. It is during the first two years of life that most of the clinical features of achondroplasia will be established so, if a therapy can be initiated early, it might more efficiently reduce or mitigate those features, which in turn might prevent the common complications I mentioned above.
The Treating Achondroplasia blog is active and I will keep publishing updates as relevant information is released. I really hope that the blog is helping the interested reader to better understand achondroplasia, FGFR3 and what to expect with the new therapies. See you soon. ;)