EU/3/07/508

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Orphan designation

On 30 November 2007, orphan designation (EU/3/07/508) was granted by the European Commission to Centocor, B.V., The Netherlands, for chimeric-anti-interleukin 6 monoclonal antibody for the treatment of Castleman’s disease.

Centocor B.V. changed its name to Janssen Biologisc B.V. in July 2011.

What is Castleman’s disease?

Castleman’s disease is a disorder of the lymphatic system (lymph nodes and lymphatic vessels, where, among other things, fluids and cells of the immune system circulate). In affected patients, for an unknown reason, cells in lymphoid tissue start proliferating causing primarily abnormally large lymph nodes, often with benign tumours. In a majority of cases, the disease is located to only one lymph node, but in some cases the disease is systemic (affects the entire body) and affects several lymph nodes as well as other organs in the body. Affected patients have an increased risk of infections, kidney failure and certain cancers. Castleman’s disease is chronically debilitating and life threatening, especially for patients with more than one affected lymph node.

What is the estimated number of patients affected by the condition?

At the time of designation, Castleman’s disease affected less than 1 in 10,000 people in the European Union (EU)*. This is equivalent to a total of fewer than 50,000 people, and is below the ceiling for orphan designation, which is 5 people in 10,000. This is based on the information provided by the sponsor and the knowledge of the Committee for Orphan Medicinal Products (COMP).


*Disclaimer: For the purpose of the designation, the number of patients affected by the condition is estimated and assessed based on data from the European Union (EU 27), Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein. This represents a population of 498,000,000 (Eurostat 2006). This estimate is based on available information and calculations presented by the sponsor at the time of the application.

What treatments are available?

There are no medicinal products authorised for the treatment of Castleman’s disease in the Community. In some mild cases of the disease, affected lymph nodes can be removed surgically. However, in most cases, only symptomatic treatment is available.

How is this medicine expected to work?

Chimeric-anti-interleukin 6 monoclonal antibody is a protein molecule designed to bind and neutralise a compound called interleukin 6 in the body. Interleukin 6 belongs to a family of compounds called cytokines, which mediate processes in the immune system. It has been shown that interleukin 6 itself promotes growth and survival of cells. It is thought that chimeric-anti-interleukin 6 monoclonal antibody will inhibit interleukin 6 from binding to its receptor on the lymphatic cells and thus inhibiting the excessive growth of these cells in affected patients.

What is the stage of development of this medicine?

The effects of Chimeric-anti-interleukin 6 monoclonal antibody were evaluated in experimental models.

At the time of submission of the application for orphan designation, clinical trials in patients with Castleman’s disease were ongoing.

Chimeric-anti-interleukin 6 monoclonal antibody was not authorised anywhere worldwide for the treatment of Castleman’s disease, at the time of submission.

In accordance with Regulation (EC) No 141/2000 of 16 December 1999, the COMP adopted a positive opinion on 10 October 2007 recommending the granting of this designation.

Opinions on orphan medicinal product designations are based on the following three criteria
  • the seriousness of the condition;
  • the existence of alternative methods of diagnosis, prevention or treatment;
  • either the rarity of the condition (affecting not more than 5 in 10,000 people in the EU) or insufficient returns on investment.

Designated orphan medicinal products are products that are still under investigation and are considered for orphan designation on the basis of potential activity. An orphan designation is not a marketing authorisation. As a consequence, demonstration of quality, safety and efficacy is necessary before a product can be granted a marketing authorisation

Key facts

Product details for <p>Chimeric anti-interleukin-6 monoclonal antibody</p>
Active substanceChimeric anti-interleukin-6 monoclonal antibody
Medicine Name
Disease/conditionTreatment of Castleman's disease
Date of decision29/11/2007
OutcomePositive
Orphan decision numberEU/3/07/508

Review of designation

Related information

Sponsor’s contact details

Janssen Biologisc B.V. 
Einsteinweg 101 
2333 CB Leiden 
The Netherlands 
Tel. +31 71 5242 227 
Fax +31 71 5242 493
E-mail: mbancsi@its.jnj.com

Patients’ associations contact points:

For contact details of patients’ organisations whose activities are targeted at rare diseases, see:

  • Orphanet, a database containing information on rare diseases which includes a directory of patients’ organisations registered in Europe.
  • European Organisation for Rare Diseases (EURORDIS), a non-governmental alliance of patient organisations and individuals active in the field of rare diseases.