Mol Genet Metab. 2024 Mar 18;142(1):108453. doi: 10.1016/j.ymgme.2024.108453. Online ahead of print.


Growing interest in therapeutic development for rare diseases necessitate a systematic approach to the collection and curation of natural history data that can be applied consistently across this group of heterogenous rare diseases. In this study, we discuss the challenges facing natural history studies for leukodystrophies and detail a novel standardized approach to creating a longitudinal natural history study using existing medical records. Prospective studies are uniquely challenging for rare diseases. Delays in diagnosis and overall rarity limit the timely collection of natural history data. When feasible, prospective studies are often cross-sectional rather than longitudinal and are unlikely to capture pre- or early- symptomatic disease trajectories, limiting their utility in characterizing the full natural history of the disease. Therapeutic development in leukodystrophies is subject to these same obstacles. The Global Leukodystrophy Initiative Clinical Trials Network (GLIA-CTN) comprises of a network of research institutions across the United States, supported by a multi-center biorepository protocol, to map the longitudinal clinical course of disease across leukodystrophies. As part of GLIA-CTN, we developed Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that delineated all study processes related to staff training, source documentation, and data sharing. Additionally, the SOP detailed the standardized approach to data extraction including diagnosis, clinical presentation, and medical events, such as age at gastrostomy tube placement. The key variables for extraction were selected through face validity, and common electronic case report forms (eCRF) across leukodystrophies were created to collect analyzable data. To enhance the depth of the data, clinical notes are extracted into “original” and “imputed” encounters, with imputed encounter referring to a historic event (e.g., loss of ambulation 3 months prior). Retrospective Functional Assessments were assigned by child neurologists, using a blinded dual-rater approach and score discrepancies were adjudicated by a third rater. Upon completion of extraction, data source verification is performed. Data missingness was evaluated using statistics. The proposed methodology will enable us to leverage existing medical records to address the persistent gap in natural history data within this unique disease group, allow for assessment of clinical trajectory both pre- and post-formal diagnosis, and promote recruitment of larger cohorts.

PMID:38522179 | DOI:10.1016/j.ymgme.2024.108453