Publications by authors named "Merit E Cudkowicz"

116 Publications

A Phase 1 study of GDC-0134, a dual leucine zipper kinase inhibitor, in ALS.

Ann Clin Transl Neurol 2022 Jan 10. Epub 2022 Jan 10.

Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

Objective: Dual leucine zipper kinase (DLK), which regulates the c-Jun N-terminal kinase pathway involved in axon degeneration and apoptosis following neuronal injury, is a potential therapeutic target in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This first-in-human study investigated safety, tolerability, and pharmacokinetics (PK) of oral GDC-0134, a small-molecule DLK inhibitor. Plasma neurofilament light chain (NFL) levels were explored in GDC-0134-treated ALS patients and DLK conditional knockout (cKO) mice.

Methods: The study included placebo-controlled, single and multiple ascending-dose (SAD; MAD) stages, and an open-label safety expansion (OLE) with adaptive dosing for up to 48 weeks.

Results: Forty-nine patients were enrolled. GDC-0134 (up to 1200 mg daily) was well tolerated in the SAD and MAD stages, with no serious adverse events (SAEs). In the OLE, three study drug-related SAEs occurred: thrombocytopenia, dysesthesia (both Grade 3), and optic ischemic neuropathy (Grade 4); Grade ≤2 sensory neurological AEs led to dose reductions/discontinuations. GDC-0134 exposure was dose-proportional (median half-life = 84 h). Patients showed GDC-0134 exposure-dependent plasma NFL elevations; DLK cKO mice also exhibited plasma NFL compared to wild-type littermates.

Interpretation: This trial characterized GDC-0134 safety and PK, but no adequately tolerated dose was identified. NFL elevations in GDC-0134-treated patients and DLK cKO mice raised questions about interpretation of biomarkers affected by both disease and on-target drug effects. The safety profile of GDC-0134 was considered unacceptable and led to discontinuation of further drug development for ALS. Further work is necessary to understand relationships between neuroprotective and potentially therapeutic effects of DLK knockout/inhibition and NFL changes in patients with ALS.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/acn3.51491DOI Listing
January 2022

Adaptive Platform Trials to Transform Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Therapy Development.

Ann Neurol 2021 Dec 21. Epub 2021 Dec 21.

Sean M. Healey & AMG Center for ALS and Neurological Clinical Research Institute, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.

Current therapeutic development in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) relies on individual randomized clinical trials to test a specific investigational product in a single patient population. This approach has intrinsic limitations, including cost, time, and lack of flexibility. Adaptive platform trials represent a novel approach to investigate several interventions for a single disease in a continuous manner. Already in use in oncology, this approach is now being employed more often in neurology. Here, we describe a newly launched platform trial for ALS. The Healey ALS Platform Trial is testing multiple investigational products concurrently in people with ALS, with the goal of rapidly identifying novel treatments, biomarkers, and trial endpoints. ANN NEUROL 2022.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ana.26285DOI Listing
December 2021

A randomized placebo-controlled phase 3 study of mesenchymal stem cells induced to secrete high levels of neurotrophic factors in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Muscle Nerve 2021 Dec 10. Epub 2021 Dec 10.

Neurology Department, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.

Introduction/aims: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative illness with great unmet patient need. We aimed to evaluate whether mesenchymal stem cells induced to secrete high levels of neurotrophic factors (MSC-NTF), a novel autologous cell-therapy capable of targeting multiple pathways, could safely slow ALS disease progression.

Methods: This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study enrolled ALS participants meeting revised El Escorial criteria, revised ALS Functional Rating Scale (ALSFRS-R) ≥25 (screening) and ≥3 ALSFRS-R points decline prior to randomization. Participants received three treatments of MSC-NTF or placebo intrathecally. The primary endpoint evaluated efficacy of MSC-NTF through a responder analysis and safety. A change in disease progression post-treatment of ≥1.25 points/mo defines a clinical response. A pre-specified analysis leveraged baseline ALSFRS-R of 35 as a subgroup threshold.

Results: Overall, MSC-NTF treatment was well tolerated; there were no safety concerns. Thirty-three percent of MSC-NTF and 28% of placebo participants met clinical response criteria at 28 wk (odds ratio [OR] = 1.33, P = .45); thus, the primary endpoint was not met. A pre-specified analysis of participants with baseline ALSFRS-R ≥ 35 (n = 58) showed a clinical response rate at 28 wk of 35% MSC-NTF and 16% placebo (OR = 2.6, P = .29). Significant improvements in cerebrospinal biomarkers of neuroinflammation, neurodegeneration, and neurotrophic factor support were observed with MSC-NTF, with placebo unchanged.

Discussion: The study did not reach statistical significance on the primary endpoint. However, a pre-specified subgroup suggests that MSC-NTF participants with less severe disease may have retained more function compared to placebo. Given the unmet patient need, the results of this trial warrant further investigation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/mus.27472DOI Listing
December 2021

Phase 2 Trial of Rituximab in Acetylcholine Receptor Antibody-Positive Generalized Myasthenia Gravis: The BeatMG Study.

Neurology 2021 Dec 2. Epub 2021 Dec 2.

Department of Neurology, Kansas University School of Medicine, Kansas City, KS.

Objective: To determine whether rituximab is safe and potentially beneficial, warranting further investigation in an efficacy trial for acetylcholine receptor antibody-positive generalized MG (AChR-Ab+ gMG).

Methods: The B-Cell Targeted Treatment in MG (BeatMG) study was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter phase-2 trial that utilized a futility design. Individuals 21-90 years of age, with AChR-Ab+ gMG (MG Foundation of America Class II-IV) and receiving prednisone ≥15 mg/day were eligible. The primary outcome was a measure of steroid-sparing effect, defined as the proportion achieving ≥75% reduction in mean daily prednisone dose in the 4-weeks prior to week 52 with clinical improvement or no significant worsening as compared to the 4-week period prior to randomization. The co-primary outcome was safety. Secondary outcomes included MG-specific clinical assessments. Fifty-two individuals were randomized (1:1) to either a two-cycle rituximab/placebo regimen, with follow-up through 52-weeks.

Results: Of the 52 participants included, mean (±SD) age at enrollment was 55.1 (±17.1) years; 23 (44.2%) were female, and 31 (59.6%) were MGFA Class II. The mean (±SD) baseline prednisone dose was 22.1 (±9.7) mg/day. The primary steroid-sparing outcome was achieved in 60% of those on rituximab vs. 56% on placebo. The study reached its futility endpoint (p=0.03) suggesting that the pre-defined clinically meaningful improvement of 30% due to rituximab over placebo was unlikely to be achieved in a subsequent, larger trial. No safety issues identified.

Conclusions: While rituximab was safe and well-tolerated, these results suggest that there is a low probability of observing the defined clinically meaningful steroid-sparing effect over a 12-month period in a phase-3 trial of mild-moderately symptomatic AChR-Ab+ gMG.

Classification Of Evidence: This study provides Class I evidence that for mild-to-moderate AChR-Ab+ gMG, compared with placebo, rituximab is safe but unlikely to reduce steroid use by an absolute difference of at least 30% at 1 year.

Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02110706.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1212/WNL.0000000000013121DOI Listing
December 2021

Novel genetic variants in MAPT and alterations in tau phosphorylation in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis post-mortem motor cortex and cerebrospinal fluid.

Brain Pathol 2021 Nov 14:e13035. Epub 2021 Nov 14.

Sean M. Healey & AMG Center for ALS at Mass General, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Although the molecular mechanisms underlying amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are not yet fully understood, several studies report alterations in tau phosphorylation in both sporadic and familial ALS. Recently, we have demonstrated that phosphorylated tau at S396 (pTau-S396) is mislocalized to synapses in ALS motor cortex (mCTX) and contributes to mitochondrial dysfunction. Here, we demonstrate that while there was no overall increase in total tau, pTau-S396, and pTau-S404 in ALS post-mortem mCTX, total tau and pTau-S396 were increased in C9ORF72-ALS. Additionally, there was a significant decrease in pTau-T181 in ALS mCTX compared controls. Furthermore, we leveraged the ALS Knowledge Portal and Project MinE data sets and identified ALS-specific genetic variants across MAPT, the gene encoding tau. Lastly, assessment of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples revealed a significant increase in total tau levels in bulbar-onset ALS together with a decrease in CSF pTau-T181:tau ratio in all ALS samples, as reported previously. While increases in CSF tau levels correlated with a faster disease progression as measured by the revised ALS functional rating scale (ALSFRS-R), decreases in CSF pTau-T181:tau ratio correlated with a slower disease progression, suggesting that CSF total tau and pTau-T181 ratio may serve as biomarkers of disease in ALS. Our findings highlight the potential role of pTau-T181 in ALS, as decreases in CSF pTau-T181:tau ratio may reflect the significant decrease in pTau-T181 in post-mortem mCTX. Taken together, these results indicate that tau phosphorylation is altered in ALS post-mortem mCTX as well as in CSF and, importantly, the newly described pathogenic or likely pathogenic variants identified in MAPT in this study are adjacent to T181 and S396 phosphorylation sites further highlighting the potential role of these tau functional domains in ALS.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bpa.13035DOI Listing
November 2021

Targeting Tau Mitigates Mitochondrial Fragmentation and Oxidative Stress in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

Mol Neurobiol 2022 Jan 10;59(1):683-702. Epub 2021 Nov 10.

Sean M. Healey & AMG Center for ALS at Mass General, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, 02129, USA.

Understanding the mechanisms underlying amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is crucial for the development of new therapies. Previous studies have demonstrated that mitochondrial dysfunction is a key pathogenetic event in ALS. Interestingly, studies in Alzheimer's disease (AD) post-mortem brain and animal models link alterations in mitochondrial function to interactions between hyperphosphorylated tau and dynamin-related protein 1 (DRP1), the GTPase involved in mitochondrial fission. Recent evidence suggest that tau may be involved in ALS pathogenesis, therefore, we sought to determine whether hyperphosphorylated tau may lead to mitochondrial fragmentation and dysfunction in ALS and whether reducing tau may provide a novel therapeutic approach. Our findings demonstrated that pTau-S396 is mis-localized to synapses in post-mortem motor cortex (mCTX) across ALS subtypes. Additionally, the treatment with ALS synaptoneurosomes (SNs), enriched in pTau-S396, increased oxidative stress, induced mitochondrial fragmentation, and altered mitochondrial connectivity without affecting cell survival in vitro. Furthermore, pTau-S396 interacted with DRP1, and similar to pTau-S396, DRP1 accumulated in SNs across ALS subtypes, suggesting increases in mitochondrial fragmentation in ALS. As previously reported, electron microscopy revealed a significant decrease in mitochondria density and length in ALS mCTX. Lastly, reducing tau levels with QC-01-175, a selective tau degrader, prevented ALS SNs-induced mitochondrial fragmentation and oxidative stress in vitro. Collectively, our findings suggest that increases in pTau-S396 may lead to mitochondrial fragmentation and oxidative stress in ALS and decreasing tau may provide a novel strategy to mitigate mitochondrial dysfunction in ALS. pTau-S396 mis-localizes to synapses in ALS. ALS synaptoneurosomes (SNs), enriched in pTau-S396, increase oxidative stress and induce mitochondrial fragmentation in vitro. pTau-S396 interacts with the pro-fission GTPase DRP1 in ALS. Reducing tau with a selective degrader, QC-01-175, mitigates ALS SNs-induced mitochondrial fragmentation and increases in oxidative stress in vitro.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12035-021-02557-wDOI Listing
January 2022

Medical therapies for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-related respiratory decline: an appraisal of needs, opportunities and obstacles.

Amyotroph Lateral Scler Frontotemporal Degener 2021 Aug 14:1-10. Epub 2021 Aug 14.

Neurological Institute of New York, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA.

A roundtable convened in July 2020 examined issues concerning respiratory support in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), with reference to the potential for an early-phase orally administered medication that might either postpone the introduction of noninvasive ventilation (NIV) and/or enhance the benefits to be gained from it. Attention was also given to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on usual practice in the assessment and management of ALS-related respiratory difficulties. Implementation of NIV marks a step-change in clinical status for patients and a major increase in burden for caregivers. All means to ease this transition should be explored: an oral therapy that supported respiratory function and patients' independence and sense of well-being would aid discussions to facilitate the eventual successful introduction of NIV. Assessment of a candidate oral therapy that might support respiratory function in ALS patients would be aided by the development of improved patient-reported outcome measures for robust quantification of treatment effect and quality of life. Such instruments could also be used to monitor patients' status during the COVID-19 pandemic, averting some of the risks of face-to-face assessment plus the patient burden and costs of traditional methods. Several oral candidate therapies have recently failed to meet their primary endpoints in clinical trials. However, understanding of the underlying physiology and appropriate trial design have grown and will inform future developments in this field.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21678421.2021.1920981DOI Listing
August 2021

Tocilizumab is safe and tolerable and reduces C-reactive protein concentrations in the plasma and cerebrospinal fluid of ALS patients.

Muscle Nerve 2021 09 24;64(3):309-320. Epub 2021 Jun 24.

Department of Neurology, Gregory W. Fulton ALS and Neuromuscular Disease Center, Barrow Neurological Institute, St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, Phoenix, Arizona, USA.

Introduction/aims: We tested safety, tolerability, and target engagement of tocilizumab in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients.

Methods: Twenty-two participants, whose peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) gene expression profile reflected high messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) expression of inflammatory markers, were randomized 2:1 to three tocilizumab or placebo treatments (weeks 0, 4, and 8; 8 mg/kg intravenous). Participants were followed every 4 wk in a double-blind fashion for 16 wk and assessed for safety, tolerability, plasma inflammatory markers, and clinical measures. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) was collected at baseline and after the third treatment. Participants were genotyped for Asp Ala polymorphism of the interleukin 6 receptor (IL-6R) gene.

Results: Baseline characteristics, safety, and tolerability were similar between treatment groups. One serious adverse event was reported in the placebo group; no deaths occurred. Mean plasma C-reactive protein (CRP) level decreased by 88% in the tocilizumab group and increased by 4% in the placebo group (-3.0-fold relative change, P < .001). CSF CRP reduction (-1.8-fold relative change, P = .01) was associated with IL-6R C allele count. No differences in PBMC gene expression or clinical measures were observed between groups.

Discussion: Tocilizumab treatment was safe and well tolerated. PBMC gene expression profile was inadequate as a predictive or pharmacodynamic biomarker. Treatment reduced CRP levels in plasma and CSF, with CSF effects potentially dependent on IL-6R Asp Ala genotype. IL-6 trans-signaling may mediate a distinct central nervous system response in individuals inheriting the IL-6R C allele. These results warrant further study in ALS patients where IL-6R genotype and CRP levels may be useful enrichment biomarkers.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/mus.27339DOI Listing
September 2021

Ibudilast (MN-166) in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis- an open label, safety and pharmacodynamic trial.

Neuroimage Clin 2021 15;30:102672. Epub 2021 Apr 15.

Sean M Healey & AMG Center for ALS, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.

Ibudilast (MN-166) is an inhibitor of macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) and phosphodiesterases 3,4,10 and 11 (Gibson et al., 2006; Cho et al., 2010). Ibudilast attenuates CNS microglial activation and secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines (Fujimoto et al., 1999; Cho et al., 2010). In vitro evidence suggests that ibudilast is neuroprotective by suppressing neuronal cell death induced by microglial activation. People with ALS have increased microglial activation measured by [C]PBR28-PET in the motor cortices. The primary objective is to determine the impact of ibudilast on reducing glial activation and neuroaxonal loss in ALS, measured by PBR28-PET and serum Neurofilament light (NfL). The secondary objectives included determining safety and tolerability of ibudilast high dosage (up to 100 mg/day) over 36 weeks. In this open label trial, 35 eligible ALS participants underwent ibudilast treatment up to 100 mg/day for 36 weeks. Of these, 30 participants were enrolled in the main study cohort and were included in biomarker, safety and tolerability analyses. Five additional participants were enrolled in the expanded access arm, who did not meet imaging eligibility criteria and were included in the safety and tolerability analyses. The primary endpoints were median change from baseline in (a) PBR28-PET uptake in primary motor cortices, measured by standard uptake value ratio (SUVR) over 12-24 weeks and (b) serum NfL over 36-40 weeks. The secondary safety and tolerability endpoints were collected through Week 40. The baseline median (range) of PBR28-PET SUVR was 1.033 (0.847, 1.170) and NfL was 60.3 (33.1, 219.3) pg/ml. Participants who completed both pre and post-treatment scans had PBR28-PET SUVR median(range) change from baseline of 0.002 (-0.184, 0.156) , P = 0.5 (n = 22). The median(range) NfL change from baseline was 0.4 pg/ml (-1.8, 17.5), P = 0.2 (n = 10 participants). 30(86%) participants experienced at least one, possibly study drug related adverse event. 13(37%) participants could not tolerate 100 mg/day and underwent dose reduction to 60-80 mg/day and 11(31%) participants discontinued study drug early due to drug related adverse events. The study concludes that following treatment with ibudilast up to 100 mg/day in ALS participants, there were no significant reductions in (a) motor cortical glial activation measured by PBR28-PET SUVR over 12-24 weeks or (b) CNS neuroaxonal loss, measured by serum NfL over 36-40 weeks. Dose reductions and discontinuations due to treatment emergent adverse events were common at this dosage in ALS participants. Future pharmacokinetic and dose-finding studies of ibudilast would help better understand tolerability and target engagement in ALS.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nicl.2021.102672DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8102622PMC
July 2021

Noninvasive ventilation use by patients enrolled in VITALITY-ALS.

Amyotroph Lateral Scler Frontotemporal Degener 2021 11 1;22(7-8):486-494. Epub 2021 Apr 1.

St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Cente, Barrow Neurological Institute, Phoenix, AZ, USA.

To evaluate the prescribing practices of noninvasive ventilation (NIV) and patient compliance during VITALITY-ALS. VITALITY-ALS enrolled patients with a slow vital capacity (SVC) ≥70% of predicted who were not using NIV at screening. Physicians prescribed NIV without restriction following randomization. Reason(s) for NIV prescription, dates prescribed and initiated, and compliance were recorded. Compliance was recorded as prescribed but never initiated, used ≥2 h/24 h, used ≥4 h/24 h, or used ≥22 h/24 h. In addition to other outcome measures, SVC and the revised ALS functional rating scale (ALSFRS-R) were performed at all visits. Patients were followed up to 56 weeks. 565 patients were randomized and dosed with placebo or in VITALITY-ALS; 195 (34.5%) were prescribed NIV: of these, 78.5% used it for ≥2 h/24 h, 71.3% for ≥4 h/24 h, and 11.8% for ≥22 h/24 h. The three most common reasons NIV was prescribed were decline in vital capacity, respiratory symptoms, and sleep-related symptoms. During the trial, 179/565 (31.7%) patients had a decline of SVC below 50%; of these patients, 122/179 (68.2%) were prescribed NIV. Reasons for prescribing NIV were different for patients from North America compared with Europe. Despite allowing for NIV initiation at any point following randomization in VITALITY-ALS, only slightly more than two out of three patients whose SVC fell below 50% were prescribed NIV; this was similar in Europe and in North America. Underutilization of NIV could influence survival outcomes in patients with ALS including those involved in clinical trials.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21678421.2021.1904993DOI Listing
November 2021

Regional prefrontal cortical atrophy predicts specific cognitive-behavioral symptoms in ALS-FTD.

Brain Imaging Behav 2021 Oct 15;15(5):2540-2551. Epub 2021 Feb 15.

Frontotemporal Disorders Unit, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, 55 Fruit Street, Boston, MA, 02114, USA.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis-Frontotemporal Dementia (ALS-FTD) may present typical behavioral variant FTD symptoms. This study aims to determine whether profile and severity of cognitive-behavioral symptoms in ALS/ALS-FTD are predicted by regional cortical atrophy. The hypothesis is that executive dysfunction can be predicted by dorsolateral prefrontal cortical (dlPFC) atrophy, apathy by dorsomedial PFC (dmPFC) and anterior cingulate cortical (ACC) atrophy, disinhibition by orbitofrontal cortical (OFC) atrophy. 3.0 Tesla MRI scans were acquired from 22 people with ALS or ALS-FTD. Quantitative cortical thickness analysis was performed with FreeSurfer. A priori-defined regions of interest (ROI) were used to measure cortical thickness in each participant and calculate magnitude of atrophy in comparison to 115 healthy controls. Spearman correlations were used to evaluate associations between frontal ROI cortical thickness and cognitive-behavioral symptoms, measured by Neuropsychiatric Inventory Questionnaire (NPI-Q) and Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) scale. ALS-FTD participants exhibited variable degrees of apathy (NPI-Q/apathy: 1.6 ± 1.2), disinhibition (NPI-Q/disinhibition: 1.2 ± 1.2), executive dysfunction (CDR/judgment-problem solving: 1.7 ± 0.8). Within the ALS-FTD group, executive dysfunction correlated with dlPFC atrophy (ρ:-0.65;p < 0.05); similar trends were seen for apathy with ACC (ρ:-0.53;p < 0.10) and dmPFC (ρ:-0.47;p < 0.10) atrophy, for disinhibition with OFC atrophy (ρ:-0.51;p < 0.10). Compared to people with ALS, those with ALS-FTD showed more diffuse atrophy involving precentral gyrus, prefrontal, temporal regions. Profile and severity of cognitive-behavioral symptoms in ALS-FTD are predicted by regional prefrontal atrophy. These findings are consistent with established brain-behavior models and support the role of quantitative MRI in diagnosis, management, counseling, monitoring and prognostication for a neurodegenerative disorder with diverse phenotypes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11682-021-00456-1DOI Listing
October 2021

Effects of mexiletine on hyperexcitability in sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: Preliminary findings from a small phase II randomized controlled trial.

Muscle Nerve 2021 03 31;63(3):371-383. Epub 2020 Dec 31.

Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Background: To collect preliminary data on the effects of mexiletine on cortical and axonal hyperexcitability in sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in a phase 2 double-blind randomized controlled trial.

Methods: Twenty ALS subjects were randomized to placebo and mexiletine 300 or 600 mg daily for 4 wk and assessed by transcranial magnetic stimulation and axonal excitability studies. The primary endpoint was change in resting motor threshold (RMT).

Results: RMT was unchanged with 4 wk of mexiletine (combined active therapies) as compared to placebo, which showed a significant increase (P = .039). Reductions of motor evoked potential (MEP) amplitude (P = .013) and accommodation half-time (P = .002), secondary outcome measures of cortical and axonal excitability, respectively, were also evident at 4 wk on mexiletine.

Conclusions: The relative stabilization of RMT in the treated subjects was unexpected and could be attributed to unaccounted sources of error or chance. However, a possible alternative cause is neuromodulation preventing an increase. The change in MEP amplitude and accommodation half-time supports the reduction of cortical and axonal hyperexcitability with mexiletine.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/mus.27146DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8513796PMC
March 2021

Sodium Phenylbutyrate-Taurursodiol for ALS. Reply.

N Engl J Med 2020 12;383(23):2294

Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1056/NEJMc2030710DOI Listing
December 2020

Effect of Ezogabine on Cortical and Spinal Motor Neuron Excitability in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: A Randomized Clinical Trial.

JAMA Neurol 2021 02;78(2):186-196

Department of Neurology, University of California Irvine, Irvine.

Importance: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease of the motor nervous system. Clinical studies have demonstrated cortical and spinal motor neuron hyperexcitability using transcranial magnetic stimulation and threshold tracking nerve conduction studies, respectively, although metrics of excitability have not been used as pharmacodynamic biomarkers in multi-site clinical trials.

Objective: To ascertain whether ezogabine decreases cortical and spinal motor neuron excitability in ALS.

Design, Setting, And Participants: This double-blind, placebo-controlled phase 2 randomized clinical trial sought consent from eligible participants from November 3, 2015, to November 9, 2017, and was conducted at 12 US sites within the Northeast ALS Consortium. Participants were randomized in equal numbers to a higher or lower dose of ezogabine or to an identical matched placebo, and they completed in-person visits at screening, baseline, week 6, and week 8 for clinical assessment and neurophysiological measurements.

Interventions: Participants were randomized to receive 600 mg/d or 900 mg/d of ezogabine or a matched placebo for 10 weeks.

Main Outcomes And Measures: The primary outcome was change in short-interval intracortical inhibition (SICI; SICI-1 was used in analysis to reflect stronger inhibition from an increase in amplitude) from pretreatment mean at screening and baseline to the full-dose treatment mean at weeks 6 and 8. The secondary outcomes included levels of cortical motor neuron excitability (including resting motor threshold) measured by transcranial magnetic stimulation and spinal motor neuron excitability (including strength-duration time constant) measured by threshold tracking nerve conduction studies.

Results: A total of 65 participants were randomized to placebo (23), 600 mg/d of ezogabine (23), and 900 mg/d of ezogabine (19 participants); 45 were men (69.2%) and the mean (SD) age was 58.3 (8.8) years. The SICI-1 increased by 53% (mean ratio, 1.53; 95% CI, 1.12-2.09; P = .009) in the 900-mg/d ezogabine group vs placebo group. The SICI-1 did not change in the 600-mg/d ezogabine group vs placebo group (mean ratio, 1.15; 95% CI, 0.87-1.52; P = .31). The resting motor threshold increased in the 600-mg/d ezogabine group vs placebo group (mean ratio, 4.61; 95% CI, 0.21-9.01; P = .04) but not in the 900-mg/d ezogabine group vs placebo group (mean ratio, 1.95; 95% CI, -2.64 to 6.54; P = .40). Ezogabine caused a dose-dependent decrease in excitability by several other metrics, including strength-duration time constant in the 900-mg/d ezogabine group vs placebo group (mean ratio, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.60 to 0.87; P < .001).

Conclusions And Relevance: Ezogabine decreased cortical and spinal motor neuron excitability in participants with ALS, suggesting that such neurophysiological metrics may be used as pharmacodynamic biomarkers in multisite clinical trials.

Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02450552.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamaneurol.2020.4300DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7684515PMC
February 2021

Long-term survival of participants in the CENTAUR trial of sodium phenylbutyrate-taurursodiol in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Muscle Nerve 2021 01 30;63(1):31-39. Epub 2020 Oct 30.

Department of Neurology, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, Iowa City, Iowa.

An orally administered, fixed-dose coformulation of sodium phenylbutyrate-taurursodiol (PB-TURSO) significantly slowed functional decline in a randomized, placebo-controlled, phase 2 trial in ALS (CENTAUR). Herein we report results of a long-term survival analysis of participants in CENTAUR. In CENTAUR, adults with ALS were randomized 2:1 to PB-TURSO or placebo. Participants completing the 6-month (24-week) randomized phase were eligible to receive PB-TURSO in the open-label extension. An all-cause mortality analysis (35-month maximum follow-up post-randomization) incorporated all randomized participants. Participants and site investigators were blinded to treatment assignments through the duration of follow-up of this analysis. Vital status was obtained for 135 of 137 participants originally randomized in CENTAUR. Median overall survival was 25.0 months among participants originally randomized to PB-TURSO and 18.5 months among those originally randomized to placebo (hazard ratio, 0.56; 95% confidence interval, 0.34-0.92; P = .023). Initiation of PB-TURSO treatment at baseline resulted in a 6.5-month longer median survival as compared with placebo. Combined with results from CENTAUR, these results suggest that PB-TURSO has both functional and survival benefits in ALS.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/mus.27091DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7820979PMC
January 2021

Trial of Sodium Phenylbutyrate-Taurursodiol for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

N Engl J Med 2020 09;383(10):919-930

From the Sean M. Healey and AMG Center for ALS and the Neurological Clinical Research Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School (S.P., J.D.B., S.B., M.C., D.D., M.M., J.O., L.P., A.V.S., E.T., P.V., J. Walker, H.Y., R.E.T., M.E.C.), the Biostatistics Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School (E.A.M., J. Chan, D.S.), and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Harvard Medical School (S.P.), Boston, the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center, Worcester (M.A.O.), and Amylyx Pharmaceuticals (J. Cohen, J. Klee, K.L., P.D.Y.) and Harvard University (W.G.), Cambridge - all in Massachusetts; Pentara, Millcreek, UT (S.H., S.P.D., N.E., K.H.); Swedish Neuroscience Institute, Seattle (M.A.E.); Hennepin Healthcare, Minneapolis (S.M.); the Department of Neurology, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland (C.K.); the Department of Neurology, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC (J.B.C.); the Department of Neurology, Ohio State University College of Medicine, Columbus (A.Q.); the Department of Neurology, University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville (J. Wymer); the Department of Neurology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (S.A.G.); Texas Neurology, Dallas (D.H.); the Department of Neurology, Lewis Katz School of Medicine, Temple University (T.H.-P.), and the Department of Neurology, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine (C.Q.) - both in Philadelphia; Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer's and Neurodegenerative Disease, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, San Antonio (C.E.J.); the Brain Science Institute and Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore (J.D.R.); the Department of Neurology, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, Lexington (E.J.K.); California Pacific Medical Center and Forbes Norris MDA-ALS Research and Treatment Center, San Francisco (J. Katz, L.J.); Barrow Neurological Institute, Phoenix, AZ (S.L., M.H., G.K., R.R., J.M.S.); the Department of Neurology, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, St. Louis (T.M.M.); the Department of Neurology, Mount Sinai Beth Israel, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York (S.N.S.); the Department of Neurology, University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine, Tampa (T.H.V.); the Departments of Neurology and Pathology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta (C.N.F., J.D.G.); Ochsner Health System, New Orleans (K.M.J.); the Department of Neurology, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, Iowa City (A.S.); the Department of Neurology, University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine, Irvine (N.A.G.); Neurology Associates, Lincoln, NB (G.L.P.); independent consultant, Nobleboro, ME (P.L.A.); and Statistics Collaborative, Washington, DC (J. Wittes).

Background: Sodium phenylbutyrate and taurursodiol have been found to reduce neuronal death in experimental models. The efficacy and safety of a combination of the two compounds in persons with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are not known.

Methods: In this multicenter, randomized, double-blind trial, we enrolled participants with definite ALS who had had an onset of symptoms within the previous 18 months. Participants were randomly assigned in a 2:1 ratio to receive sodium phenylbutyrate-taurursodiol (3 g of sodium phenylbutyrate and 1 g of taurursodiol, administered once a day for 3 weeks and then twice a day) or placebo. The primary outcome was the rate of decline in the total score on the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Functional Rating Scale-Revised (ALSFRS-R; range, 0 to 48, with higher scores indicating better function) through 24 weeks. Secondary outcomes were the rates of decline in isometric muscle strength, plasma phosphorylated axonal neurofilament H subunit levels, and the slow vital capacity; the time to death, tracheostomy, or permanent ventilation; and the time to death, tracheostomy, permanent ventilation, or hospitalization.

Results: A total of 177 persons with ALS were screened for eligibility, and 137 were randomly assigned to receive sodium phenylbutyrate-taurursodiol (89 participants) or placebo (48 participants). In a modified intention-to-treat analysis, the mean rate of change in the ALSFRS-R score was -1.24 points per month with the active drug and -1.66 points per month with placebo (difference, 0.42 points per month; 95% confidence interval, 0.03 to 0.81; P = 0.03). Secondary outcomes did not differ significantly between the two groups. Adverse events with the active drug were mainly gastrointestinal.

Conclusions: Sodium phenylbutyrate-taurursodiol resulted in slower functional decline than placebo as measured by the ALSFRS-R score over a period of 24 weeks. Secondary outcomes were not significantly different between the two groups. Longer and larger trials are necessary to evaluate the efficacy and safety of sodium phenylbutyrate-taurursodiol in persons with ALS. (Funded by Amylyx Pharmaceuticals and others; CENTAUR ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT03127514.).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa1916945DOI Listing
September 2020

Suppression with Adeno-Associated Virus and MicroRNA in Familial ALS.

N Engl J Med 2020 07;383(2):151-158

From the Horae Gene Therapy Center, Department of Pediatrics, University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) (C.M., G.G., M.B., T.R.F.), and the Department of Neurology, UMMS and UMass Memorial Medical Center (D.M.M.-Y., M.A.O., C.L.D., N.S.W., R.H.B.), Worcester, and the Healey Center for ALS, Department of Neurology (J.D.B., L.M.P., D.G., S.D.L., M.P.F., M.E.C.), and the C.S. Kubik Laboratory for Neuropathology (D.H.O., M.P.F.), Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston.

Two patients with familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and mutations in the gene encoding superoxide dismutase 1 () were treated with a single intrathecal infusion of adeno-associated virus encoding a microRNA targeting SOD1. In Patient 1, SOD1 levels in spinal cord tissue as analyzed on autopsy were lower than corresponding levels in untreated patients with SOD1-mediated ALS and in healthy controls. Levels of SOD1 in cerebrospinal fluid were transiently and only slightly lower in Patient 1 but were not affected in Patient 2. In Patient 1, meningoradiculitis developed after the infusion; Patient 2 was pretreated with immunosuppressive drugs and did not have this complication. Patient 1 had transient improvement in the strength of his right leg, a measure that had been relatively stable throughout his disease course, but there was no change in his vital capacity. Patient 2 had stable scores on a composite measure of ALS function and a stable vital capacity during a 12-month period. This study showed that intrathecal microRNA can be used as a potential treatment for SOD1-mediated ALS.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa2005056DOI Listing
July 2020

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis care and research in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic: Challenges and opportunities.

Muscle Nerve 2020 08 5;62(2):182-186. Epub 2020 Jun 5.

Department of Neurology, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.

Coronavirus disease 2019 has created unprecedented challenges for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) clinical care and research in the United States. Traditional evaluations for making an ALS diagnosis, measuring progression, and planning interventions rely on in-person visits that may now be unsafe or impossible. Evidence- and experience-based treatment options, such as multidisciplinary team care, feeding tubes, wheelchairs, home health, and hospice, have become more difficult to obtain and in some places are unavailable. In addition, the pandemic has impacted ALS clinical trials by impairing the ability to obtain measurements for trial eligibility, to monitor safety and efficacy outcomes, and to dispense study drug, as these also often rely on in-person visits. We review opportunities for overcoming some of these challenges through telemedicine and novel measurements. These can reoptimize ALS care and research in the current setting and during future events that may limit travel and face-to-face interactions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/mus.26989DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7283687PMC
August 2020

Cromolyn sodium delays disease onset and is neuroprotective in the SOD1 Mouse Model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Sci Rep 2019 11 27;9(1):17728. Epub 2019 Nov 27.

Healey Center for ALS at MassGeneral Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.

Accumulating evidence suggests that neuroinflammatory processes are implicated in the initiation and progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Previous reports have demonstrated an increase in microgliosis and astrogliosis in the lumbar spinal cord of SOD1 transgenic mice before the onset of symptoms, a neuroinflammatory response which correlated with disease progression. Importantly, early stage homeostatic microglia enhanced motor neuron survival, while pro-inflammatory microglia were toxic to motor neurons in the SOD1 mice. Recent studies from our group have demonstrated that cromolyn sodium, an FDA approved compound, exerts neuroprotective effects in mouse models of Alzheimer's disease by altering microglial cell activation. Here, we tested the neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects of cromolyn sodium in the SOD1 mouse model of ALS. Our results indicate that cromolyn sodium treatment significantly delayed the onset of neurological symptoms, and improved deficits in PaGE performance in both male and female mice, however, there was only an effect on survival in female mice. Furthermore, there was a significant increase in motor neuron survival in the lumbar spinal cord as well as a significant decrease in the denervation of the neuromuscular junction of the tibialis anterior muscle in cromolyn treated transgenic SOD1 mice. Lastly, cromolyn treatment decreased the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines/chemokines in the lumbar spinal cord and plasma and decreased mast cell degranulation in the tibialis anterior muscle of transgenic SOD1 mice. Together, these findings suggest that cromolyn sodium provides neuroprotection in the SOD1 mice by decreasing the inflammatory response.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-53982-wDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6881366PMC
November 2019

NurOwn, phase 2, randomized, clinical trial in patients with ALS: Safety, clinical, and biomarker results.

Neurology 2019 12 18;93(24):e2294-e2305. Epub 2019 Nov 18.

From Massachusetts General Hospital Neurological Clinical Research Institute and Harvard Medical School (J.D.B., M.E.C., K.N.), Boston; Mayo Clinic (A.J.W., N.P.S.), Rochester, MN; University of Massachusetts (M.O., D.M.-Y., R.H.B.), Worcester; Brainstorm Cell Therapeutics (Y.S.L., N.A., H.K., R.A., Y.G.), Petach Tikva, Israel; and Tigermed USA (M.M.), Somerset, NJ.

Objective: To determine the safety and efficacy of mesenchymal stem cell (MSC)-neurotrophic factor (NTF) cells (NurOwn®, autologous bone marrow-derived MSCs, induced to secrete NTFs) delivered by combined intrathecal and intramuscular administration to participants with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in a phase 2 randomized controlled trial.

Methods: The study enrolled 48 participants randomized 3:1 (treatment: placebo). After a 3-month pretransplant period, participants received 1 dose of MSC-NTF cells (n = 36) or placebo (n = 12) and were followed for 6 months. CSF was collected before and 2 weeks after transplantation.

Results: The study met its primary safety endpoint. The rate of disease progression (Revised ALS Functional Rating Scale [ALSFRS-R] slope change) in the overall study population was similar in treated and placebo participants. In a prespecified rapid progressor subgroup (n = 21), rate of disease progression was improved at early time points ( < 0.05). To address heterogeneity, a responder analysis showed that a higher proportion of treated participants experienced ≥1.5 points/month ALSFRS-R slope improvement compared to placebo at all time points, and was significant in rapid progressors at 4 and 12 weeks ( = 0.004 and 0.046, respectively). CSF neurotrophic factors increased and CSF inflammatory biomarkers decreased in treated participants ( < 0.05) post-transplantation. CSF monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 levels correlated with ALSFRS-R slope improvement up to 24 weeks ( < 0.05).

Conclusion: A single-dose transplantation of MSC-NTF cells is safe and demonstrated early promising signs of efficacy. This establishes a clear path forward for a multidose randomized clinical trial of intrathecal autologous MSC-NTF cell transplantation in ALS.

Classification Of Evidence: This phase II study provides Class I evidence.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1212/WNL.0000000000008620DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6937497PMC
December 2019

Selection design phase II trial of high dosages of tamoxifen and creatine in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Amyotroph Lateral Scler Frontotemporal Degener 2020 02 14;21(1-2):15-23. Epub 2019 Oct 14.

Department of Neurology, Sean M Healey & AMG Center for ALS at Massachusetts General Hospital, Neurological Clinical Research Institute, Boston, MA, USA.

: To conduct a phase-II trial using a ranking and selection paradigm where multiple treatments are compared with limited sample size and the best is chosen for a subsequent efficacy trial versus placebo. This strategy can find an effective treatment faster than traditional strategy of conducting larger trials against placebo. : Sixty amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) participants were randomized 1:1:1 to creatine 30 g/day (CRE), tamoxifen 40 mg/day (T40), or tamoxifen 80 mg/day (T80), with matching placebo. The primary outcome was 38-week change in ALS Functional Rating Scale-Revised (ALSFRS-R), analyzed in a repeated-measures ANOVA. Secondary outcomes included slow vital capacity (SVC), quantitative muscle strength, early drug discontinuation (EDD), adverse events (AEs), and survival. : CRE participants experienced higher rates of drug-related AEs (82% vs. 43% T40, 47% T80) and EDD (50% vs. 24% T40, 29% T80). T80 participants experienced slower adjusted mean decline in ALSFRS-R in points/month (-0.80 vs. -0.84 T40, -0.85 CRE) and quantitative muscle strength but not in SVC and higher rates of mortality. : Efficacy of T80 ranked numerically superior to CRE and T40 with respect to ALSFRS-R decline. Following the selection paradigm, T80 would be chosen to test against placebo. The approach was not designed to distinguish among treatments that are nearly equally effective or ineffective. If treatments are equivalent, then under the paradigm, it does not matter which treatment is selected. Newer approaches for increasing trial efficiency, including an adaptive platform trial design, may mitigate limitations of the selection design.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21678421.2019.1672750DOI Listing
February 2020

A phase III trial of as a potential treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Amyotroph Lateral Scler Frontotemporal Degener 2019 ;0(0):1-11

The Neurological Institute, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA.

Objective: To assess the efficacy of tirasemtiv, a fast skeletal muscle troponin activator, vs. placebo in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Methods: VITALITY-ALS (NCT02496767) was a multinational, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Participants tolerating 2 weeks of open-label tirasemtiv (125 mg twice daily) were randomized 3:2:2:2 to placebo or one of three target tirasemtiv dose levels, using an escalating dosage protocol lasting 28 days. The primary outcome measure was changed in slow vital capacity (SVC) at 24 weeks. Secondary endpoints included a change in muscle strength and time to respiratory milestones of disease progression.

Results: Of 744 participants, 565 tolerated open-label tirasemtiv and received randomized treatment. By 24 weeks, 23 (12.2%) placebo-treated participants discontinued study treatment vs. 129 (34.2%) randomized to tirasemtiv. SVC declined by 14.4% (95% CI: −16.8, −11.9) in the placebo group and 13.4% (95% CI: −15.3, −11.6) in the tirasemtiv group (p = 0.56). Secondary endpoints did not show significant differences. However, participants who tolerated tirasemtiv at their randomized dose showed a numeric trend toward a dose-related slowing of decline in SVC (p = 0.11). Dizziness, fatigue, nausea, weight loss, and insomnia occurred more frequently on tirasemtiv. Serious adverse events were similar across groups.

Conclusions: Tirasemtiv did not alter the decline of SVC or significantly impact secondary outcome measures. Poor tolerability of tirasemtiv may have contributed to this result. However, participants tolerating their intended dose exhibited a trend toward treatment benefit on SVC, suggesting the underlying mechanism of action may still hold promise, as is being tested with a different fast skeletal muscle troponin activator (NCT03160898).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21678421.2019.1612922DOI Listing
July 2020

Opinion and Special Articles: Challenges and opportunities in defining career identity in academic neurology.

Neurology 2018 10;91(14):670-672

From the Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1212/WNL.0000000000006284DOI Listing
October 2018

Phase 2 Trial of Ibudilast in Progressive Multiple Sclerosis.

N Engl J Med 2018 08;379(9):846-855

From the Mellen Center for Multiple Sclerosis, Neurological Institute (R.J.F., S. Natarajan, R.A.B., D.O.), the Imaging Institute (X.H., M.J.L., K.E.S., X.Z.), and the Department of Biomedical Engineering (P.J., K.N., B. Thoomukuntla), Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio State University, Columbus (M.R.), and University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati (A.Z.) - all in Ohio; the Data Coordinating Center, Network for Excellence in Neuroscience Clinical Trials (NeuroNEXT), University of Iowa, Iowa City (C.S.C., J.B., D.E., E.K., M.K., J.D.L., J.Y.); the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Bethesda, MD (R.C.); the Clinical Coordinating Center, NeuroNEXT, Massachusetts General Hospital, Neurological Clinical Research Institute, Harvard Partners (M.E.C., M.M., A.A., B. Thornell), the Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School (E.C.K.), and Brigham and Women's Hospital (C.S.), Boston; patient advocate (T.G.) and Swedish Medical Center at Seattle (P.R.), Seattle; University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester (A.G.), Corinne Goldsmith Dickinson Center for Multiple Sclerosis, Mount Sinai Medical Center (S.K.), Weill Cornell Medical College (J.S.P.), Columbia University Medical Center (C.S.R.), and Montefiore Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine (S.S.), New York, State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook, Stony Brook (P.K.C.), SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse (B.J.), and SUNY at Buffalo, Buffalo (B.W.-G.) - all in New York; MediciNova, La Jolla (K.M.), University of California at Davis, Sacramento (M.A.), and University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles (B.S.G.) - all in California; Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis (R.T.N.); Barrow Neurological Institute, St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, Phoenix, AZ (J.P.D.); NeuroRx Research, Montreal (S. Narayanan); the School of Health Sciences, College of Health and Human Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN (X.Z.); University of Colorado Denver, Aurora (E.A.); University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham (K.B.); Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago (B.A.C.); University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami (S.D.); University of Utah, Salt Lake City (L.D.D.); University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas (A.F.); University of Virginia at Charlottesville, Charlottesville (M.D.G.); Emory University, Atlanta (N.L.); University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City (S.G.L.); Vanderbilt University, Nashville (H.M.); University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh (V.S.); and Oregon Health and Science University, Portland (V.Y.).

Background: There are limited treatments for progressive multiple sclerosis. Ibudilast inhibits several cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterases, macrophage migration inhibitory factor, and toll-like receptor 4 and can cross the blood-brain barrier, with potential salutary effects in progressive multiple sclerosis.

Methods: We enrolled patients with primary or secondary progressive multiple sclerosis in a phase 2 randomized trial of oral ibudilast (≤100 mg daily) or placebo for 96 weeks. The primary efficacy end point was the rate of brain atrophy, as measured by the brain parenchymal fraction (brain size relative to the volume of the outer surface contour of the brain). Major secondary end points included the change in the pyramidal tracts on diffusion tensor imaging, the magnetization transfer ratio in normal-appearing brain tissue, the thickness of the retinal nerve-fiber layer, and cortical atrophy, all measures of tissue damage in multiple sclerosis.

Results: Of 255 patients who underwent randomization, 129 were assigned to ibudilast and 126 to placebo. A total of 53% of the patients in the ibudilast group and 52% of those in the placebo group had primary progressive disease; the others had secondary progressive disease. The rate of change in the brain parenchymal fraction was -0.0010 per year with ibudilast and -0.0019 per year with placebo (difference, 0.0009; 95% confidence interval, 0.00004 to 0.0017; P=0.04), which represents approximately 2.5 ml less brain-tissue loss with ibudilast over a period of 96 weeks. Adverse events with ibudilast included gastrointestinal symptoms, headache, and depression.

Conclusions: In a phase 2 trial involving patients with progressive multiple sclerosis, ibudilast was associated with slower progression of brain atrophy than placebo but was associated with higher rates of gastrointestinal side effects, headache, and depression. (Funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and others; NN102/SPRINT-MS ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01982942 .).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa1803583DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6172944PMC
August 2018

Recruitment & retention program for the NeuroNEXT SMA Biomarker Study: Super Babies for SMA!

Contemp Clin Trials Commun 2018 Sep 20;11:113-119. Epub 2018 Jul 20.

Department of Neurology, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Columbus, OH, United States.

Background/aims: Recruitment and retention of research participants are challenging and critical components of successful clinical trials and natural history studies. Infants with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) have been a particularly challenging population to study due to their fragile and complex medical issues, poor prognosis and, until 2016, a lack of effective therapies. Recruitment of healthy infants into clinical trials and natural history studies is also challenging and sometimes assumed to not be feasible.

Methods: In 2011, our group initiated a two-year, longitudinal natural history study of infants with SMA and healthy infant controls to provide data to assist in the analysis and interpretation of planned clinical trials in infants with SMA. The recruitment goal was to enroll 27 infants less than 6 months of age with SMA and 27 age-matched healthy infants within the two-year enrollment period. A detailed recruitment and retention plan was developed for this purpose. In addition, a survey was administered to participant families to understand the determinants of participation in the study.

Results: All healthy infants were recruited within the study's first year and 26 SMA infants were recruited within the two-year recruitment period. Thirty-eight participant families responded to the recruitment determinants survey. Nearly half of respondents (18/38, 48%) reported that they first heard of the study from their physician or neurologist. The most common reason to decide to enroll their infant (22/38, 58%) and to remain in the study (28/38, 74%) was their understanding of the importance of the study. Thematic recruitment tools such as a study brochure, video on social media, and presentations at advocacy meetings were reported to positively influence the decision to enroll.

Conclusions: A proactive, thematic and inclusive recruitment and retention plan that effectively communicates the rationale of a clinical study and partners with patients, advocacy groups and the local communities can effectively recruit participants in vulnerable populations. Recommendations for the proactive integration of recruitment and retention plans into clinical trial protocol development are provided.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.conctc.2018.07.002DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6072892PMC
September 2018

Expanded autologous regulatory T-lymphocyte infusions in ALS: A phase I, first-in-human study.

Neurol Neuroimmunol Neuroinflamm 2018 Jul 18;5(4):e465. Epub 2018 May 18.

Houston Methodist Neurological Institute (J.R.T., D.R.B., W.Z., M.P., E.P.S., S.H.A.), Houston Methodist Hospital Research Institute, Stanley H. Appel Department of Neurology, Houston, TX; and Neurological Clinical Research Institute (J.D.B., M.E.C.), Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA.

Objective: To determine whether autologous infusions of expanded regulatory T lymphoctyes (Tregs) into patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are safe and tolerable during early and later stages of disease.

Methods: Three patients with ALS, with no family history of ALS, were selected based on their differing sites of disease onset and rates of progression. Patients underwent leukapheresis, and Tregs were subsequently isolated and expanded ex vivo. Tregs (1 × 10 cells/kg) were administered IV at early stages (4 doses over 2 months) and later stages (4 doses over 4 months) of disease. Concomitant interleukin-2 (2 × 10 IU/m/injection) was administered subcutaneously 3 times weekly over the entire study period. Patients were closely monitored for adverse effects and changes in disease progression rates. Treg numbers and suppressive function were assayed during and following each round of Treg infusions.

Results: Infusions of Tregs were safe and well tolerated in all patients. Treg numbers and suppressive function increased after each infusion. The infusions slowed progression rates during early and later stages of disease. Spearman correlation analyses showed that increased Treg suppressive function correlated with slowing of disease progression per the Appel ALS scale for each patient: patient 1: ρ (rho) = -0.60, = 0.003; patient 2: ρ = -0.71, = 0.0026; and patient 3: ρ = -0.54, = 0.016. Measures of maximal inspiratory pressure also stabilized, particularly in 2 patients, during Treg infusions.

Conclusions: These results demonstrate the safety and potential benefit of expanded autologous Treg infusions, warranting further clinical trials in patients with ALS. The correlation between Treg suppressive function and disease progression underscores the significance of using Treg suppressive function as an indicator of clinical status.

Classification Of Evidence: This study provides Class IV evidence. This is a phase I trial with no controls.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1212/NXI.0000000000000465DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5961523PMC
July 2018

Understanding the use of NIV in ALS: results of an international ALS specialist survey.

Amyotroph Lateral Scler Frontotemporal Degener 2018 08 16;19(5-6):331-341. Epub 2018 Apr 16.

k Department of Neurology, Brain Centre Rudolf Magnus , University Medical Centre Utrecht , Utrecht , The Netherlands.

Objective: To identify common practices of noninvasive ventilation (NIV) use among ALS specialists and how they follow respiratory status in their patients.

Methods: A 25-item questionnaire on NIV indications/initiation was sent via SurveyMonkey® to ALS specialists identified through membership in NEALS (114 sites in the US) and ENCALS (39 sites in Europe). Descriptive statistics and Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel test for general association were performed.

Results: In their initial evaluation, US and European specialists (n = 186) use upright forced vital capacity (FVC) most (92.8% vs 91.1%; p = 0.752). Upright FVC results are most important for US respondents when deciding to prescribe NIV; European respondents consider symptoms of orthopnea and/or dyspnea as most important. European respondents use overnight pulse oximetry (69.8% vs 7.9%; p < 0.001) and arterial blood gas analyses (62.8% vs 3.2%; p < 0.001) more than US respondents. Insurance regulations/national health care coverage impact NIV initiation more in the US than in Europe (70.0% vs 47.5%; p = 0.025). When asked if insurance/other financial constraints affects when they prescribe NIV, more US respondents answered positively (77.2% vs 15.4%; p < 0.001). In patients with no respiratory symptoms, most US specialists (68.3%) initiated NIV at VC <50% predicted; European responses showed greater variability.

Conclusions: Given the impact of NIV on respiratory function and the importance of respiratory function to quality of life and survival, understanding differences that influence NIV prescribing is critical. This information may inform future study design and identify areas warranting additional research to develop best practices for NIV implementation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21678421.2018.1457058DOI Listing
August 2018

Respiratory measures in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Amyotroph Lateral Scler Frontotemporal Degener 2018 08 23;19(5-6):321-330. Epub 2018 Mar 23.

f Eleanor and Lou Gehrig ALS Center, The Neurological Institute, Columbia University , New York , NY , USA.

Objective: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neuromuscular disease that causes skeletal muscle weakness, including muscles involved with respiration. Death often results from respiratory failure within 3-5 years. Monitoring respiratory status is therefore critical to ALS management, as respiratory/pulmonary function tests (PFTs) are used to make decisions including when to initiate noninvasive ventilation. Understanding the different respiratory and PFTs as they relate to disease progression and survival may help determine which tests are most suitable.

Methods: This review describes the tests used to assess respiratory muscle and pulmonary function in patients with ALS and the correlations between different respiratory measures and clinical outcomes measures.

Results: The most commonly used measurement, forced vital capacity (VC), has been shown to correlate with clinical milestones including survival, but also requires good motor coordination and facial strength to form a tight seal around a mouthpiece. Other tests such as slow VC, sniff inspiratory pressure, or transdiaphragmatic pressure with magnetic stimulation are also associated with distinct advantages and disadvantages.

Conclusions: Therefore, how and when to use different tests remains unclear. Understanding how each test relates to disease progression and survival may help determine which is best suited for specific clinical decisions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21678421.2018.1452945DOI Listing
August 2018

Mexiletine for muscle cramps in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: A randomized, double-blind crossover trial.

Muscle Nerve 2018 Mar 6. Epub 2018 Mar 6.

University of California, Davis, Sacramento, California, USA.

Introduction: More than 90% of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients have muscle cramps, but evidence-based treatments have not been available.

Methods: A multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial of mexiletine 150 mg twice daily was conducted in ALS patients requesting treatment of symptomatic muscle cramps.

Results: Muscle cramp frequency was reduced in 18 of 20 patients; 13 reductions were attributed to treatment (P < 0.05). The average reduction, based on t tests, was 1.8 cramps per day (a reduction from 5.3 with placebo to 3.5 with mexiletine). The estimated reduction of cramp severity was 15 units on a 100-unit scale (P = 0.01) from a baseline average of 46. No effect on fasciculations was noted. One patient discontinued the study because of dizziness, and another patient discontinued the study to start open-label mexiletine therapy. No serious adverse event occurred.

Discussion: Mexiletine is a well tolerated and effective medication for controlling the symptom of muscle cramps in ALS. Muscle Nerve, 2018.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/mus.26117DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6126993PMC
March 2018

VITALITY-ALS, a phase III trial of tirasemtiv, a selective fast skeletal muscle troponin activator, as a potential treatment for patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: study design and baseline characteristics.

Amyotroph Lateral Scler Frontotemporal Degener 2018 05 6;19(3-4):259-266. Epub 2018 Feb 6.

e Department of Neurology , Barrow Neurological Institute , Phoenix , AZ , USA.

Objective: To assess the efficacy of tirasemtiv, a fast skeletal muscle troponin activator, vs. placebo on respiratory function and other functional measures in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This study was designed to confirm and extend results from a large phase IIb trial and maximize tolerability with a slower dose escalation.

Methods: VITALITY-ALS (NCT02496767) was a multinational, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study in ALS patients. Participants who tolerated two weeks of open-label tirasemtiv (125 mg twice a day) were randomized 3:2:2:2 to placebo or one of three target total daily dose levels of tirasemtiv (250, 375, or 500 mg). Participants randomized to tirasemtiv escalated their dose every two weeks to their target dose level or maximum tolerated dose. The primary outcome measure was change in slow vital capacity from baseline to 24 weeks. Secondary endpoints assessed the effect of tirasemtiv on muscle strength and certain respiratory milestones of disease progression. A four-week randomized withdrawal phase followed 48 weeks of treatment to evaluate the possibility of sustained benefit or rebound decline.

Results: Data collection will be complete in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Conclusions: VITALITY-ALS was a phase III trial designed to evaluate the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of tirasemtiv in ALS.
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Source
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21678421.2018.1426770DOI Listing
May 2018
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