Thursday, September 24, 2020

Duchenne muscular dystrophy. New treatments.

Smith EC, Conklin LS, Hoffman EP, Clemens PR, Mah JK, Finkel RS, Guglieri M, Tulinius M, Nevo Y, Ryan MM, Webster R, Castro D, Kuntz NL, Kerchner L, Morgenroth LP, Arrieta A, Shimony M, Jaros M, Shale P, Gordish-Dressman H, Hagerty L, Dang UJ, Damsker JM, Schwartz BD, Mengle-Gaw LJ, McDonald CM; CINRG VBP15 and DNHS Investigators. Efficacy and safety of vamorolone in Duchenne muscular dystrophy: An 18-month interim analysis of a non-randomized open-label extension study. PLoS Med. 2020 Sep 21;17(9):e1003222. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1003222. PMID: 32956407.


Background: Treatment with corticosteroids is recommended for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) patients to slow the progression of weakness. However, chronic corticosteroid treatment causes significant morbidities. Vamorolone is a first-in-class anti-inflammatory investigational drug that has shown evidence of efficacy in DMD after 24 weeks of treatment at 2.0 or 6.0 mg/kg/day. Here, open-label efficacy and safety experience of vamorolone was evaluated over a period of 18 months in trial participants with DMD. 

Methods and findings: A multicenter, open-label, 24-week trial (VBP15-003) with a 24-month long-term extension (VBP15-LTE) was conducted by the Cooperative International Neuromuscular Research Group (CINRG) and evaluated drug-related effects of vamorolone on motor outcomes and corticosteroid-associated safety concerns. The study was carried out in Canada, US, UK, Australia, Sweden, and Israel, from 2016 to 2019. This report covers the initial 24-week trial and the first 12 months of the VBP15-LTE trial (total treatment period 18 months). DMD trial participants (males, 4 to <7 years at entry) treated with 2.0 or 6.0 mg/kg/day vamorolone for the full 18-month period (n = 23) showed clinical improvement of all motor outcomes from baseline to month 18 (time to stand velocity, p = 0.012 [95% CI 0.010, 0.068 event/second]; run/walk 10 meters velocity, p < 0.001 [95% CI 0.220, 0.491 meters/second]; climb 4 stairs velocity, p = 0.001 [95% CI 0.034, 0.105 event/second]; 6-minute walk test, p = 0.001 [95% CI 31.14, 93.38 meters]; North Star Ambulatory Assessment, p < 0.001 [95% CI 2.702, 6.662 points]). Outcomes in vamorolone-treated DMD patients (n = 46) were compared to group-matched participants in the CINRG Duchenne Natural History Study (corticosteroid-naïve, n = 19; corticosteroid-treated, n = 68) over a similar 18-month period. Time to stand was not significantly different between vamorolone-treated and corticosteroid-naïve participants (p = 0.088; least squares [LS] mean 0.042 [95% CI -0.007, 0.091]), but vamorolone-treated participants showed significant improvement compared to group-matched corticosteroid-naïve participants for run/walk 10 meters velocity (p = 0.003; LS mean 0.286 [95% CI 0.104, 0.469]) and climb 4 stairs velocity (p = 0.027; LS mean 0.059 [95% CI 0.007, 0.111]). The vamorolone-related improvements were similar in magnitude to corticosteroid-related improvements. Corticosteroid-treated participants showed stunting of growth, whereas vamorolone-treated trial participants did not (p < 0.001; LS mean 15.86 [95% CI 8.51, 23.22]). Physician-reported incidences of adverse events (AEs) for Cushingoid appearance, hirsutism, weight gain, and behavior change were less for vamorolone than published incidences for prednisone and deflazacort. Key limitations to the study were the open-label design, and use of external comparators. 

Conclusions: We observed that vamorolone treatment was associated with improvements in some motor outcomes as compared with corticosteroid-naïve individuals over an 18-month treatment period. We found that fewer physician-reported AEs occurred with vamorolone than have been reported for treatment with prednisone and deflazacort, and that vamorolone treatment did not cause the stunting of growth seen with these corticosteroids. This Phase IIa study provides Class III evidence to support benefit of motor function in young boys with DMD treated with vamorolone 2.0 to 6.0 mg/kg/day, with a favorable safety profile. A Phase III RCT is underway to further investigate safety and efficacy. 

Trial registration: Clinical trials were registered at, and the links to each trial are as follows (as provided in manuscript text): VBP15-002 [NCT02760264] VBP15-003 [NCT02760277] VBP15-LTE [NCT03038399].

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Mendell JR, Sahenk Z, Lehman K, Nease C, Lowes LP, Miller NF, Iammarino MA, Alfano LN, Nicholl A, Al-Zaidy S, Lewis S, Church K, Shell R, Cripe LH, Potter RA, Griffin DA, Pozsgai E, Dugar A, Hogan M, Rodino-Klapac LR. Assessment of Systemic Delivery of rAAVrh74.MHCK7.micro-dystrophin in Children With Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy: A Nonrandomized Controlled Trial. JAMA Neurol. 2020 Jun 15;77(9):1–10. doi: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2020.1484. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 32539076; PMCID: PMC7296461.


Importance: Micro-dystrophin gene transfer shows promise for treating patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) using recombinant adeno-associated virus serotype rh74 (rAAVrh74) and codon-optimized human micro-dystrophin driven by a skeletal and cardiac muscle-specific promoter with enhanced cardiac expression (MHCK7). 

Objective: To identify the 1-year safety and tolerability of intravenous rAAVrh74.MHCK7.micro-dystrophin in patients with DMD. 

Design, setting, and participants: This open-label, phase 1/2a nonrandomized controlled trial was conducted at the Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. It began on November 2, 2017, with a planned duration of follow-up of 3 years, ending in March 2021. The first 4 patients who met eligibility criteria were enrolled, consisting of ambulatory male children with DMD without preexisting AAVrh74 antibodies and a stable corticosteroid dose (≥12 weeks). 

Interventions: A single dose of 2.0 × 1014 vg/kg rAAVrh74.MHCK7.micro-dystrophin was infused through a peripheral limb vein. Daily prednisolone, 1 mg/kg, started 1 day before gene delivery (30-day taper after infusion). 

Main outcomes and measures: Safety was the primary outcome. Secondary outcomes included micro-dystrophin expression by Western blot and immunohistochemistry. Functional outcomes measured by North Star Ambulatory Assessment (NSAA) and serum creatine kinase were exploratory outcomes. 

Results: Four patients were included (mean [SD] age at enrollment, 4.8 [1.0] years). All adverse events (n = 53) were considered mild (33 [62%]) or moderate (20 [38%]), and no serious adverse events occurred. Eighteen adverse events were considered treatment related, the most common of which was vomiting (9 of 18 events [50%]). Three patients had transiently elevated γ-glutamyltransferase, which resolved with corticosteroids. At 12 weeks, immunohistochemistry of gastrocnemius muscle biopsy specimens revealed robust transgene expression in all patients, with a mean of 81.2% of muscle fibers expressing micro-dystrophin with a mean intensity of 96% at the sarcolemma. Western blot showed a mean expression of 74.3% without fat or fibrosis adjustment and 95.8% with adjustment. All patients had confirmed vector transduction and showed functional improvement of NSAA scores and reduced creatine kinase levels (posttreatment vs baseline) that were maintained for 1 year. 

Conclusions and relevance: This trial showed rAAVrh74.MHCK7.micro-dystrophin to be well tolerated and have minimal adverse events; the safe delivery of micro-dystrophin transgene; the robust expression and correct localization of micro-dystrophin protein; and improvements in creatine kinase levels and NSAA scores. These findings suggest that rAAVrh74.MHCK7.micro-dystrophin can provide functional improvement that is greater than that observed under standard of care. 

Trial registration: Identifier: NCT03375164.

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