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Results Announced from Phase 2 Clinical Trial of Ibudilast Suggest Reduction of Brain Atrophy (Shrinkage) in People with Progressive MS

SUMMARY

  • Top-line results were announced of a phase 2 clinical trial testing an oral anti-inflammatory therapy ibudilast (MN-166, MediciNova, Inc.) in people with progressive forms of MS.
  • The results announced in a press release concluded that ibudilast was well tolerated and significantly slowed the rate of brain atrophy compared to placebo. Brain atrophy (shrinkage) has been linked to cognitive and physical disability in MS.
  • The trial was conducted at the Cleveland Clinic and 27 other sites across the U.S., and involved 255 people with primary or secondary progressive MS.
  • The study was principally funded by NeuroNEXT Network, a clinical trials initiative of the National Institutes of Health, with additional support by MediciNova, the company that supplied ibudilast. The National MS Society also provided funding support.
  • Further details are schedule to be presented Saturday, October 28th at the MSParis2017 – 7th Joint ECTRIMS-ACTRIMS Meeting.
  • These phase 2 results may lead the way to the testing of ibudilast in larger phase 3 trial(s), which would be needed before the company could apply for marketing approval from the FDA, the European Medicines Agency or other regulatory agencies. Ibudilast was designated by the FDA as a “Fast Track Product” which could speed its future development as a possible treatment of progressive MS.

“These results sound like a very promising step toward a potential new therapy for people with progressive forms of MS, for whom there are few treatment options,” said Dr. Bruce Bebo, Executive Vice President, Research, National MS Society.

DETAILS
Background: Ibudilast (MN-166, MediciNova, Inc.) inhibits an enzyme called phosphodiesterase, resulting in suppression of inflammation. While considered a “New Molecular Entity” in the United States and Europe, ibudilast is marketed in Japan and Korea to treat cerebrovascular disorders and asthma. It is being also being investigated in the U.S. for its potential to treat ALS and drug addiction.

The study was principally funded by NeuroNEXT Network, a clinical trials initiative of the National Institutes of Health, with additional support by MediciNova, the company that will supply ibudilast. The National MS Society also provided funding support because of its focus on progressive MS and because the trial’s design may answer important questions about the best ways to measure the benefits of therapies aimed at protecting the nervous system from MS.

The study: The trial, known as “SPRINT-MS,” was led by Principal Investigator Robert Fox, M.D., M.S., FAAN, Staff Neurologist at the Mellen Center for Multiple Sclerosis at Cleveland Clinic. It was conducted at the Cleveland Clinic and 27 other sites across the U.S. The trial involved 255 people with primary or secondary progressive MS. The primary outcome measure was change in brain atrophy (as measured by an MRI analysis technique called brain parenchymal fraction) after 96 weeks.  Brain atrophy (shrinkage) has been linked to cognitive and physical disability in MS. Other imaging, safety, clinical and quality of life outcomes were also measured.

The results announced in a press release from MediciNova concluded that ibudilast was well tolerated and significantly slowed the rate of brain atrophy compared to placebo. Further details are schedule to be presented on Saturday, October 28th at the MSParis2017 – 7th Joint ECTRIMS-ACTRIMS Meeting.

What’s Next? These phase 2 results may lead the way to the testing of ibudilast in larger phase 3 trial(s), which would be needed before the company could apply for marketing approval from the FDA, the European Medicines Agency or other regulatory agencies. Ibudilast was designated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a “Fast Track Product” which could speed its future development as a possible treatment of progressive MS.

 

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Interim Results Reported from Clinical Trial of Stem Cell Transplantation in People with Relapsing-Remitting MS

A nationwide team of researchers report on interim results from a small, five-year study of transplantation of the individuals’ own hematopoietic (blood cell-producing) stem cells combined with high-dose immunotherapy in 24 people with relapsing-remitting MS. This procedure aims at “rebooting” the immune system to prevent MS immune attacks against the brain and spinal cord. At three years, 78.4% of participants experienced no new disease activity. When this trial has completed its five-year duration, it will be an important addition to research needed to determine whether this approach to stem cell transplantation is safe and effective in people with MS. Richard A. Nash, MD (Colorado Blood Center Institute) and colleagues report in JAMA Neurology (Published online December 29, 2014). This study was sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health.
Background: One type of procedure that has been explored for many years in MS is called “autologous hematopoietic (blood cell-producing) stem cell transplantation” – or HSCT. This procedure has been used in attempts to “reboot” the immune system, which launches attacks on the brain and spinal cord in people with MS.
In HSCT, these stem cells (derived from a person’s own bone marrow or blood) are stored, and the rest of the individual’s immune cells are depleted usually by chemotherapy. Then the stored stem cells are reintroduced back to the individual’s bloodstream. The new stem cells migrate to the bone marrow and over time produce new cells. Eventually they repopulate the body with immune cells. The goal of this currently experimental procedure is that the new immune cells will no longer attack myelin or other brain tissue, providing the person, what is hoped to be, a completely new immune system.
The Study: Investigators enrolled 25 people who had experienced an MS relapse involving loss of neurologic function while taking disease-modifying therapies during the previous 18 months. Participants received HSCT along with high-dose immunosuppressive therapy (a regimen of treatments that profoundly suppress the immune system), and followed for five years. The primary endpoint of this study is whether participants experience “event-free survival,” meaning that they did not die or have an increase in disease activity. Disease activity is defined as any one of the following outcomes occurring: confirmed loss of neurologic function, clinical relapse, or new lesions observed on MRI scans. The current publication presents a planned analysis after three years of follow up.
Results: One individual experienced a pulmonary embolism induced by heparin (administered as part of stem cell collection), and withdrew from the study. Event-free survival at three years was 78.4%, down from 95.8% after one year. Treatment failed in five individuals. Scores on clinical scales measuring disease activity and quality of life, including the EDSS, improved significantly at three years after HSCT. Immune system analysis showed prolonged depletion of the immune cells that drive the immune attack, indicating that the immune system was indeed “rebooted.”
Two deaths occurred, one from complications due to MS progression and another due to asthma. One person experienced an MS attack, an individual who had not complied with a prednisone regimen designed to reduce this risk during collection of stem cells. There were 130 adverse events that were severe or life-threatening, mostly cytopenias (blood cell reductions) and infections.
Comment: Rigorous clinical trials of stem cell therapies are crucial to determining their safety and effectiveness in people with MS. “We look forward to seeing the completed results of this important study,” says Bruce Bebo, PhD, Executive Vice President of Research at the National MS Society. “There are significant risks involved in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, and it’s important to ensure that this will be a safe solution for people with MS, with significant clinical benefit.”
With the urgent need for more effective treatments for MS, particularly for those with more progressive forms of the disease, the National MS Society believes that the potential of all types of cell therapies must be explored. The Society is currently supporting 15 research projects exploring various types of stem cells, including cells derived from bone marrow, fat and skin, and has supported 70 stem cell studies over the past 10 years.

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