Aggarwal S, Zinman L, Simpson E, et al. Safety and efficacy of lithium in combination with riluzole for treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial

Neurology Clinical Trials Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, MA, USA.
The Lancet Neurology (Impact Factor: 21.9). 04/2010; 9(5):481-8. DOI: 10.1016/S1474-4422(10)70068-5
Source: PubMed


In a pilot study, lithium treatment slowed progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). We aimed to confirm or disprove these findings by assessing the safety and efficacy of lithium in combination with riluzole in patients with ALS.
We did a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with a time-to-event design. Between January and June, 2009, patients with ALS who were taking a stable dose of riluzole for at least 30 days were randomly assigned (1:1) by a centralised computer to receive either lithium or placebo. Patients, caregivers, investigators, and all site study staff with the exception of site pharmacists were masked to treatment assignment. The primary endpoint was the time to an event, defined as a decrease of at least six points on the revised ALS functional rating scale score or death. Interim analyses were planned for when 84 patients had been allocated treatment, 6 months later or after 55 events, and after 100 events. Analysis was by intention to treat. The stopping boundary for futility at the first interim analysis was a p value of at least 0.68. We used a log-rank test to compare the distributions of the time to an event between the lithium and placebo groups. This trial is registered with, NCT00818389.
At the first interim analysis, 22 of 40 patients in the lithium group had an event compared with 20 of 44 patients in the placebo group (log rank p=0.51). The hazard ratio of reaching the primary endpoint was 1.13 (95% CI 0.61-2.07). The study was stopped at the first interim analysis because criterion for futility was met (p=0.78). The difference in mean decline in the ALS functional rating scale score between the lithium group and the placebo group was 0.15 (95% CI -0.43 to 0.73, p=0.61). There were no major safety concerns. Falls (p=0.04) and back pain (p=0.05) were more common in the lithium group than in the placebo group.
We found no evidence that lithium in combination with riluzole slows progression of ALS more than riluzole alone. The time-to-event endpoint and use of prespecified interim analyses enabled a clear result to be obtained rapidly. This design should be considered for future trials testing the therapeutic efficacy of drugs that are easily accessible to people with ALS.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, ALS Association, and ALS Society of Canada.

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Available from: Jeremy Shefner, Aug 05, 2014
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    • "Fingolimod, an anti-inflammatory drug used to treat multiple sclerosis in several countries outside the United States, will soon begin phase II clinical trial in ALS [56] and may also have promise in FTD. Clinical trials of agents that have clearly shown no benefit in ALS, like those with lithium [57], may also be useful in guiding such therapies away from use in FTD due to C9ORF72. "
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    ABSTRACT: Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a common dementia syndrome in patients under the age of 65 years with many features overlapping with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The link between FTD and ALS has been strengthened by the discovery that a hexanucleotide repeat expansion in a non-coding region of the C9ORF72 gene causes both familial and sporadic types of these two diseases. As we begin to understand the pathophysiological mechanisms by which this mutation leads to FTD and ALS (c9FTD/ALS), new targets for disease-modifying therapies will likely be unveiled. Putative C9ORF72 expansion pathogenic mechanisms include loss of C9ORF72 protein function, sequestration of nucleic acid binding proteins due to expanded hexanucleotide repeats, or a combination of the two. New animal models and other research tools informed by work in other repeat expansion neurodegenerative diseases such as the spinocerebellar ataxias will help to elucidate the mechanisms of C9ORF72-mediated disease. Similarly, re-examining previous studies of drugs developed to treat ALS in light of this new mutation may identify novel FTD treatments. Ultimately, research consortiums incorporating animal models and well-characterized clinical populations will be necessary to fully understand the natural history of the c9FTD/ALS clinical phenotypes and identify biomarkers and therapeutic agents that can cure the most common form of genetically determined FTD and ALS.
    Alzheimer's Research and Therapy 11/2012; 4(6):46. DOI:10.1186/alzrt149 · 3.98 Impact Factor
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    • "Finally, the disease is rare and rapidly progressive so that entering and maintaining patients in large trials has been problematic. Trial methodology is being refined,47,55–57 but truly meaningful treatment in ALS remains a matter of continued research for more effective molecules. "
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    ABSTRACT: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disorder that leads to progressive weakness from loss of motor neurons and death on average in less than 3 years after symptom onset. No clear causes have been found and just one medication, riluzole, extends survival. Researchers have identified some of the cellular processes that occur after disease onset, including mitochondrial dysfunction, protein aggregation, oxidative stress, excitotoxicity, inflammation, and apoptosis. Mitochondrial disease may be a primary event in neurodegeneration or occur secondary to other cellular processes, and may itself contribute to oxidative stress, excitotoxicity, and apoptosis. Clinical trials currently aim to slow disease progression by testing drugs that impact one or more of these pathways. While every agent tested in the 18 years after the approval of riluzole has been ineffective, basic and clinical research methods in ALS have become dramatically more sophisticated. Dexpramipexole (RPPX), the R(+) enantiomer of pramiprexole, which is approved for symptomatic treatment of Parkinson disease, carries perhaps the currently largest body of pre-and early clinical data that support testing in ALS. The neuroprotective properties of RPPX in various models of neurodegeneration, including the ALS murine model, may be produced through protective actions on mitochondria. Early phase trials in human ALS suggest that the drug can be taken safely by patients in doses that provide neuroprotection in preclinical models. A Phase III trial to test the efficacy of RPPX in ALS is underway.
    Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management 08/2012; 8:359-66. DOI:10.2147/TCRM.S21981 · 1.47 Impact Factor
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    • "The fact that lithium did not alleviate ALS symptoms in SOD1 G93A mice is concordant with recent negative results by independent groups (Gill et al., 2009; Pizzasegola et al., 2009; Aggarwal et al., 2010; Chio et al., 2010). These negative results were based on studies with larger cohorts of mice than earlier positive studies (Shin et al., 2007; Feng et al., 2008; Fornai et al., 2008). "
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    ABSTRACT: Approximately 20% cases of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are caused by mutations in the gene encoding Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD1). Recent studies have shown that methylene blue (MB) was efficient in conferring protection in several neurological disorders. MB was found to improve mitochondrial function, to reduce reactive oxygen species, to clear aggregates of toxic proteins, and to act as a nitric oxide synthase inhibitor. These pleiotropic effects of relevance to ALS pathogenesis led us to test MB in two models of ALS, SOD1(G93A) mice and TDP-43(G348C) transgenic mice. Intraperitoneal administration of MB at two different doses was initiated at the beginning of disease onset, at 90 days of age in SOD1(G93A) and at 6 months of age in TDP-43(G348C) mice. Despite its established neuroprotective properties, MB failed to confer protection in both mouse models of ALS. The lifespan of SOD1(G93A) mice was not affected by MB treatment. The declines in motor function, reflex score, and body weight of SOD1(G93A) mice remained unchanged. MB treatment had no effect on motor neuron loss and aggregation or misfolding of SOD1. A combination of MB with lithium also failed to provide benefits in SOD1(G93A) mice. In TDP-43(G348C) mice, MB failed to improve motor function. Cytosolic translocation of TDP-43, ubiquitination and inflammation remained also unchanged after MB treatment of TDP-43(G348C) mice.
    Neuroscience 01/2012; 209:136-43. DOI:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2011.12.047 · 3.36 Impact Factor
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