Last updated on February 2018

A Trial of Tocilizumab in ALS Subjects


Brief description of study

This research study is being done to find out if tocilizumab, also known as Actemra, can help with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). The investigators also want to find out if tocilizumab is safe to take without causing too many side effects.

Currently ALS has no cure and 2 modestly effective treatment to slow the progression of the disease. Although not the initial cause of ALS, the immune system plays a role in the death of motor neurons. The immune cells that participate in this process are stimulated by a substance called interleukin-6 (IL-6) whose effect is blocked by tocilizumab and thus, may slow the death of motor neurons and slow the disease.

Detailed Study Description

This is a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled 16-week study evaluating the safety and tolerability of tocilizumab in subjects with ALS.

The primary objective of the study is to determine the safety and tolerability of intravenous administration of 8 mg/kg of tocilizumab every 4 weeks vs. matched intravenous placebo administered every 4 weeks over an 8 week period.

The secondary objectives of the study are to describe the expression of pro-inflammatory genes in Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells (PBMCs) of sporadic ALS patients, to assess the ability of tocilizumab to reduce the expression of pro-inflammatory genes in PBMCs and pro-inflammatory cytokines in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of patients with sporadic ALS and to assess the CSF penetration of tocilizumab. Mean PBR28 uptake will be measured in the motor cortices as regions of interest (ROIs), and will be compared between pre- and post-dose, for MGH subjects.

Approximately 5 Northeast ALS Consortium (NEALS) Centers in the US will participate in the study. Twenty-four subjects will be randomized in the study.

This study will be conducted in subjects who meet the El Escorial criteria of possible, laboratory-supported probable, probable, or definite criteria for a diagnosis of ALS. At screening, eligible subjects must be at least 18 years old, must have a slow vital capacity (SVC) 40% of predicted capacity for age, height and gender (and in the opinion of the investigator is able to comply with and complete the trial), and must provide written informed consent prior to screening. Subjects on a stable dose of riluzole and those not taking riluzole, and women of child-bearing age at screening are eligible for inclusion as long as they meet specific protocol requirements. Detailed criteria are described in the body of the protocol.

Subjects participating in the MR-PET portion of the study (MGH only) must meet the following additional criteria.High or mixed affinity to bind TSPO protein (Ala/Ala or Ala/Thr,) Upper Motor Neuron Burden (UMNB) Scale Score 25 (out of 45) at the Screening Visit.

and have the ability to safely undergo PET/MRI scans based on the opinion of the site investigator.

Subjects will be randomly assigned in a 2:1 ratio to intravenous tocilizumab 8 mg/kg or matching placebo every 4 weeks over an 8 week period.

This research study protocol allows the subject to receive up to 3 infusions of Tocilizumab. Even if the treatment is shown to be of benefit, additional infusions of Tocilizumab beyond that allowed in the protocol cannot be given to the subject while she/he is participating in this study.

Subjects will remain on randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind treatment until the Week 8 visit. Each randomized subject will also have a Week 12 Follow-up visit and Week 16 End-of-Study visit to assess for adverse events (AEs), changes in concomitant medications, to administer the ALSFRS-R and selected study procedures.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT02469896

Contact Investigators or Research Sites near you

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Jeremy Shefner, MD

Barrow Neurological Institute
Phoenix, AZ United States
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Richard Barohn, MD

University of Kansas Medical Center
Kansas City, KS United States
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James Caress, MD

Wake Forest University School of Medicine
Winston-Salem, NC United States
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Zach Simmons, MD

Penn State College of Medicine Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
Hershey, PA United States
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Suma Babu, MD

Massachusetts General Hospital
Boston, MA United States
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