Ghrelin Signaling Via GOAT Inhibition in Alcohol Use Disorder

  • End date
    Dec 31, 2022
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Updated on 22 July 2021



People with alcohol use disorder (AUD) have trouble controlling their drinking. Medications can help some people with AUD but are not effective for many others. Researchers want to test new drugs to better treat the disease.


To see if the drug GLWL-01 is safe to use in people with alcohol problems. Also, to find out if the drug reduces the urge to drink alcohol.


People ages 18-70 who are seeking treatment for AUD


Participants will be screened under protocol 14-AA-00181.

Participants will be admitted to the NIH Clinical Center for up to 32 days. They may leave the hospital some of the time. All their meals will be provided. They cannot drink alcohol.

Participants will take either the study drug or a placebo by mouth twice daily. They will not know which they are receiving.

Participants will complete many questionnaires.

Participants may have urine tests.

Participants will complete tasks on a computer.

Participants will have blood tests each day.

Participants will taste and indicate their preference for sweet liquids.

Participants blood pressure, pulse, respiratory rate, body temperature and weight, heart rate and rhythm will be measured.

Participants will have breath testing to obtain information about smoking.

Participants will be exposed to alcohol cues, water, and food cues in a bar-like room. Cues are things that might make them feel the urge to eat or drink alcohol.

Participants will take part in a virtual buffet experiment. They will wear a virtual reality headset, walk around a virtual room, and select virtual food and drink.



Background and Objective: Acyl-ghrelin is a 28-amino acid peptide that stimulates appetite and food intake. It is an endogenous ligand for the growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHS-R1a). Preclinical studies suggest that acyl-ghrelin increases alcohol intake and decreases in acyl-ghrelin and GHS-R1a function suppresses alcohol consumption.

Furthermore, previous human studies indicate a positive correlation between endogenous ghrelin levels and alcohol craving and drinking. In clinical studies conducted by our group with individuals with AUD, intravenous (IV) acyl-ghrelin administration, versus placebo 1) increased alcohol craving during alcohol cue-exposure and 2) increased IV alcohol self-administration

as well as decreased latency to first infusion of alcohol and 3) increased brain activation in the amygdala in anticipation of alcohol reward. Together, this preclinical and human data suggest that manipulating the ghrelin signal may be a novel and potentially effective pharmacological approach to treat individuals with alcohol use disorder.

After the discoveries of GHS-R1a and acyl-ghrelin, a next step was identifying ghrelin O-acyltransferase (GOAT) the enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of des-acyl-ghrelin (DAG) to acyl-ghrelin via octanoylation. GOAT is thus the master switch for the ghrelin system , as acyl-ghrelin, not DAG, is biologically active at the GHSR-1a. GOAT s structure is highly conserved, is produced by endocrine cells in the stomach and is co-expressed with ghrelin. Therefore, GOAT is a promising target for manipulating the ghrelin system by altering the peripheral acyl-to-total ghrelin ratio (where total ghrelin = acyl-ghrelin + DAG). Recently, the ghrelin system has been investigated as a potential treatment target for AUDs.

As such, an oral bioavailable GOAT inhibitor offers encouraging potential as a treatment for alcohol use disorder. GLWL-01 is an existing GOAT inhibitor for which GLWL Research Inc. has recently and successfully completed a first-in-human safety clinical trial. The goal of this protocol is to conduct a proof-of-concept human laboratory study to assess a potential early signal of efficacy of GLWL-01 in relation to alcohol-related outcomes.

Study population: Males and females (N = 43) with alcohol use disorder.

Study Design: A within-subject, counterbalanced, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Participants will take GLWL-01 450 mg b.i.d. or matched placebo for a minimum of 4 days (Stage I). After a wash-out window, Stage II will take place during which the counterbalanced study drug will be administered for a minimum of 4 days.

Primary outcome measure: The co-primary aims will be to determine whether: 1) the number of adverse events (AEs) experienced differ in the GLWL-01 condition, compared to placebo; and 2) GLWL-01, compared to placebo, reduces alcohol cue-elicited craving using a validated alcohol cue-reactivity procedure.

Secondary outcome measures: The main secondary aim will be the effects of GLWL-01 on food choices using a virtual buffet experimental procedure. We will also monitor a wide range of behavioral measures including e.g., pain, anxiety, depression, alcohol craving and withdrawal, and smoking.

Condition Alcohol abuse, Alcohol Use Disorder, Alcohol Use Disorders, Alcohol Dependence
Treatment Placebo, GLWL-01
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT03896516
SponsorNational Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Last Modified on22 July 2021


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Mild - Moderate Alcohol Use Disorder (2-5 of the I2 symptoms on MINI)
Male or female individuals 18-70 years old (inclusive)
Able to speak, read, write and understand English
Most recent urine drug test for benzodiazepines, barbiturates, cocaine metabolites, morphine, oxycodone, methadone, amphetamine, & buprenorphine is negative
Most recent Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol-revised (CIWA-Ar) score is less than or equal to 8
Males only
Males agrees agree to sexual abstinence or to use a reliable method of birth control during the study and 3 months following the last dose of the study drug. Acceptable methods of birth control may include: 1) condom with spermicide; 2) diaphragm with spermicide; or 3) female condom with spermicide
Females only
Women of child-bearing potential may participate in the study
if they test negative for pregnancy (based on a urine pregnancy test) prior to initiation of treatment
they must also agree to use either 1 highly effective method of contraception or a combination of 2 effective methods of contraception during the study
Highly effective method may include hormonal contraceptives (e.g., combined oral contraceptives, patch, vaginal ring, injectables, and implants); intrauterine device or/ intrauterine system; vasectomy and tubal ligation
Effective methods may include barrier methods of contraception (e.g., male condom, female condom, cervical cap, diaphragm, contraceptive sponge)
Women may choose to use a double-barrier method of contraception. Barrier
methods without concomitant use of a spermicide are not reliable or an
acceptable method. Thus, each barrier method must include use of a spermicide
It should be noted that the use of male and female condoms as a double-barrier
method is not considered acceptable due to the high failure rate when these
methods are combined
Women not of child-bearing potential may participate in the study and include those who have
spontaneous amenorrhea for at least 12 months, not induced by a medical condition such as anorexia nervosa and not taking medications that induced amenorrhea e.g., oral contraceptives, hormones, gonadotropin-releasing hormone, anti-estrogens, selective estrogen receptor modulators, or chemotherapy; or
spontaneous amenorrhea for 6 to 12 months and a follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) level greater than 40 mIU/mL; or
women with a history of hysterectomy or bilateral oophorectomy must be at least 40 years of age and FSH >40 mIU/mL

Exclusion Criteria

Lifetime clinical diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder
BMI < 18.5 kg/m(2)
BMI >= 40 kg/m(2)
weight less than 60 kg
History of epilepsy and/or seizures
NOTE: individuals who have a history of alcohol withdrawal seizures may be in
the study as long as they have been abstinent from alcohol for at least 2
weeks prior to consent and during that period of abstinence, there were no
seizure episodes (otherwise, participant remains not eligible)
Creatinine greater than or equal to 2 mg/dL, AST or ALT > 3 times the upper normal limit, hemoglobin <10.5 g/dl
Diagnosis of liver cirrhosis
Clinically significant history or current eating, thyroid, pituitary or adrenal gland disorders or disorder of gastric motility as judged by a study clinician as determined from medical history and/or current clinical screening information
Clinically significant abnormal ECG
QTcF > 450 msec for men and > 470 msec for women
Family history of Long QT Syndrome
Patients on weight loss medications within 30 days of dosing
Patients with a history of bariatric surgery
Diagnosis of diabetes and currently on medication
Unable to refrain from or anticipates the use of
Any drugs known to be significant inhibitors of cytochrome P450 (CYP)3A enzymes and/or P-glycoprotein (P-gp) including regular consumption of grapefruit or grapefruit juice for 14 days prior to the first dose of study medication
[medications like acetaminophen (up to 2 g per 24-hour period) and ibuprofen
may be permitted during the study]
Any drugs known to be significant inducers of CYP3A enzymes and/or P-gp, including St. John s Wort, for 28 days prior to the first dose of study medication
Any medications that prolong the QTcF, unless the patient has been stable on the medication for at least 3 months and has a QTcF equal to or < 450 msec
Benzodiazepines. If a participant received a benzodiazepine as part of their treatment during the alcohol detoxification, then s/he can still be enrolled. However, 5 half-lives (for that benzodiazepine) will be required to elapse before the anticipated date of first study drug administration
Currently taking simvastatin >10 mg per day, atorvastatin >20 mg per day, or lovastatin >20 mg per day
The doses of these statins in combination products should not exceed these
defined dose levels
Patients with a history of statin-induced myopathy/rhabdomyolysis
Vision is unable to be corrected to (Snellen) 20/100
Clinically-significant history of motion or car sickness, or history of vestibular disorders
Any other reason or clinical condition for which the PI or the MAI or other study clinician will consider unsafe for a possible participant to participate in this study
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