Soluble Nogo-Receptor-Fc decoy (AXER-204) in patients with chronic cervical spinal cord injury in the USA: a first-in-human and randomised clinical trial

George Maynard, Ramakrishnan Kannan, Jian Liu, Weiwei Wang, Tu Kiet T. Lam, Xingxing Wang, Crista Adamson, Craig Hackett, Jan M. Schwab, Charles Liu, Donald P. Leslie, David Chen, Ralph Marino, Ross Zafonte, Adam Flanders, Gilbert Block, Erika Smith, Stephen M. Strittmatter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Spinal cord injury (SCI) causes neural disconnection and persistent neurological deficits, so axon sprouting and plasticity might promote recovery. Soluble Nogo-Receptor-Fc decoy (AXER-204) blocks inhibitors of axon growth and promotes recovery of motor function after SCI in animals. This first-in-human and randomised trial sought to determine primarily the safety and pharmacokinetics of AXER-204 in individuals with chronic SCI, and secondarily its effect on recovery. Methods: We conducted a two-part study in adults (aged 18–65 years) with chronic (>1 year) cervical traumatic SCI at six rehabilitation centres in the USA. In part 1, AXER-204 was delivered open label as single intrathecal doses of 3 mg, 30 mg, 90 mg, or 200 mg, with primary outcomes of safety and pharmacokinetics. Part 2 was a randomised, parallel, double-blind comparison of six intrathecal doses of 200 mg AXER-204 over 104 days versus placebo. Participants were randomly allocated (1:1) by investigators using a central electronic system, stratified in blocks of four by American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale grade and receipt of AXER-204 in part 1. All investigators and patients were masked to treatment allocation until at least day 169. The part 2 primary objectives were safety and pharmacokinetics, with a key secondary objective to assess change in International Standards for Neurological Classification of SCI (ISNCSCI) Upper Extremity Motor Score (UEMS) at day 169 for all enrolled participants. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT03989440, and is completed. Findings: We treated 24 participants in part 1 (six per dose; 18 men, six women), and 27 participants in part 2 (13 placebo, 14 AXER-204; 23 men, four women), between June 20, 2019, and June 21, 2022. There were no deaths and no discontinuations from the study due to an adverse event in part 1 and 2. In part 2, treatment-related adverse events were of similar incidence in AXER-204 and placebo groups (ten [71%] vs nine [69%]). Headache was the most common treatment-related adverse event (five [21%] in part 1, 11 [41%] in part 2). In part 1, AXER-204 reached mean maximal CSF concentration 1 day after dosing with 200 mg of 412 000 ng/mL (SD 129 000), exceeding those concentrations that were efficacious in animal studies. In part 2, mean changes from baseline to day 169 in ISNCSCI UEMS were 1·5 (SD 3·3) for AXER-204 and 0·9 (2·3) for placebo (mean difference 0·54, 95% CI –1·48 to 2·55; p=0·59). Interpretation: This study delivers the first, to our knowledge, clinical trial of a rationally designed pharmacological treatment intended to promote neural repair in chronic SCI. AXER-204 appeared safe and reached target CSF concentrations; exploratory biomarker results were consistent with target engagement and synaptic stabilisation. Post-hoc subgroup analyses suggest that future trials could investigate efficacy in patients with moderately severe SCI without prior AXER-204 exposure. Funding: Wings for Life Foundation, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institute on Drug Abuse, and ReNetX Bio.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)672-684
Number of pages13
JournalThe Lancet Neurology
Volume22
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology

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