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Concept: Pre-clinical development


Industry-sponsored clinical drug studies are associated with publication of outcomes that favor the sponsor, even when controlling for potential bias in the methods used. However, the influence of sponsorship bias has not been examined in preclinical animal studies. We performed a meta-analysis of preclinical statin studies to determine whether industry sponsorship is associated with either increased effect sizes of efficacy outcomes and/or risks of bias in a cohort of published preclinical statin studies. We searched Medline (January 1966-April 2012) and identified 63 studies evaluating the effects of statins on atherosclerosis outcomes in animals. Two coders independently extracted study design criteria aimed at reducing bias, results for all relevant outcomes, sponsorship source, and investigator financial ties. The I(2) statistic was used to examine heterogeneity. We calculated the standardized mean difference (SMD) for each outcome and pooled data across studies to estimate the pooled average SMD using random effects models. In a priori subgroup analyses, we assessed statin efficacy by outcome measured, sponsorship source, presence or absence of financial conflict information, use of an optimal time window for outcome assessment, accounting for all animals, inclusion criteria, blinding, and randomization. The effect of statins was significantly larger for studies sponsored by nonindustry sources (-1.99; 95% CI -2.68, -1.31) versus studies sponsored by industry (-0.73; 95% CI -1.00, -0.47) (p value<0.001). Statin efficacy did not differ by disclosure of financial conflict information, use of an optimal time window for outcome assessment, accounting for all animals, inclusion criteria, blinding, and randomization. Possible reasons for the differences between nonindustry- and industry-sponsored studies, such as selective reporting of outcomes, require further study.

Concepts: Atherosclerosis, Medical statistics, Effectiveness, Pharmaceutical industry, Clinical research, Pre-clinical development, Effect size, Sponsor


Recent clinical studies revealed emotional and cognitive impairments associated with absence epilepsy. Preclinical research with genetic models of absence epilepsy however have primarily focused on dysfunctional emotional processes and paid relatively less attention to cognitive impairment. In order to bridge this gap, we investigated age-dependent changes in learning and memory performance, anxiety-like behavior, and locomotor activity of WAG/Rij rats (a valid model of generalized absence epilepsy) using passive avoidance, Morris water maze, elevated plus maze, and locomotor activity cage. We tested 5 month-old and 13 month-old WAG/Rij rats and compared their performance to age-matched Wistar rats. Results revealed a decline in emotional and spatial memory of WAG/Rij rats compared to age-matched Wistar rats only at 13 months of age. Importantly, there were no significant differences between WAG/Rij and Wistar rats in terms of anxiety-like behavior and locomotor activity at either age. Results pointed at age-dependent learning and memory deficits in the WAG/Rij rat model of absence epilepsy.

Concepts: Psychology, Cognitive psychology, Cognitive neuroscience, Rat, Performance, Pre-clinical development, Absence seizure, Laboratory rat


Dusquetide, a novel Innate Defense Regulator, modulates the innate immune system at a key convergence point in intracellular signaling pathways and has demonstrated activity in both reducing inflammation and increasing clearance of bacterial infection. Innate immunity has also been implicated in the pathogenesis of oral mucositis (OM), a universal toxicity of chemoradiation therapy (CRT). Testing the hypothesis that dusquetide can mitigate the development and duration of OM, preclinical studies have been completed and correlated with interim results from a Phase 2 clinical study in patients undergoing CRT for head and neck cancer. Dusquetide reduced the duration of OM in mouse and hamster models by approximately 50%, which was recapitulated by the 50% reduction of severe OM (SOM) in the Phase 2 trial. A reduction in the clinical rate of infection was also observed, consistent with previously reported preclinical studies. In aggregate, these results not only demonstrate the safety and efficacy of dusquetide in addressing this unmet medical need, but also provide proof of concept for the translation of dusquetide action between animal models and the human clinical setting, and further support the contention that innate immunity is an important driver for the initiation and continued impact of OM.

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, Bacteria, Signal transduction, Virus, Innate immune system, Immunity, Pre-clinical development


Cannabidiol (CBD) is a nonpsychoactive phytocannabinoid used in multiple sclerosis and intractable epilepsies. Preclinical studies show CBD has numerous cardiovascular benefits, including a reduced blood pressure (BP) response to stress. The aim of this study was to investigate if CBD reduces BP in humans.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Blood, Crossover study, Multiple sclerosis, Pre-clinical development, Cultural studies


This is the first prospective study of the effects of human gut microbiota and metabolites on immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICT) response in metastatic melanoma patients. Whereas many melanoma patients exhibit profound response to ICT, there are fewer options for patients failing ICT-particularly with BRAF-wild-type disease. In preclinical studies, specific gut microbiota promotes regression of melanoma in mice. We therefore conducted a study of the effects of pretreatment gut microbiota and metabolites on ICT Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors response in 39 metastatic melanoma patients treated with ipilimumab, nivolumab, ipilimumab plus nivolumab (IN), or pembrolizumab (P). IN yielded 67% responses and 8% stable disease; P achieved 23% responses and 23% stable disease. ICT responders for all types of therapies were enriched for Bacteroides caccae. Among IN responders, the gut microbiome was enriched for Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, Bacteroides thetaiotamicron, and Holdemania filiformis. Among P responders, the microbiome was enriched for Dorea formicogenerans. Unbiased shotgun metabolomics revealed high levels of anacardic acid in ICT responders. Based on these pilot studies, both additional confirmatory clinical studies and preclinical testing of these bacterial species and metabolites are warranted to confirm their ICT enhancing activity.

Concepts: Cancer, Bacteria, Gut flora, Oncology, Metabolism, Melanoma, Pre-clinical development, Metabolomics


Over a quarter of drugs that enter clinical development fail because they are ineffective. Growing insight into genes that influence human disease may affect how drug targets and indications are selected. However, there is little guidance about how much weight should be given to genetic evidence in making these key decisions. To answer this question, we investigated how well the current archive of genetic evidence predicts drug mechanisms. We found that, among well-studied indications, the proportion of drug mechanisms with direct genetic support increases significantly across the drug development pipeline, from 2.0% at the preclinical stage to 8.2% among mechanisms for approved drugs, and varies dramatically among disease areas. We estimate that selecting genetically supported targets could double the success rate in clinical development. Therefore, using the growing wealth of human genetic data to select the best targets and indications should have a measurable impact on the successful development of new drugs.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Gene, Genetics, Clinical trial, Human genome, Pharmaceutical industry, Drug discovery, Pre-clinical development


In recent years, the number of clinical trials in which adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors have been used forin vivogene transfer has steadily increased. The excellent safety profile, together with the high efficiency of transduction of a broad range of target tissues, has established AAV vectors as the platform of choice forin vivogene therapy. Successful application of the AAV technology has also been achieved in the clinic for a variety of conditions, including coagulation disorders, inherited blindness, and neurodegenerative diseases, among others. Clinical translation of novel and effective “therapeutic products” is, however, a long process that involves several cycles of iterations from bench to bedside that are required to address issues encountered during drug development. For the AAV vector gene transfer technology, several hurdles have emerged in both preclinical studies and clinical trials; addressing these issues will allow in the future to expand the scope of AAV gene transfer as a therapeutic modality for a variety of human diseases. In this review, we will give an overview on the biology of AAV vector, discuss the design of AAV-based gene therapy strategies forin vivoapplications, and present key achievements and emerging issues in the field. We will use the liver as a model target tissue for gene transfer based on the large amount of data available from preclinical and clinical studies.

Concepts: Medicine, Gene, Epidemiology, Clinical trial, Virus, Drug discovery, Pre-clinical development, Adeno-associated virus


Poor study methodology leads to biased measurement of treatment effects in preclinical research. We used available sunitinib preclinical studies to evaluate relationships between study design and experimental tumor volume effect sizes. We identified published animal efficacy experiments where sunitinib monotherapy was tested for effects on tumor volume. Effect sizes were extracted alongside experimental design elements addressing threats to valid clinical inference. Reported use of practices to address internal validity threats was limited, with no experiments using blinded outcome assessment. Most malignancies were tested in one model only, raising concerns about external validity. We calculate a 45% overestimate of effect size across all malignancies due to potential publication bias. Pooled effect sizes for specific malignancies did not show apparent relationships with effect sizes in clinical trials, and we were unable to detect dose-response relationships. Design and reporting standards represent an opportunity for improving clinical inference.

Concepts: Experimental design, Medical statistics, Effectiveness, Pharmaceutical industry, Clinical research, Pre-clinical development, Effect size, Meta-analysis


Targeted delivery approaches for cancer therapeutics have shown a steep rise over the past few decades. However, compared to the plethora of successful pre-clinical studies, only 15 passively targeted nanocarriers (NCs) have been approved for clinical use and none of the actively targeted NCs have advanced past clinical trials. Herein, we review the principles behind targeted delivery approaches to determine potential reasons for their limited clinical translation and success. We propose criteria and considerations that must be taken into account for the development of novel actively targeted NCs. We also highlight the possible directions for the development of successful tumor targeting strategies.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Clinical trial, Cancer, The Canon of Medicine,, Pre-clinical development, Success


Background Crohn’s disease-related inflammation is characterized by reduced activity of the immunosuppressive cytokine transforming growth factor β1 (TGF-β1) due to high levels of SMAD7, an inhibitor of TGF-β1 signaling. Preclinical studies and a phase 1 study have shown that an oral SMAD7 antisense oligonucleotide, mongersen, targets ileal and colonic SMAD7. Methods In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 2 trial, we evaluated the efficacy of mongersen for the treatment of persons with active Crohn’s disease. Patients were randomly assigned to receive 10, 40, or 160 mg of mongersen or placebo per day for 2 weeks. The primary outcomes were clinical remission at day 15, defined as a Crohn’s Disease Activity Index (CDAI) score of less than 150, with maintenance of remission for at least 2 weeks, and the safety of mongersen treatment. A secondary outcome was clinical response (defined as a reduction of 100 points or more in the CDAI score) at day 28. Results The proportions of patients who reached the primary end point were 55% and 65% for the 40-mg and 160-mg mongersen groups, respectively, as compared with 10% for the placebo group (P<0.001). There was no significant difference in the percentage of participants reaching clinical remission between the 10-mg group (12%) and the placebo group. The rate of clinical response was significantly greater among patients receiving 10 mg (37%), 40 mg (58%), or 160 mg (72%) of mongersen than among those receiving placebo (17%) (P=0.04, P<0.001, and P<0.001, respectively). Most adverse events were related to complications and symptoms of Crohn's disease. Conclusions We found that study participants with Crohn's disease who received mongersen had significantly higher rates of remission and clinical response than those who received placebo. (Funded by Giuliani; EudraCT number, 2011-002640-27 .).

Concepts: Clinical trial, Signal transduction, Medical terms, Colon, Small intestine, Clinical research, Placebo, Pre-clinical development