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News Brief—Dead End for Lilly mGluR Schizophrenia Drug

29 August 2012. Eli Lilly and Company announced in a press release today that they will stop Phase 3 clinical trials of a schizophrenia drug targeting the metabotropic glutamate receptor. This was not unexpected, as just last month Lilly had revealed further disappointing trial results of the mGluR2/3 agonist pomaglumetad methionil (also called LY2140023). At the time, researchers interviewed by SRF had mixed opinions about the way forward (see SRF news story), and a Lilly spokesperson had told SRF that they were still pressing forward with the development of LY2140023, including analyzing data on mGluR2/3 agonists as adjunctive therapy to approved schizophrenia drugs. In the latest press release, they write that this Phase 2 study also failed to meet its primary endpoint.—Hakon Heimer.

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Related News: Opinions Mixed on Future for Lilly’s mGluR2/3 Agonist for Schizophrenia

Comment by:  Philip Seeman (Disclosure)
Submitted 15 August 2012
Posted 22 August 2012

The Lilly results of 11 July 2012 are not surprising, considering that the main ingredient of LY2140023 is LY404039, which is both a glutamate agonist and a weak partial dopamine agonist with only one-hundredth the potency of aripiprazole (Seeman and Guan, 2009; Seeman, 2012a), and considering that closer inspection of the clinical data (Kinon et al., 2011) showed that olanzapine was effective in schizophrenia, while LY2140023 was not (Seeman, 2012b).

References:

Kinon BJ, Zhang L, Millen BA, Osuntokun OO, Williams JE, Kollack-Walker S, Jackson K, Kryzhanovskaya L, Jarkova N, . A multicenter, inpatient, phase 2, double-blind, placebo-controlled dose-ranging study of LY2140023 monohydrate in patients with DSM-IV schizophrenia. J Clin Psychopharmacol . 2011 Jun ; 31(3):349-55. Abstract

Seeman P, Guan HC. Glutamate agonist LY404,039 for treating schizophrenia has affinity for the dopamine D2(High) receptor. Synapse. 2009 Oct ; 63(10):935-9. Abstract

Seeman P. An agonist at glutamate and dopamine D2 receptors, LY404039. Neuropharmacology. 2012a Jul 4. Abstract

Seeman P. Comment on "A multicenter, inpatient, phase 2, double-blind, placebo-controlled dose-ranging study of LY2140023 monohydrate in patients with DSM-IV schizophrenia" by Kinon et al. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2012b Apr ; 32(2):291-2; author reply 292-293. Abstract

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Related News: Opinions Mixed on Future for Lilly’s mGluR2/3 Agonist for Schizophrenia

Comment by:  Hugo Geerts
Submitted 15 August 2012
Posted 22 August 2012

This is indeed another setback for the schizophrenia patient community, and it underscores the difficulty of translating animal model outcomes to the clinical situation. We have to think about introducing a new technology in schizophrenia drug discovery and development that would combine the best of preclinical animal information, but transplanted into a humanized environment to reverse this string of clinical failures.

One such approach is Quantitative Systems or Network Pharmacology, a computer-based mechanistic disease model of biophysically realistic neuronal networks that combines preclinical neurophysiology with human pathology, and clinical and imaging data (the topic of a recent NIH White Paper). Such an approach can be calibrated with retrospective clinical data, and then used to predict and examine future clinical trials. Applying this quantitative paradigm to the (also much publicized) failure of Dimebon in AD, researchers found that there was a fundamental off-target effect that precluded Dimebon from having cognitive benefits. Further analyses suggested that an imbalance in a common dopaminergic phenotype could increase part of the clinical signal difference as observed in the first (successful) Phase 2 trial.

In the case of schizophrenia, we find that affecting glutamatergic (such as with the mGluR2/R3 agonist) or GABA neurotransmission almost always leads to an inverse U-shaped dose response, because of the intrinsic balance between excitation and inhibition in cortical networks. Using such an approach forces discovery scientists to look beyond the single target and think about the impact on networks and circuits that ultimately drive human behavior and pathology in CNS disorders.

Unlike the traditional, currently used "cartoon"-based qualitative drawings, this approach allows for a quantitative outcome that, in principle, can help define the optimal "sweet spot" of the dose response by looking at the outcome of endophenotypes such as BOLD fMRI.

References:

Athan Spiros, Hugo Geerts. 2012. A quantitative way to estimate clinical off-target effects for human membrane brain targets in CNS Research and Development. Exp Pharmacology, 4; 53-61.

Athan Spiros, Patrick Roberts, Hugo Geerts. (2012) A Quantitative Systems Pharmacology Computer Model for Schizophrenia Efficacy and Extrapyramidal Side Effects, Drug Dev. Res, 73(4): 1098-1109.

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Related News: SIRS 2014: Refining Schizophrenia Clinical Drug Trials

Comment by:  Anthony Grace, SRF Advisor (Disclosure)
Submitted 4 June 2014
Posted 4 June 2014

This was an important symposium, but I am concerned about the impression that these findings suggest a problem with translating data from animal models to the clinic. In order to translate effectively, one must use an animal model that recapitulates as much of the disease state as possible, and acute pharmacological challenges are inadequate for this. Developmental models should be a more effective screen. But perhaps more important, there is a very big difference between animal models and clinical trials: In animal models, the first therapeutic drug that the animal sees is the novel target compound. In contrast, clinical trials comprise patients that have been treated for antipsychotic drugs for decades, then withdrawn for only a single week before the test compound is evaluated.

It has been known for quite some time that repeated D2 antagonists change the brain in substantial ways. In our recent paper (Gill et al., 2014), we found that a GABAA alpha 5 compound that was highly effective in reversing dopamine neuron hyper-responsivity and amphetamine hyperlocomotion in MAM model rats was completely ineffective if the MAM rats were given just three weeks of haloperidol and withdrawn from the drug for one week. Therefore, once maintained on a D2 antipsychotic drug, we posit that the system changes from a hippocampal overdriven dopamine system to a postsynaptic dopamine receptor supersensitivity psychosis, such that only another D2 antagonist can now effectively replace the drug that had been withdrawn. We need to rethink clinical trial design if we are to effectively evaluate drugs with novel targets, or we may never get away from D2 antagonist therapy.

References:

Gill KM, Cook JM, Poe MM, Grace AA. Prior antipsychotic drug treatment prevents response to novel antipsychotic agent in the methylazoxymethanol acetate model of schizophrenia. Schizophr Bull. 2014 Mar ;40(2):341-50. Abstract

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