Research abstract:

Background: Chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) is a debilitating disease of unknown pathogenesis consisting of  a variety of flu-like symptoms including severe fatigue.

Initial analysis of the use of rintatolimod (Poly I: Poly C12U), a selective TLR3 agonist, in a
Phase III, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of CFS/ME demonstrated statistical significance (p<0.05) in the reduction of fatigue  as measured by exercise tolerance (ET) as the primary endpoint using a modified Bruce protocol with reduced physical exertion in patients with  severe CFS/ME as defined by a Karnofsky performance score (KPS) of 40-60.

Methods and Findings: In order to better identify responders to rintatolimod, primary and secondary endpoints have been reexamined post hoc as a function of a pre-specified study baseline ET duration >9 minutes. Analysis of improvement in exercise performance at the ≥ 25% and  ≥ 50% levels using ET at 40 weeks compared to baseline was performed for the intent-to-treat (ITT) population (n=208) using the pre-specified baseline exercise stratum (baseline ET duration >9 minutes). For this subset of patients (n=126), 33% (n=20), and 12% (n=8) of rintatolimod vs. placebo patients, respectively, improved ET duration by ≥ 25% (p=0.004) while 23% (n=14) compared to 4.5% (n=3) of rintatolimod vs.  placebo patients, respectively improved ET duration by ≥ 50% (p=0.003).

This corresponds to increases of ≥ 186 and ≥ 373 seconds for patients receiving rintatolimod, respectively, at ≥ 25% and ≥ 50% improvement responses. A frequency distribution analysis of ≥ 25% improvement, <25% change, and ≥ 25% deterioration in ET from baseline at 40 weeks for the baseline >9 minutes cohort showed net improvement to be 18.3% for the rintatolimod cohort vs. 4.6% deterioration for placebo (p=0.015).

A continuous responder analysis using 5% increments from ≥ 25% to ≥ 50% provided a robust clinical enhancement in ET effect in the rintatolimod cohorts as compared to placebo. The KPS and Vitality (SF-36 subscale) quality of life secondary endpoints demonstrated similar clinically significant improvements for the rintatolimod cohort as a function of the same ET dichotomization. Rintatolimod was generally well-tolerated in this CFS/ME population.

Conclusions: Using a modified Bruce ET protocol with reduced physical exertion allowed clear identification of patient responders to rintatolimod with severe CFS/ME syndrome. Rintatolimod produced significant enhancement in ET and quality of life indicators in patients able to complete >9 minutes in a modified Bruce ET test.

Rintatolimod also reduced deterioration in ET compared to placebo in patients with the poorest initial ET. Exercise endurance >9 minutes in a Bruce protocol modified for patients with CFS/ME provides a method to identify patients most likely
to respond to rintatolimod.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME): Characteristics of Responders to Rintatolimod,  by David R Strayer, Bruce C Stouch, Staci R Stevens, Lucinda Bateman, Charles W Lapp, Daniel L Peterson, William A Carter, and William M Mitchell in J Drug Res Dev 1(1). 2015 Aug 8

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