Background and purpose: The NeuroThera Effectiveness and Safety Trial-1 (NEST-1) study evaluated the safety and preliminary effectiveness of the NeuroThera Laser System in the ability to improve 90-day outcomes in ischemic stroke patients treated within 24 hours from stroke onset. The NeuroThera Laser System therapeutic approach involves use of infrared laser technology and has shown significant and sustained beneficial effects in animal models of ischemic stroke.
Methods: This was a prospective, intention-to-treat, multicenter, international, double-blind, trial involving 120 ischemic stroke patients treated, randomized 2:1 ratio, with 79 patients in the active treatment group and 41 in the sham (placebo) control group. Only patients with baseline stroke severity measured by National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) scores of 7 to 22 were included. Patients who received tissue plasminogen activator were excluded. Outcome measures were the patients' scores on the NIHSS, modified Rankin Scale (mRS), Barthel Index, and Glasgow Outcome Scale at 90 days after treatment. The primary outcome measure, prospectively identified, was successful treatment, documented by NIHSS. This was defined as a complete recovery at day 90 (NIHSS 0 to 1), or a decrease in NIHSS score of at least 9 points (day 90 versus baseline), and was tested as a binary measure (bNIH). Secondary outcome measures included mRS, Barthel Index, and Glasgow Outcome Scale. Primary statistical analyses were performed with the Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel rank test, stratified by baseline NIHSS score or by time to treatment for the bNIH and mRS. Logistic regression analyses were conducted to confirm the results.
Results: Mean time to treatment was >16 hours (median time to treatment 18 hours for active and 17 hours for control). Time to treatment ranged from 2 to 24 hours. More patients (70%) in the active treatment group had successful outcomes than did controls (51%), as measured prospectively on the bNIH (P=0.035 stratified by severity and time to treatment; P=0.048 stratified only by severity). Similarly, more patients (59%) had successful outcomes than did controls (44%) as measured at 90 days as a binary mRS score of 0 to 2 (P=0.034 stratified by severity and time to treatment; P=0.043 stratified only by severity). Also, more patients in the active treatment group had successful outcomes than controls as measured by the change in mean NIHSS score from baseline to 90 days (P=0.021 stratified by time to treatment) and the full mRS ("shift in Rankin") score (P=0.020 stratified by severity and time to treatment; P=0.026 stratified only by severity). The prevalence odds ratio for bNIH was 1.40 (95% CI, 1.01 to 1.93) and for binary mRS was 1.38 (95% CI, 1.03 to 1.83), controlling for baseline severity. Similar results held for the Barthel Index and Glasgow Outcome Scale. Mortality rates and serious adverse events (SAEs) did not differ significantly (8.9% and 25.3% for active 9.8% and 36.6% for control, respectively, for mortality and SAEs).
Conclusions: The NEST-1 study indicates that infrared laser therapy has shown initial safety and effectiveness for the treatment of ischemic stroke in humans when initiated within 24 hours of stroke onset. A larger confirmatory trial to demonstrate safety and effectiveness is warranted.