Introduction: Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is the most common, severe childhood form of muscular dystrophy. Treatment is limited to glucocorticoids that have the benefit of prolonging ambulation by approximately 2 years and preventing scoliosis. Finding a more satisfactory treatment should focus on maintaining long-term efficacy with a minimal side effect profile.
Areas covered: Authors discuss different therapeutic strategies that have been used in pre-clinical and clinical settings.
Expert opinion: Multiple treatment approaches have emerged. Most attractive are molecular-based therapies that can express the missing dystrophin protein (exon skipping or mutation suppression) or a surrogate gene product (utrophin). Other approaches include increasing the strength of muscles (myostatin inhibitors), reducing muscle fibrosis and decreasing oxidative stress. Additional targets include inhibiting NF-κB to reduce inflammation or promoting skeletal muscle blood flow and muscle contractility using phosphodiesterase inhibitors or nitric oxide (NO) donors. The potential for each of these treatment strategies to enter clinical trials is a central theme of discussion. The review emphasizes that the goal of treatment should be to find a product at least as good as glucocorticoids with a lower side effect profile or with a significant glucocorticoid sparing effect.