Treatment of optic neuritis with erythropoietin (TONE): a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial-study protocol

BMJ Open. 2016 Mar 1;6(3):e010956. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-010956.


Introduction: Optic neuritis leads to degeneration of retinal ganglion cells whose axons form the optic nerve. The standard treatment is a methylprednisolone pulse therapy. This treatment slightly shortens the time of recovery but does not prevent neurodegeneration and persistent visual impairment. In a phase II trial performed in preparation of this study, we have shown that erythropoietin protects global retinal nerve fibre layer thickness (RNFLT-G) in acute optic neuritis; however, the preparatory trial was not powered to show effects on visual function.

Methods and analysis: Treatment of Optic Neuritis with Erythropoietin (TONE) is a national, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicentre trial with two parallel arms. The primary objective is to determine the efficacy of erythropoietin compared to placebo given add-on to methylprednisolone as assessed by measurements of RNFLT-G and low-contrast visual acuity in the affected eye 6 months after randomisation. Inclusion criteria are a first episode of optic neuritis with decreased visual acuity to ≤ 0.5 (decimal system) and an onset of symptoms within 10 days prior to inclusion. The most important exclusion criteria are history of optic neuritis or multiple sclerosis or any ocular disease (affected or non-affected eye), significant hyperopia, myopia or astigmatism, elevated blood pressure, thrombotic events or malignancy. After randomisation, patients either receive 33,000 international units human recombinant erythropoietin intravenously for 3 consecutive days or placebo (0.9% saline) administered intravenously. With an estimated power of 80%, the calculated sample size is 100 patients. The trial started in September 2014 with a planned recruitment period of 30 months.

Ethics and dissemination: TONE has been approved by the Central Ethics Commission in Freiburg (194/14) and the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (61-3910-4039831). It complies with the Declaration of Helsinki, local laws and ICH-GCP.

Trial registration number: NCT01962571.

Keywords: Erythropoietin; Low Contrast Visual Acuity; Neuroprotection; Optic neuritis; Optical coherence tomography.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase III
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Clinical Protocols*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Erythropoietin / administration & dosage*
  • Erythropoietin / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Optic Neuritis / drug therapy*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Retina / physiopathology*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Visual Acuity*
  • Young Adult


  • Erythropoietin

Associated data