Background: People with vascular cognitive impairment (VCI) constitute a clinically heterogeneous group, but previous symptomatic drug trials in VCI did not take this clinical heterogeneity into account. Executive dysfunction and memory impairment are the cognitive domains that are most frequently impaired in VCI, and these impairments are likely to reflect vascular damage to specific neurotransmitter systems, which opens the possibility for targeted symptomatic treatment directed at specific neurotransmitters.
Objective: Here we describe the design of the "Symptomatic Treatment of Vascular Cognitive Impairment" (STREAM-VCI) trial. In this proof-of-concept study, we investigate whether people with VCI with executive dysfunction due to vascular damage to the monoaminergic neurotransmitter system differentially respond to a monoaminergic challenge, whereas people with VCI with memory dysfunction associated with vascular damage to the cholinergic system will in turn respond to a cholinergic challenge.
Methods: The STREAM-VCI is a single center, double blind, three-way cross-over trial among 30 people with VCI, in which subjects received a single dose of galantamine, methylphenidate, or placebo on separate occasions. The most important inclusion criteria were a diagnosis of VCI with a Mini-Mental State Examination score of ≥16 and a Clinical Dementia Rating of 0.5-1.0. For each person, the challenges consisted of a single 16 mg dose of galantamine, 10 mg of methylphenidate, and placebo, in random order on three separate visits. Change in performance in executive functioning and memory was assessed directly after the challenge using standardized neuropsychological tests. We will correlate a positive response to the cholinergic and monoaminergic treatment with differences in structural and functional connectivity at baseline using structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), diffusion tension MRI, and resting-state functional MRI.
Results: The protocol of this study is approved by the Medical Ethics Committee of VU University Medical Center and the competent authority. The first participant was enrolled in April 2014. In September 2017, enrolment for the study was completed. We expect to publish the results in 2018.
Conclusions: STREAM-VCI is the first study to investigate the association of a response to a cholinergic and monoaminergic treatment with structural and functional connectivity of the monoaminergic and/or cholinergic systems on MRI. We aim to predict on an individual basis which individuals show a positive response to a cholinergic and/or monoaminergic challenge in people with VCI. This may be instrumental in moving in the direction of individually-tailored pharmacological interventions based on MRI measures in people with VCI.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02098824; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02098824 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6xhO7Ya1q).
Keywords: Magnetic Resonance Imaging; Vascular cognitive impairment; clinical trial; cognition; dementia; galantamine; methylphenidate; small vessel disease; vascular disease.
©Jolien Fleur Leijenaar, Geert Jan Groeneveld, Wiesje Maria van der Flier, Philip Scheltens, Erica Surya Klaassen, Henry Chanoch Weinstein, Geert Jan Biessels, Frederik Barkhof, Niels Daniël Prins. Originally published in JMIR Research Protocols (http://www.researchprotocols.org), 20.03.2018.