Importance: Left ventricular assist device (LVAD) therapy improves myocardial function, but few patients recover sufficiently for explant, which has focused attention on stem cells to augment cardiac recovery.
Objective: To assess efficacy and adverse effects of intramyocardial injections of mesenchymal precursor cells (MPCs) during LVAD implant.
Design, setting, and participants: A randomized phase 2 clinical trial involving patients with advanced heart failure, undergoing LVAD implant, at 19 North American centers (July 2015-August 2017). The 1-year follow-up ended August 2018.
Interventions: Intramyocardial injections of 150 million allogeneic MPCs or cryoprotective medium as a sham treatment in a 2:1 ratio (n = 106 vs n = 53).
Main outcomes and measures: The primary efficacy end point was the proportion of successful temporary weans (of 3 planned assessments) from LVAD support within 6 months of randomization. This end point was assessed using a Bayesian analysis with a predefined threshold of a posterior probability of 80% to indicate success. The 1-year primary safety end point was the incidence of intervention-related adverse events (myocarditis, myocardial rupture, neoplasm, hypersensitivity reactions, and immune sensitization). Secondary end points included readmissions and adverse events at 6 months and 1-year survival.
Results: Of 159 patients (mean age, 56 years; 11.3% women), 155 (97.5%) completed 1-year of follow-up. The posterior probability that MPCs increased the likelihood of successful weaning was 69%; below the predefined threshold for success. The mean proportion of successful temporary weaning from LVAD support over 6 months was 61% in the MPC group and 58% in the control group (rate ratio [RR], 1.08; 95% CI, 0.83-1.41; P = .55). No patient experienced a primary safety end point. Of 10 prespecified secondary end points reported, 9 did not reach statistical significance. One-year mortality was not significantly different between the MPC group and the control group (14.2% vs 15.1%; hazard ratio [HR], 0.89; 95%, CI, 0.38-2.11; P = .80). The rate of serious adverse events was not significantly different between groups (70.9 vs 78.7 per 100 patient-months; difference, -7.89; 95% CI, -39.95 to 24.17; P = .63) nor was the rate of readmissions (0.68 vs 0.75 per 100 patient-months; difference, -0.07; 95% CI, -0.41 to 0.27; P = .68).
Conclusions and relevance: Among patients with advanced heart failure, intramyocardial injections of mesenchymal precursor cells, compared with injections of a cryoprotective medium as sham treatment, did not improve successful temporary weaning from left ventricular assist device support at 6 months. The findings do not support the use of intramyocardial mesenchymal stem cells to promote cardiac recovery as measured by temporary weaning from device support.
Trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT02362646.