Phase 1-2 Trial of Antisense Oligonucleotide Tofersen for SOD1 ALS

N Engl J Med. 2020 Jul 9;383(2):109-119. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa2003715.


Background: Tofersen is an antisense oligonucleotide that mediates the degradation of superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) messenger RNA to reduce SOD1 protein synthesis. Intrathecal administration of tofersen is being studied for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) due to SOD1 mutations.

Methods: We conducted a phase 1-2 ascending-dose trial evaluating tofersen in adults with ALS due to SOD1 mutations. In each dose cohort (20, 40, 60, or 100 mg), participants were randomly assigned in a 3:1 ratio to receive five doses of tofersen or placebo, administered intrathecally for 12 weeks. The primary outcomes were safety and pharmacokinetics. The secondary outcome was the change from baseline in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) SOD1 concentration at day 85. Clinical function and vital capacity were measured.

Results: A total of 50 participants underwent randomization and were included in the analyses; 48 participants received all five planned doses. Lumbar puncture-related adverse events were observed in most participants. Elevations in CSF white-cell count and protein were reported as adverse events in 4 and 5 participants, respectively, who received tofersen. Among participants who received tofersen, one died from pulmonary embolus on day 137, and one from respiratory failure on day 152; one participant in the placebo group died from respiratory failure on day 52. The difference at day 85 in the change from baseline in the CSF SOD1 concentration between the tofersen groups and the placebo group was 2 percentage points (95% confidence interval [CI], -18 to 27) for the 20-mg dose, -25 percentage points (95% CI, -40 to -5) for the 40-mg dose, -19 percentage points (95% CI, -35 to 2) for the 60-mg dose, and -33 percentage points (95% CI, -47 to -16) for the 100-mg dose.

Conclusions: In adults with ALS due to SOD1 mutations, CSF SOD1 concentrations decreased at the highest concentration of tofersen administered intrathecally over a period of 12 weeks. CSF pleocytosis occurred in some participants receiving tofersen. Lumbar puncture-related adverse events were observed in most participants. (Funded by Biogen; number, NCT02623699; EudraCT number, 2015-004098-33.).

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / drug therapy*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / genetics
  • Disease Progression
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Headache / chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Injections, Spinal / adverse effects
  • Intermediate Filaments
  • Leukocytosis / chemically induced
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation
  • Oligonucleotides / administration & dosage*
  • Oligonucleotides / adverse effects
  • Oligonucleotides / pharmacokinetics
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense / administration & dosage*
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense / adverse effects
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense / pharmacokinetics
  • Superoxide Dismutase-1 / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Superoxide Dismutase-1 / genetics
  • Vital Capacity


  • Oligonucleotides
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense
  • SOD1 protein, human
  • tofersen
  • Superoxide Dismutase-1

Supplementary concepts

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 1

Associated data

  • EudraCT/2015-004098-33