Background & aims: A large unmet therapeutic need exists in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Inhibition of interleukin (IL)-6 appears to be effective, but the therapeutic benefit of a complete IL6/IL6 receptor (IL6R) blockade is limited by profound immunosuppression. Evidence has emerged that chronic proinflammatory activity of IL6 is mainly mediated by trans-signaling via a complex of IL6 bound to soluble IL6R engaging the gp130 co-receptor without the need for membrane-bound IL6R. We have developed a decoy protein, sgp130Fc, that exclusively blocks IL6 proinflammatory trans-signaling and has shown efficacy in preclinical models of IBD, without signs of immunosuppression.
Methods: We present a 12-week, open-label, prospective phase 2a trial (FUTURE) in 16 patients with active IBD treated with the trans-signaling inhibitor olamkicept (sgp130Fc) to assess the molecular mechanisms, safety, and effectiveness of IL6 trans-signaling blockade in vivo. We performed in-depth molecular profiling at various timepoints before and after therapy induction to identify the mechanism of action of olamkicept.
Results: Olamkicept was well tolerated and induced clinical response in 44% and clinical remission in 19% of patients. Clinical effectiveness coincided with target inhibition (reduction of phosphorylated STAT3) and marked transcriptional changes in the inflamed mucosa. An olamkicept-specific transcriptional signature, distinguishable from remission signatures of anti-tumor necrosis factor (infliximab) or anti-integrin (vedolizumab) therapies was identified.
Conclusions: Our data suggest that blockade of IL6 trans-signaling holds great promise for the therapy of IBD and should undergo full clinical development as a new immunoregulatory therapy for IBD. (EudraCT no., Nu 2016-000205-36).
Keywords: Cytokine; Inflammatory Bowel Disease; STAT3; Trans-signaling.
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