A phase Ib/IIa clinical trial of dantrolene sodium in patients with Wolfram syndrome

JCI Insight. 2021 Aug 9;6(15):e145188. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.145188.


BACKGROUNDWolfram syndrome is a rare ER disorder characterized by insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, optic nerve atrophy, and progressive neurodegeneration. Although there is no treatment for Wolfram syndrome, preclinical studies in cell and rodent models suggest that therapeutic strategies targeting ER calcium homeostasis, including dantrolene sodium, may be beneficial.METHODSBased on results from preclinical studies on dantrolene sodium and ongoing longitudinal studies, we assembled what we believe is the first-ever clinical trial in pediatric and adult Wolfram syndrome patients with an open-label phase Ib/IIa trial design. The primary objective was to assess the safety and tolerability of dantrolene sodium in adult and pediatric Wolfram syndrome patients. Secondary objectives were to evaluate the efficacy of dantrolene sodium on residual pancreatic β cell functions, visual acuity, quality-of-life measures related to vision, and neurological functions.RESULTSDantrolene sodium was well tolerated by Wolfram syndrome patients. Overall, β cell functions were not significantly improved, but there was a significant correlation between baseline β cell functions and change in β cell responsiveness (R2, P = 0.004) after 6-month dantrolene therapy. Visual acuity and neurological functions were not improved by 6-month dantrolene sodium. Markers of inflammatory cytokines and oxidative stress, such as IFN-γ, IL-1β, TNF-α, and isoprostane, were elevated in subjects.CONCLUSIONThis study justifies further investigation into using dantrolene sodium and other small molecules targeting the ER for treatment of Wolfram syndrome.TRIAL REGISTRATIONClinicalTrials.gov identifier NCT02829268FUNDINGNIH/National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) (DK112921, DK113487, DK020579), NIH/National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) (TR002065, TR000448), NIH training grant (F30DK111070), Silberman Fund, Ellie White Foundation, Snow Foundation, Unravel Wolfram Syndrome Fund, Stowe Fund, Eye Hope Foundation, Feiock Fund, Washington University Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences grant UL1TR002345 from NIH/NCATS, Bursky Center for Human Immunology & Immunotherapy Programs.

Keywords: Cell stress; Diabetes; Endocrinology; Genetic diseases; Genetics.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase I
  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biological Availability
  • Calcium Signaling / drug effects
  • Child
  • Dantrolene* / administration & dosage
  • Dantrolene* / adverse effects
  • Dantrolene* / pharmacokinetics
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Monitoring / methods
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells* / drug effects
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells* / physiology
  • Interleukin-18 / analysis*
  • Interleukin-1beta / analysis*
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy / methods
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy / statistics & numerical data
  • Muscle Relaxants, Central / administration & dosage
  • Muscle Relaxants, Central / adverse effects
  • Muscle Relaxants, Central / pharmacokinetics
  • Neurologic Examination / drug effects
  • Quality of Life*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Visual Acuity / drug effects*
  • Wolfram Syndrome* / diagnosis
  • Wolfram Syndrome* / drug therapy
  • Wolfram Syndrome* / metabolism
  • Wolfram Syndrome* / physiopathology


  • Interleukin-18
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Muscle Relaxants, Central
  • Dantrolene

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02829268