Background: There are currently no pharmacological therapies to address the intellectual disability associated with Down syndrome. Excitatory/inhibitory imbalance has been hypothesized to contribute to impairments in cognitive functioning in Down syndrome. Negative modulation of the GABAA-α5 receptor is proposed as a mechanism to attenuate GABAergic function and restore the excitatory/inhibitory balance.
Methods: Basmisanil, a selective GABAA-α5 negative allosteric modulator, was evaluated at 120 mg or 240 mg BID (80 or 160 mg for 12-13 years) in a 6-month, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase II trial (Clematis) for efficacy and safety in adolescents and young adults with Down syndrome. The primary endpoint was based on a composite analysis of working memory (Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Scale [RBANS]) and independent functioning and adaptive behavior (Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales [VABS-II] or the Clinical Global Impression-Improvement [CGI-I]). Secondary measures included the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning-Preschool (BRIEF-P), Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals (CELF-4), and Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory (Peds-QL). EEG was conducted for safety monitoring and quantitatively analyzed in adolescents.
Results: Basmisanil was safe and well-tolerated; the frequency and nature of adverse events were similar in basmisanil and placebo arms. EEG revealed treatment-related changes in spectral power (increase in low ~ 4-Hz and decrease in high ~ 20-Hz frequencies) providing evidence of functional target engagement. All treatment arms had a similar proportion of participants showing above-threshold improvement on the primary composite endpoint, evaluating concomitant responses in cognition and independent functioning (29% in placebo, 20% in low dose, and 25% in high dose). Further analysis of the individual measures contributing to the primary endpoint revealed no difference between placebo and basmisanil-treated groups in either adolescents or adults. There were also no differences across the secondary endpoints assessing changes in executive function, language, or quality of life.
Conclusions: Basmisanil did not meet the primary efficacy objective of concomitant improvement on cognition and adaptive functioning after 6 months of treatment, despite evidence for target engagement. This study provides key learnings for future clinical trials in Down syndrome.
Trial registration: The study was registered on December 31, 2013, at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT02024789.
Keywords: Adaptive behavior; Cognition; Down syndrome; EEG; GABAA-α5.
© 2022. The Author(s).