The Clinical Development of Taldefgrobep Alfa: An Anti-Myostatin Adnectin for the Treatment of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

Neurol Ther. 2024 Feb;13(1):183-219. doi: 10.1007/s40120-023-00570-w. Epub 2024 Jan 8.


Introduction: Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a genetic muscle disorder that manifests during early childhood and is ultimately fatal. Recently approved treatments targeting the genetic cause of DMD are limited to specific subpopulations of patients, highlighting the need for therapies with wider applications. Pharmacologic inhibition of myostatin, an endogenous inhibitor of muscle growth produced almost exclusively in skeletal muscle, has been shown to increase muscle mass in several species, including humans. Taldefgrobep alfa is an anti-myostatin recombinant protein engineered to bind to and block myostatin signaling. Preclinical studies of taldefgrobep alfa demonstrated significant decreases in myostatin and increased lower limb volume in three animal species, including dystrophic mice.

Methods: This manuscript reports the cumulative data from three separate clinical trials of taldefgrobep alfa in DMD: a phase 1 study in healthy adult volunteers (NCT02145234), and two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies in ambulatory boys with DMD-a phase 1b/2 trial assessing safety (NCT02515669) and a phase 2/3 trial including the North Star Ambulatory Assessment (NSAA) as the primary endpoint (NCT03039686).

Results: In healthy adult volunteers, taldefgrobep alfa was generally well tolerated and resulted in a significant increase in thigh muscle volume. Treatment with taldefgrobep alfa was associated with robust dose-dependent suppression of free myostatin. In the phase 1b/2 trial, myostatin suppression was associated with a positive effect on lean body mass, though effects on muscle mass were modest. The phase 2/3 trial found that the effects of treatment did not meet the primary endpoint pre-specified futility analysis threshold (change from baseline of ≥ 1.5 points on the NSAA total score).

Conclusions: The futility analysis demonstrated that taldefgrobep alfa did not result in functional change for boys with DMD. The program was subsequently terminated in 2019. Overall, there were no safety concerns, and no patients were withdrawn from treatment as a result of treatment-related adverse events or serious adverse events.

Trial registration: NCT02145234, NCT02515669, NCT03039686.

Keywords: Clinical trial; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; Myostatin; Neuromuscular disorder; Taldefgrobep alfa.

Plain language summary

The goal of this program was to develop a treatment to improve muscle function in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Muscle weakness in patients with DMD is progressive, leading to the irreversible loss of walking ability and eventually death due to cardiorespiratory failure. One potential way of improving muscle function is to target a protein known as myostatin that acts in healthy muscle to regulate muscle size. Studies in animals have shown that blocking myostatin can increase muscle size. Taldefgrobep alfa is a drug designed to block myostatin and it was shown to induce muscle growth in animals. A study in healthy volunteers found that taldefgrobep alfa was able to increase muscle size in humans and was not associated with safety concerns. Following this, a study was conducted in boys with DMD who were either treated with taldefgrobep alfa or a placebo. This first study in patients found that treatment was able to reduce myostatin levels and had a small effect on muscle size, supporting a larger trial in more patients with DMD. The aim of the larger trial was to test if taldefgrobep alfa had a meaningful effect on muscle function in patients with DMD. Results from this key trial did not meet the targeted improvement in function and a decision was made to end the trial and halt the use of taldefgrobep alfa as a potential treatment for DMD. No patients stopped treatment with taldefgrobep alfa as a result of adverse safety effects and no safety concerns were identified.

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