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J Neurotrauma. 2017 Jun 1;34(11):1915-1918. doi: 10.1089/neu.2015.4179. Epub 2016 Dec 13.

Suboptimal Dosing Parameters as Possible Factors in the Negative Phase III Clinical Trials of Progesterone for Traumatic Brain Injury.

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1 Pharmacology Consultant, Drug Discovery and Development, Emory University , Atlanta, Georgia .
2 Department of Emergency Medicine, Emory University , Atlanta, Georgia .


To date, outcomes for all Phase III clinical trials for traumatic brain injury (TBI) have been negative. The recent disappointing results of the Progesterone for the Treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury (ProTECT) and Study of a Neuroprotective Agent, Progesterone, in Severe Traumatic Brain Injury (SyNAPSe) Phase III trials for progesterone in TBI have triggered considerable speculation about the reasons for the negative outcomes of these two studies in particular and for those of all previous Phase III TBI clinical trials in general. Among the factors proposed to explain the ProTECT III and SyNAPSe results, the investigators themselves and others have cited: 1) the pathophysiological complexity of TBI itself; 2) issues with the quality and clinical relevance of the preclinical animal models; 3) insufficiently sensitive clinical endpoints; and 4) inappropriate clinical trial designs and strategies. This paper highlights three critical trial design factors that may have contributed substantially to the negative outcomes: 1) suboptimal doses and treatment durations in the Phase II studies; 2) the strategic decision not to perform Phase IIB studies to optimize these variables before initiating Phase III; and 3) the lack of incorporation of the preclinical and Chinese Phase II results, as well as allometric scaling principles, into the Phase III designs. Given these circumstances and the exceptional pleiotropic potential of progesterone as a TBI (and stroke) therapeutic, we are advocating a return to Phase IIB testing. We advocate the incorporation of dose and schedule optimization focused on lower doses and a longer duration of treatment, combined with the addressing of other potential trial design problems raised by the authors in the recently published trial results.


Phase III trials; allometric scaling; progesterone; suboptimal dosing

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