AT THE ACR ANNUAL MEETING
WASHINGTON (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – The investigational calcineurin inhibitor voclosporin, given in addition to mycophenolate mofetil and low-dose steroids, was associated with rapid and complete remissions in lupus nephritis patients in the randomized, controlled AURA-LV study.
Aurinia Urinary Protein Reduction Active – Lupus With Voclosporin ( AURA-LV ) included 265 subjects in over 20 countries with active lupus nephritis. Trial participants received low-dose voclosporin (23.7 mg b.i.d.) or high-dose voclosporin (39.5 mg b.i.d.) in addition to mycophenolate mofetil (2 g/day) and low-dose steroids. Patients began on 20-25 mg of a steroid with a taper to 5 mg at week 8 and 2.5 mg at week 16-24.
Complete remission occurred at 24 weeks in 32.6% of 89 subjects who received 23.7 mg of voclosporin twice daily and standard of care therapy and in 19.3% of 88 control subjects who received placebo and standard of care therapy (odds ratio, 2.03), Mary Anne Dooley, MD, reported at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology.
The complete remission rate was 27.3% in the 88 subjects who received the higher dose (39.5 mg b.i.d.) of voclosporin. The difference between the high-dose voclosporin group and the control group was not statistically significant.
The “very exciting findings” of this study – the first lupus nephritis study to meet its primary endpoint of complete remission – are important, because “partial remission is insufficient for our patients,” she said.
“Clinical trials over the past 10 years have really shown that we’re not reaching a large group of patients. … more than 40% of patients are complete nonresponders at 6 months,” she said. While attainment of partial remission has improved, half of those who achieve partial remission have been shown to have a 50% increase in the risk of end-stage renal disease in 10 years.
Complete remission was defined as urine protein/creatinine ratio of no more than 0.5 mg/mg using first morning void with an estimated glomerular filtration rate of at least 60 mL/min without a decrease of 20% or more, sustained low-dose steroids (at or below 10 mg/day) and no use of rescue medications.
Partial remission was a composite of reduction in protein/creatinine ratio of at least 50%, no use of rescue medication, and stability of renal function. Both the low- and high-dose voclosporin groups had outcomes that were superior to standard-of-care therapy, with 69.7% partial remission with low-dose voclosporin, 65.9% partial remission with high-dose voclosporin, and 49.4% partial remission with placebo, said Dr. Dooley, a rheumatologist in Chapel Hill, N.C.
“Patients began responding literally within weeks [to voclosporin] … and we saw significant responses by 7-8 weeks. This was during the time period when the steroids rapidly decreased,” she said, noting that the steroid dosing at baseline was a median of 25 mg vs. 2.5 mg at 16 weeks.
Study subjects met ACR criteria for lupus and had biopsy-proven lupus nephritis, including proliferative nephritis class III/IV or class V alone or in combination with proliferative disease. All were treated with 2 g/day of mycophenolate mofetil, and the steroid taper “was such that by 10 weeks, patients were down to 5 mg, and that by 24 weeks the median dose was 2.5 mg,” she said.
Adverse events, most commonly infection and gastrointestinal disorders, occurred in 90% of study subjects. Infections occurred in 56.2% of those in the low-dose group, 63.6% of those in the high-dose group, and 50% of controls. GI disorders occurred in 41.6%, 52.3%, and 36.4% of patients in the groups, respectively.
Serious adverse events were more common in the voclosporin groups, occurring in 25.8% and 25% of patients in the low- and high-dose groups, respectively, compared with 15.8% of patients in the control group.
Ten of the 13 deaths occurred in the low-dose voclosporin group (3 due to infection, 3 due to thromboembolism, and 4 due to “other” causes); 2 occurred in the high-dose voclosporin group (1 each due to infection and thromboembolism); and 1 death due to thromboembolism occurred in the control group. As most of the deaths were clustered in the low-dose arm, and 11 of the 13 deaths occurred in areas with “compromised access to standard of care,” the deaths were not considered to be directly related to voclosporin therapy.
Patients who died had “a statistically different clinical baseline picture with higher levels of proteinuria or difficulty with comorbid conditions and some signs of poor nutrition,” Dr. Dooley said.
The findings of the study will be used as the basis for planned subsequent studies of the use of voclosporin in lupus nephritis, she said.
Voclosporin is an analogue of cyclosporin A that may allow flat dosing and a potentially improved safety profile compared with other calcineurin inhibitors.
Aurinia Pharmaceuticals, the maker of voclosporin, announced in early November 2016 that the twice-daily 23.7 mg voclosporin dose will advance to a global 52-week double-blind, placebo-controlled phase III study in the second quarter of 2017. Voclosporin has already received fast track designation from the Food and Drug Administration.
Dr. Dooley reported a financial relationship with Aurinia, which sponsored the study.