A Phase 2 Randomized, Placebo Controlled Trial of Tocilizumab in ALS Subjects

Study Purpose:

The purpose of the study is to evaluate the safety and tolerability of tocilizumab (Actemra) in subjects with sporadic ALS.


Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS),  Familial ALS,  Sporadic ALS

Study Type:

Interventional Trial

Study Category:

Drug Trial

Study Status:

Not enrolling


Phase II

Study Chair(s)/Principal Investigator(s):

Shafeeq Ladha, MD, Barrow Neurological Institute

Clinicaltrials.gov ID (11 digit #):


Neals Affiliated?


Coordinating Center Contact Information

Mass General Hospital
Michelle (Shelley) McGovern / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) / 617-643-1618
Armineuza Evora / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) 165 Cambridge Street
6th Floor, Room 653A
Boston, Massachusetts 02114 United States

Full Study Summary:

This is a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled 16-week study evaluating the safety and tolerability of tocilizumab in subjects with sporadic ALS.

The primary objective of the study is to determine the safety and tolerability of intravenous administration of 8 mg/kg of tocilizumab every 4 weeks vs. matched intravenous placebo administered every 4 weeks over an 8 week period.

The secondary objectives of the study are to describe the expression of pro-inflammatory genes in Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells (PBMCs) of sporadic ALS patients, to assess the ability of tocilizumab to reduce the expression of pro-inflammatory genes in PBMCs and pro-inflammatory cytokines in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of patients with sporadic ALS and to assess the CSF penetration of tocilizumab.

Approximately 4 Northeast ALS Consortium (NEALS) Centers in the US will participate in the study. Twenty-four subjects will be randomized in the study.

This study will be conducted in subjects who meet the El Escorial criteria of possible, laboratory-supported probable, probable, or definite criteria for a diagnosis of ALS. At screening, eligible subjects must be at least 18 years old, must have a slow vital capacity (SVC) ≥ 60% of predicted capacity for age, height and gender, and must provide written informed consent prior to screening. Subjects on a stable dose of riluzole and those not taking riluzole, and women of child-bearing age at screening are eligible for inclusion as long as they meet specific protocol requirements. Detailed criteria are described in the body of the protocol.

Subjects will be randomly assigned in a 2:1 ratio to intravenous tocilizumab 8 mg/kg or matching placebo every 4 weeks over an 8 week period.

This research study protocol allows the subject to receive up to 3 infusions of Tocilizumab. Even if the treatment is shown to be of benefit, additional infusions of Tocilizumab beyond that allowed in the protocol cannot be given to the subject while she/he is participating in this study.

Subjects will remain on randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind treatment until the Week 8 visit. Each randomized subject will also have a Week 12 Follow-up visit and Week 16 End-of-Study visit to assess for adverse events (AEs), changes in concomitant medications, to administer the ALSFRS-R and selected study procedures.

Study Sponsor:

ALS Association, Barrow Neurological Foundation Massachusetts General Hospital, Genentech, Inc.

Participant Duration:


Estimated Enrollment:


Estimated Study Start Date:


Estimated Study Completion Date:


Posting Last Modified Date:


Date Study Added to alsconsortium.org:

  • More Information

    On December 1, 2017, Dr. Shafeeq Ladha, Barrow Neurological Institute, led a webinar on the Phase 2 Trial of Tocilizumab. Click here to watch the webinar recording.

  • Eligibility Criteria


    Female, Male

    Minimum Age:


    Maximum Age:


    Min Vital Capacity (% predicted normal):


    Time since Symptom Onset:

    <36 months

    Time since Diagnosis:


    Can participants use Riluzole?


    Inclusion Criteria:
    -Participants with sporadic ALS (El Escorial criteria: possible, laboratory-supported probable, probable or definite)
    -Capable of providing informed consent and complying with trial procedures.
    -High inflammatory profile of PBMC gene expression
    -Upright SVC ≥60% of predicted value for gender, height and age at Screening.
    -Women must not be able to become pregnant for the duration of the study.
    -First ALS symptoms occurred ≤3 years prior to Screening
    -Negative tuberculosis blood test at Screening
    -Not taking riluzole, or on a stable dosage for at least 30 days prior to Screening.
    -Subjects medically able to undergo lumbar puncture (LP)
    -Subjects must agree not to take live attenuated vaccines 30 days before Screening, throughout the duration of the trial and for 60 days following the subject's last dose of study drug
    -Geographic accessibility to the study site

    Exclusion Criteria:
    -Prior use of Tocilizumab,cell-depleting therapies, alkylating agents, total lymphoid irradiation
    -Stem cell therapies
    -Dependence on mechanical ventilation as defined as being unable to lay supine without it, unable to sleep without it, or continuous daytime use
    -Presence of tracheostomy at Screening
    -Exposure to any other agent currently under investigation for the treatment of patients with ALS within 30 days prior to Screening
    -Treatment with a prohibited medication within 30 days of the Screening Visit
    -Treatment with intravenous gamma globulin, plasmapheresis or Prosorba column within 6 months of Screening
    -Presence of diaphragm pacing system at Screening.
    -Primary or secondary immunodeficiency (history of or currently active) unless related to primary disease under investigation
    -History of or active diverticulitis, diverticulosis requiring antibiotic treatment, peptic ulcer disease, or GI tract perforation, or chronic ulcerative lower GI disease such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis or other symptomatic lower GI conditions that might predispose to perforations
    -Known active current or history of recurrent bacterial, viral, fungal, mycobacterial or other opportunistic infections.
    -History of severe allergic or anaphylactic reactions to human, humanized or murine monoclonal antibodies
    -Presence of any of the following clinical conditions: bleeding diathesis, or any other clinical condition that would, in the opinion of the investigator, place the patient at increased risk during LP. Drug abuse or alcoholism within the past 12 months. Unstable cardiac, pulmonary, renal, hepatic, endocrine, hematologic, or active infectious disease, including current or prior malignancy. Rheumatic autoimmune disease, mixed connective tissue disease, scleroderma, polymyositis, or significant systemic involvement secondary to rheumatoid arthritis. Evidence of active malignant disease, malignancies diagnosed within the previous 5 years, or breast cancer diagnosed within the previous 5 years. Human immunodeficiency virus infection or other immunodeficient state.Uncontrolled hypertension defined as systolic blood pressure > 170 or diastolic blood pressure > 110. Unstable psychiatric illness defined as psychosis or untreated major depression within 90 days of the Screening Visit
    -Any major episode of infection requiring hospitalization or treatment with IV antibiotics within 4 weeks of screening
    -Screening ALT, AST, or total bilirubin > than 1.5 times the ULN, serum creatinine > 1.6 mg/dL in female patients and > 1.9 mg/dL in male patients (patients with serum creatinine values exceeding limits may be eligible for the study if their estimated GFR are >30), hemoglobin < 85 g/L, white blood cells < 3.0 x 109/L, absolute neutrophil count of <2000/mm3, absolute lymphocyte count < 0.5 x 109/L, platelet concentration of <100,000/mm3, negative Hep B surface antibodies
    -Pregnant women or women currently breastfeeding
    -No history of chicken pox infection or no history of varicella zoster vaccination

  • Site Contact Information

    Barrow Neurological Institute
    Nicole Turcotte / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) / 602-406-4775
    Jacquelyn Nicolari / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) / 602-406-6606
    Phoenix, Arizona 85013
    United States

    University of Kansas Medical Center
    Yolanda Harness / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) / 913-945-9928
    Kansas City, Kansas 66160
    United States

    Massachusetts General Hospital
    Harli Weber / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) / 617-643-5376
    Boston, Massachusetts 02114
    United States

    Wake Forest University School of Medicine
    Mozhdeh Marandi / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) / 336-713-8577
    Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27157
    United States

    Penn State College of Medicine Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
    Jennifer Crossen / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) / Anne Morris, MPH / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) / 717-531-0003 ext 289123
    Hershey, Pennsylvania 17033
    United States