HERV-K Suppression Using Antiretroviral Therapy in Volunteers With Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

Study Purpose:

Some people with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) have a high level of the virus HERV-K in their blood. Researchers do not think this virus causes ALS. But they don t know why some people with ALS have a high level of it. They want to know if HERV-K can be suppressed by drugs that are used to treat HIV infection.

To learn how drugs usually taken for HIV infection affect people with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).


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

Study Type:

Interventional Trial

Study Category:

Drug Trial

Study Status:



Phase I

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

Avindra Nath, M.D. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)

Clinicaltrials.gov ID (11 digit #):


Neals Affiliated?


Coordinating Center Contact Information

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Avindra Nath, M.D. / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) / 301-496-1561
Amanda M Wiebold / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) / 301-594-5194
Bethesda, Maryland 20814 United States

Full Study Summary:


In this Phase I, proof-of-concept study, we aim to determine whether an antiretroviral regimen approved to treat human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection would also suppress levels of Human Endogenous Retrovirus-K (HERV-K) found to be activated in a subset of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). We propose to measure the of blood levels of HERV-K by quantitative PCR before, during, and after treatment with an antiretroviral regimen. We will evaluate the safety of the antiretroviral regimen for participants with ALS and also explore clinical and neurophysiological outcomes of ALS symptoms, quality of life, and pulmonary function.

Study Population:

We will study a subset of ALS patients who have blood levels of the HERV-K transcript > 1000 copies/ml. About 30% of ALS patients may have detectable levels of HERV-K; about 20% of patients with ALS have a level >1000 copies/ml. To show whether the HERV-K could be suppressed, we will recruit from the approximately 20% of patients with the high levels so that the antiretroviral effect can be determined.


This is an open-label study of a combination antiretroviral therapy for 24 weeks in 20 HIV-negative, HTLV-negative ALS patients with high blood levels of HERV-K . The study duration for each participant will be up to 60 weeks. Participants will be followed regularly for safety, clinical, and neurophysiological outcomes.

Outcome Measures:

The primary outcome measure will be the percent decline HERV-K concentration measured by quantitataive PCR. Percent decline for a patient is measured by: 100 x (screening visit - week 24 visit measurement) / screening visit. The safety of antiretrovirals in volunteers with ALS as measured by the frequency and type of AEs, the ability to remain on assigned treatment (tolerability), physical examinations, laboratory test results, vital signs, and weight/body mass index (BMI). Efficacy will be explored by measuring the change in mean scores of: the ALS Functional Rating Scale-Revised (ALSFRS-R), the ALS Specific Quality of Life Inventory-Revised (ALSSQOL-R), the ALS Cognitive Behavioral Screen (ALS-CBS), vital capacity as measured by handheld spirometer, electrical impedance myography (EIM), the change in neurofilament levels in blood and/or CSF, and the chanage in uring p75ECD levels.

Study Sponsor:

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)

Participant Duration:

Estimated Enrollment:


Estimated Study Start Date:


Estimated Study Completion Date:


Posting Last Modified Date:


Date Study Added to alsconsortium.org:

  • Eligibility Criteria


    Female, Male

    Minimum Age:


    Maximum Age:


    Time since Symptom Onset:

    <24 months

    Time since Diagnosis:

    Can participants use Riluzole?



    Subjects must meet all of the following inclusion criteria to be eligible to participate in this study:

    Age 18 years or older at the time of the screening visit.
    Able to provide informed consent and comply with study procedures.
    ALS diagnosed as probable, laboratory-supported probable or definite according to the World Federation of Neurology El Escorial revised criteria32 as determined by a neurologist with neuromuscular subspecialty training.
    Detectable HERV-K viral load in blood at a minimum of 1000 copies/ml as measured by quantitative PCR at the screening visit.
    Time from symptom onset less than 2 years.
    If taking riluzole or edaravone, must be on a stable dose for at least 30 days prior to the screening visit, or stopped taking riluzole or edaravone at least 30 days prior to the screening visit.
    Subject has a competent caregiver who can and will be responsible for administering study drug. If there is no caregiver, another qualified individual must be available to do this.
    Subject has established care with a neurologist and will maintain this clinical care throughout the study.
    Subject has had neuroimaging within the last 18 months.


    A participant will be excluded if he or she has any of the following:

    Dependence on daytime mechanical ventilation (invasive or non-invasive, including Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) or Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BiPap) at the time of the screening visit.
    History of having undergone gastrostomy at the time of screening.
    Participation in any other investigational drug trial or using investigational drug (within 12 weeks prior to Screening and thereafter).
    Known sulfonamide allergy.
    History of positive test or positive result at screening for HIV or HTLV-1.
    Participants must not be able to become pregnant (e.g., post-menopausal for at least one year, surgically sterile, or using adequate methods of contraception) or breastfeed for the duration of the study. Adequate methods of contraception include: implanted contraception, intrauterine device in place for at least 3 months, or barrier method in conjunction with spermicide. Participants of

    childbearing potential must have a negative pregnancy test at screening and be non-lactating.

    Presence of any of the following clinical conditions at the time of screening:

    • Drug abuse or alcoholism
    • Unstable medical disease (such as unstable angina or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), or active infectious disease (such as Hepatitis C or tuberculosis), or current malignancy
    • Unstable psychiatric illness defined as psychosis or untreated major depression within 90 days of the screening visit
    • Dementia
    • Diabetes mellitus
    • Hemophilia

    Use of contraindicated medications: amiodarone, dronedarone, lovastatin, simvastatin, rifampin, rifapentine, rifabutin, cisapride, pimozide, midazolam, triazolam, dihydroergotamine, ergonovine, ergotamine, methylergonovine, St. John s wort, alfuzosin, salmeterol, sildenafil for pulmonary arterial hypertension, oxcarbazepine, phenobarbital, phenytoin or dofetilide.

    Safety Laboratory Criteria at the screening visit:

    • Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) or aspartate aminotransferase (AST) greater than 3.0 times the upper limit of normal for the NIH Clinical Center.
    • Serum creatinine, serum phosphorous, urine glucose, urine protein, total bilirubin, triglycerides, amylase, or lipase greater than 2.0 times the upper limit of normal for the NIH Clinical Center.
    • Estimated glomerular filtration rate <60mg/dl.
    • Creatine kinase greater than 3.0 times the upper limit of normal for the NIH Clinical Center.
    • Platelet concentration of <100,000/ (micro)l.
    • PT and PTT >1.2 times the upper limit of normal for the NIH Clinical Center.
    • Hemoglobin <10mg/dL.
    • Positive Hepatitis B Surface Antigen and Hepatitis C Virus Antibody

  • Site Contact Information

    National Institutes of Health Clinical Center
    9000 Rockville Pike
    Bethesda, Maryland 20892
    United States