Preclinical characterisation of fingolimod as a potential therapeutic agent for stroke

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Diaz Diaz, Andrea C.
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University College Cork
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Stroke is the leading cause for death and disability worldwide, and the search for novel drug treatments has been affected by repeated clinical trial failures. One novel drug that has garnered promising results in preclinical and clinical stroke studies is fingolimod, an FDA approved drug for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. Even though there are several studies supporting the effectiveness of fingolimod for the treatment of stroke, the recommended characterisation based on the Stroke Treatment Academic Industry Roundtable (STAIR) guidelines is incomplete. Furthermore, the quality of the preclinical studies supporting fingolimod has been poor, thus rigorous studies are required to validate the effectiveness of fingolimod prior to evaluation in clinical trials. This thesis aimed to inform whether fingolimod is effective for the treatment of stroke in intracerebral haemorrhage and ischaemic stroke, and to inform whether fingolimod is a good candidate for evaluation in large randomised clinical trials. This goal was achieved by first using a model of intracerebral haemorrhage to evaluate the effect of administering fingolimod at 30 min, 24 and 48 h after stroke on lesion size and behaviour in a 14-day study on male and female mice. This was followed up by a series of studies using middle cerebral artery occlusion to cause a focal ischaemia. First an optimal dose of fingolimod was determined in a dose response study; then we evaluated the optimal drug dose in two animal model of common comorbidities associated with stroke, age and hyperlipidaemia; and the last study evaluated the effect of an extended treatment duration on stroke. For the ischaemic stroke studies we focused on lesion and behavioural measurements as primary outcomes, and secondary data was collected from daily scores, plus additional measures where necessary. The intracerebral haemorrhage study fingolimod treatment had no measurable effect on either lesion size or behavioural outcomes irrespective of sex, the only finding was that fingolimod treatment reduced mortality in female mice. The dose response study showed no difference in lesion size or behavioural outcomes between the two fingolimod doses (0.5 and 1.0 mg/kg) and control mice, the study did show that saline treated mice had a significantly larger atrophy compared to the lower dose of fingolimod. The lower dose was selected as optimal for further studies. The study evaluating the effect of 0.5 mg/kg fingolimod on stroke in aged mice showed that fingolimod-treated mice had a significantly larger atrophy and a significant improvement in the grid score 7 d after stroke compared to saline-treated mice. The study evaluating the effect of fingolimod on stroke in hyperlipidaemic mice showed that fingolimod-treated mice had a significantly reduced lesion size, without an effect on any other outcome measures. The final study evaluated two fingolimod treatment durations compared to saline controls, the study showed no difference between any of the outcome measures, with a trend towards improved behaviour outcomes in mice receiving 10 d of fingolimod treatment. Lastly, considering the fact that the results of these studies were inconclusive, we decided to pool the data of the ischaemic studies and evaluate whether fingolimod had an effect on the primary outcome measures in a heterogenous animal population. The pooled data showed that fingolimod treatment improved behaviour 7 d after stroke without an effect on lesion size or atrophy. The results of this thesis cast a doubt on the effectiveness of fingolimod and its suitability for translation into larger clinical trials. Furthermore, they highlight the need for thorough preclinical studies for promising drugs as well as the need for studies to meet the proposed STAIR guidelines prior to translation. Confirmatory studies, like those presented here, performed with measures intended to control for internal and external biases are all good measures to be implemented for future studies of novel and highly promising drugs for stroke treatment.
Fingolimod , Preclinical , Stroke , FTY720 , Immunomodulation
Diaz Diaz, A. C. 2022. Preclinical characterisation of fingolimod as a potential therapeutic agent for stroke. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.