To understand the efficacy of cladribine (CLAD) treatment in MS through analysis of lymphocyte subsets collected, but not reported, in the pivotal phase III trials of cladribine and alemtuzumab induction therapies.Methods:
The regulatory submissions of the CLAD Tablets Treating Multiple Sclerosis Orally (CLARITY) (NCT00213135) cladribine and Comparison of Alemtuzumab and Rebif Efficacy in Multiple Sclerosis, study one (CARE-MS I) (NCT00530348) alemtuzumab trials were obtained from the European Medicine Agency through Freedom of Information requests. Data were extracted and statistically analyzed.Results:
Either dose of cladribine (3.5 mg/kg; 5.25 mg/kg) tested in CLARITY reduced the annualized relapse rate to 0.16–0.18 over 96 weeks, and both doses were similarly effective in reducing the risk of MRI lesions and disability. Surprisingly, however, T-cell depletion was rather modest. Cladribine 3.5 mg/kg depleted CD4+ cells by 40%–45% and CD8+ cells by 15%–30%, whereas alemtuzumab suppressed CD4+ cells by 70%–95% and CD8+ cells by 47%–55%. However, either dose of cladribine induced 70%–90% CD19+ B-cell depletion, similar to alemtuzumab (90%). CD19+ cells slowly repopulated to 15%–25% of baseline before cladribine redosing. However, alemtuzumab induced hyperrepopulation of CD19+ B cells 6–12 months after infusion, which probably forms the substrate for B-cell autoimmunities associated with alemtuzumab.Conclusions:
Cladribine induced only modest depletion of T cells, which may not be consistent with a marked influence on MS, based on previous CD4+ T-cell depletion studies. The therapeutic drug-response relationship with cladribine is more consistent with lasting B-cell depletion and, coupled with the success seen with monoclonal CD20+ depletion, suggests that B-cell suppression could be the major direct mechanism of action.