Chapter IV. Clinical Trials

Rev Diabet Stud, 2012, 9(4):359-371 DOI 10.1900/RDS.2012.9.359

Immune-Directed Therapy for Type 1 Diabetes at the Clinical Level: The Immune Tolerance Network (ITN) Experience

Mario R. Ehlers1, Gerald T. Nepom2

1Clinical Trials Group, Immune Tolerance Network, San Francisco, CA, USA
2Immune Tolerance Network and Benaroya Research Institute, Seattle, WA, USA
Address correspondence to: Mario R. Ehlers, email:


Reestablishing immune tolerance in type 1 diabetes (T1D), a chronic autoimmune disease, is a major goal. The Immune Tolerance Network (ITN) has initiated eight clinical trials of immunomodulatory therapies in recent-onset T1D over the past decade. Results have been mixed in terms of clinical efficacy, but the studies have provided valuable mechanistic insight that are enhancing our understanding of the disease and guiding the design of future trials. Trials of non-Fc-binding anti-CD3 mAbs have revealed that modulation of this target leads to partial responses, and ITN's AbATE trial led to identification of a robust responder group that could be distinguished from non-responders by baseline metabolic and immunologic features. A pilot study of the combination of IL-2 and rapamycin gave the first demonstration that frequency and function of regulatory T cells (Tregs) can be enhanced in T1D subjects, although the therapy triggered the activation of effectors with transient β-cell dysfunction. Similarly, therapy with anti-thymocyte globulin led to substantial lymphocyte depletion, but also to the activation of the acute-phase response with no clinical benefit during preliminary analyses. These and other results provide mechanistic tools that can be used as biomarkers for safety and efficacy in future trials. Furthermore, our results, together with those of other organizations, notably TrialNet, delineate the roles of the major components of the immune response in T1D. This information is setting the stage for future combination therapy trials. The development of disease-relevant biomarkers will also enable the implementation of innovative trial designs, notably adaptive trials, which will increase efficiencies in terms of study duration and sample size, and which will expedite the conduct of trials in which there are uncertainties about dose response and effect size.

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Rev Diabet Stud, 2012, 9(4):372-381 DOI 10.1900/RDS.2012.9.372

CD3 Monoclonal Antibodies: A First Step Towards Operational Immune Tolerance in the Clinic

Lucienne Chatenoud1,2, Herman Waldmann3

1INSERM U1013, Necker Hospital, Paris, France
2Universite Paris Descartes, Sorbonne Paris Cite, Paris, France
3University of Oxford, Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3RE, UK
Address correspondence to: Lucienne Chatenoud, e-mail, or Herman Waldmann, e-mail


Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is a prototypic organ-specific autoimmune disease resulting from the selective destruction of insulin-secreting β-cells within the pancreatic islets of Langerhans. It is caused by an immune-mediated inflammation, involving autoreactive CD4+ and CD8+ T lymphocytes that infiltrate the islets and initiate insulitis. The use of exogenous insulin is the current standard treatment. However, in spite of significant advances, this therapy is still associated with major constraints, including risk of hypoglycemia and severe degenerative complications. As T1D mainly affects children and young adults, any candidate immune therapy must be safe, and it must avoid a sustained depression of immune responses with all its attendant problems of recurrent infection and drug toxicity. In this context, inducing or restoring immune tolerance to target autoantigens would be the ideal approach. We refer to immune tolerance here as the selective damping of the damaging autoimmune response following a short treatment, while keeping intact the capacity of the host to respond normally to exogenous antigens. The therapeutic approach we discuss in this article originates from attempts to induce tolerance both to soluble antigens and tissue antigens (i.e. alloantigens and autoantigens) by using biological agents that selectively interfere with lymphocyte activation, namely polyclonal and monoclonal anti-T cell antibodies. The challenged dogma was that, in an adult-primed immune system, it was not possible to restore self-tolerance therapeutically without the use of exogenous autoantigen administration. The reality has been that, in diabetes, endogenous host autoantigen can fulfill this role because a significant amount of functioning β-cells remains, even at the time of established hyperglycemia. Experimental results obtained in the 1990s showed that a short-term CD3 antibody treatment in recently diagnosed diabetic non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice induced permanent remission of the disease by restoring self-tolerance. Based on these findings, phase I, II, and III trials were conducted using two distinct humanized Fc-mutated antibodies to human CD3, namely ChAglyCD3 (otelixizumab) and OKT3γ1 Ala-Ala (teplizumab). Overall, when dosing was adequate, the results demonstrated that CD3 antibodies preserved β-cell function very efficiently, maintaining significantly high levels of endogenous insulin secretion in treated patients for up to 24 months after treatment. These data provided the first proof of concept for a long-term therapeutic effect in T1D following a short course administration of a therapeutic agent. Our aim is to review these data and to discuss them in the context of the pitfalls linked to pharmaceutical development, especially in the context of pediatric patients, as in autoimmune diabetes.

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