Smad7 Antisense Oligonucleotide-Based Therapy in Crohn's Disease: Is it Time to Re-Evaluate?

Mol Diagn Ther. 2022 Sep;26(5):477-481. doi: 10.1007/s40291-022-00606-1.Epub 2022 Jul 16.


Giovanni Monteleone 1Carmine Stolfi 2Irene Marafini 2Raja Atreya 3Markus F Neurath 3


Author information

1Department of Systems Medicine, University of Rome "TOR VERGATA", Via Montpellier, 1, 00133, Rome, Italy. Gi.Monteleone@Med.uniroma2.it.

2Department of Systems Medicine, University of Rome "TOR VERGATA", Via Montpellier, 1, 00133, Rome, Italy.

3Department of Medicine 1, University Hospital Erlangen, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg, Erlangen, Germany.


Abundant preclinical work showed that in Crohn's disease (CD), the defective activity of the immunosuppressive cytokine tumor necrosis factor (TGF)-β1 due to high levels of the intracellular inhibitor Smad7 contributes to amplify the tissue-damaging inflammatory response. Consistently, phase I and II studies documented clinical and endoscopic benefit in active CD patients treated with mongersen, an oral antisense oligonucleotide targeting Smad7. However, a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase III study was prematurely discontinued as a futility analysis showed that mongersen was not effective in CD patients. The reasons why the phase III study failed despite the fact that previous clinical trials documented the efficacy of the drug remain unknown. The primary objective of this Viewpoint was to provide clues about the factors explaining discrepancies among the clinical trials. We illustrate the recent data indicating that the various batches of mongersen, used during the phase III program, are chemically different, with some of them being unable to downregulate Smad7 expression. Overall, these findings suggest the necessity of new clinical studies to further evaluate the efficacy of chemically homogenous batches of mongersen in patients with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), and, at the same time, they can help understand the failure of other clinical trials with antisense oligonucleotides in IBD (i.e. alicaforsen).



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