BACKGROUND. Autoimmune inner ear disease (AIED) is a rare disease that results in progressive sensorineural hearing loss. Patients with AIED initially respond to corticosteroids; however, many patients become unresponsive to this treatment over time, and there is no effective alternative therapy for these individuals.
METHODS. We performed a phase I/II open-label, single-arm clinical trial of the IL-1 receptor antagonist anakinra in corticosteroid-resistant AIED patients. Given that the etiology of corticosteroid resistance is likely heterogeneous, we used a Simon 2-stage design to distinguish between an unacceptable (≤10%) and an acceptable (≥30%) response rate to anakinra therapy. Subjects received 100 mg anakinra by subcutaneous injection for 84 days, followed by a 180-day observational period.
RESULTS. Based on patient responses, the Simon 2-stage rule permitted premature termination of the trial after 10 subjects completed the 84-day drug period, as the target efficacy for the entire trial had been achieved. Of these 10 patients, 7 demonstrated audiometric improvement, as assessed by pure tone average (PTA) and word recognition score (WRS). In these 7 responders, reduced IL-1β plasma levels correlated with clinical response. Upon discontinuation of treatment, 3 subjects relapsed, which correlated with increased IL-1β plasma levels.
CONCLUSION. We demonstrated that IL-1β inhibition in corticosteroid-resistant AIED patients was effective in a small cohort of patients and that IL-1β plasma levels associated with both clinical hearing response and disease relapse. These results suggest that a larger phase II randomized clinical trial of IL-1β inhibition is warranted.