Phase 2, placebo-controlled clinical study of oral ganaxolone in PCDH19-clustering epilepsy

Joseph Sullivan, Boudewijn Gunning, Muhammad Zafar, Renzo Guerrini, Jozef Gecz, Kristy L. Kolc, Yufan Zhao, Maciej Gasior, Alex A. Aimetti, Debopam Samanta

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INTRODUCTION: Protocadherin-19 (PCDH19)-clustering epilepsy is a distinct developmental and epileptic encephalopathy characterized by early-onset seizures that are often treatment refractory. Caused by a mutation of the PCDH19 gene on the X chromosome, this rare epilepsy syndrome primarily affects females with seizure onset commonly in the first year of life. A global, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 2 trial was conducted to evaluate the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of ganaxolone compared with placebo as adjunctive therapy to a standard antiseizure medication regimen in patients with PCDH19-clustering epilepsy (VIOLET; NCT03865732). METHODS: Females aged 1-17 years with a molecularly confirmed pathogenic or likely pathogenic PCDH19 variant who were experiencing ≥12 seizures during a 12-week screening period were stratified by baseline allopregnanolone sulfate (Allo-S) levels (low: ≤2.5 ng/mL; high: >2.5 ng/mL) at screening and randomized 1:1 within each strata to receive ganaxolone (maximum daily dose of 63 mg/kg/day if ≤28 kg or 1800 mg/day if >28 kg) or matching placebo in addition to their standard antiseizure treatment for the 17-week double-blind phase. The primary efficacy endpoint was the median percentage change in 28-day seizure frequency from baseline to the 17-week double-blind phase. Treatment-emergent adverse events (TEAEs) were tabulated by overall, system organ class, and preferred term. RESULTS: Of the 29 patients screened, 21 (median age, 7.0 years; IQR, 5.0-10.0 years) were randomized to receive either ganaxolone (n = 10) or placebo (n = 11). After the 17-week double-blind phase, the median (IQR) percentage change in 28-day seizure frequency from baseline was - 61.5% (-95.9% to -33.4%) among patients in the ganaxolone group and - 24.0% (-88.2% to -4.9%) among patients in the placebo group (Wilcoxon rank-sum test, p = 0.17). TEAEs were reported by 7 of 10 (70.0%) patients in the ganaxolone group and 11 of 11 (100%) patients in the placebo group. Somnolence was the most common TEAE (40.0% ganaxolone vs 27.3% placebo); serious TEAEs were more common in the placebo group (10.0% ganaxolone vs 45.5% placebo); and 1 (10.0%) patient in the ganaxolone group discontinued the study versus none in the placebo group. CONCLUSIONS: Ganaxolone was generally well tolerated and led to a greater reduction in the frequency of PCDH19-clustering seizures compared to placebo; however, the trend did not reach statistical significance. Novel trial designs are likely needed to evaluate the effectiveness of antiseizure treatments for PCDH19-clustering epilepsy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107112
Number of pages1
JournalEpilepsy Research
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 1 Mar 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Encephalopathy
  • Ganaxolone
  • Pediatric
  • Safety
  • Seizures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

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