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Low-Dose Lithium for the Treatment of Behavioral Symptoms in Frontotemporal Dementia (Lithium)

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ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02862210
Recruitment Status : Recruiting
First Posted : August 10, 2016
Last Update Posted : November 8, 2022
Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
Columbia University

Brief Summary:
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a progressive neurodegenerative illness that affects the frontal and anterior temporal lobes of the brain. Changes in behavior, including agitation, aggression, and repetitive behaviors, are common symptoms in FTD. The investigators currently do not have good medications to treat these symptoms in FTD, and the medications the investigators use often have side effects. In this project, the investigators will test the use of low-dose lithium, compared to a placebo pill, for the treatment of behavioral symptoms in FTD. Lithium greatly reduces the behavioral symptoms of bipolar disorder, and many have found low-dose lithium to be well-tolerated in patients with dementia. Lithium appears to inhibit the creation of a protein involved in many cases of FTD called tau.

Condition or disease Intervention/treatment Phase
Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD) Drug: Lithium Carbonate Drug: Placebo Phase 2

Detailed Description:
Behavioral symptoms of Frontotemporal dementia (FTD), including agitation, aggression, and inappropriate repetitive behaviors are common, distressing to patients and caregivers, often lead to institutionalization, and can be very difficult and expensive to treat. There is a dearth of medication for treating these symptoms in FTD. Typically, antidepressants and antipsychotic medications are prescribed - which low efficacy and, with the latter class, carry serious adverse effects such as parkinsonism and increased cardiovascular-related mortality. The investigators propose a study of the efficacy of lithium carbonate compared to placebo in the treatment of agitation, aggression, and inappropriate repetitive behaviors in 60 patients with FTD in a randomized, double-blind, two-arm parallel 12-week trial. Lithium is a highly effective treatment for mania and symptoms of agitation or aggression in bipolar disorder. It also inhibits tau aggregation and phosphorylation, leading to considerable interest in its use as a disease-modifying treatment for tauopathies such as FTD and Alzheimer's disease. Unfortunately, earlier trials using typical doses (i.e., doses prescribed for treatment of bipolar disorder) showed high incidence of serious adverse effects (including confusion and delirium). For the study proposed study the investigators will: 1) use lower doses and lower target serum concentrations than have preceding trials (shown in preliminary data from a Columbia study and data from other labs to be well-tolerated) and 2) target behavioral symptoms rather than cognitive outcomes.

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Study Type : Interventional  (Clinical Trial)
Estimated Enrollment : 60 participants
Allocation: Randomized
Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
Masking: Quadruple (Participant, Care Provider, Investigator, Outcomes Assessor)
Primary Purpose: Treatment
Official Title: Low-Dose Lithium for the Treatment of Behavioral Symptoms in Frontotemporal Dementia
Actual Study Start Date : January 27, 2017
Estimated Primary Completion Date : March 2023
Estimated Study Completion Date : March 2023

Arm Intervention/treatment
Experimental: Lithium carbonate
Lithium will be prescribed starting at 150 mg/day, with subsequent dose titration to 300, 450, and 600 mg/day as tolerated according to side effects and blood lithium level.
Drug: Lithium Carbonate
Lithium will be prescribed starting at 150 mg/day, with subsequent dose titration to 300, 450, and 600 mg/day as tolerated according to side effects and blood lithium level.
Other Name: Lithobid

Placebo Comparator: Placebo
Placebo will be prescribed starting at 1 pill per day, with subsequent dose titration to 2,3, and 4 pills per day as tolerated by sham blood lithium levels provided by an unblinded study team member.
Drug: Placebo
Placebo will be prescribed starting at 1 pill per day, with subsequent dose titration to 2,3, and 4 pills per day as tolerated by sham blood lithium levels.

Primary Outcome Measures :
  1. Change in agitation and aggression as measured by the Neuropsychiatric Inventory Scale (NPI) [ Time Frame: 12 weeks ]
    The NPI is a scale designed to assess behavioral changes due to neurological illness. It uses a standardized caregiver interview to rate patient symptoms in a variety of domains, including "Agitation/Aggression." Each domain includes a number of questions about potential specific symptoms, and then asks the caregiver to rate symptom frequency (1, occasionally, to 4, very frequently) as well as symptom severity (1, mild, to 3, severe). Thus, in each domain a patient can score from 0-12, with 0 being no symptoms and 12 being very frequent and severe symptoms. The study aims to test that lithium will significantly reduce agitation/aggression as compared to placebo by testing whether participants taking lithium show a greater reduction in their NPI "Agitation/Aggression" domain score over the course of the trial.

Secondary Outcome Measures :
  1. Proportion of responders in the lithium and placebo groups [ Time Frame: 12 weeks ]
    Response requires a 30% decrease in NPI core score (sum of domain scores for "Agitation/Aggression" and "Aberrant Motor Behavior") plus a Clinical Global Impression (CGI) Change score of much improved or very much improved (CGI based on these behavioral symptoms only).

Other Outcome Measures:
  1. Change in motor symptoms as measured by the NPI [ Time Frame: 12 weeks ]
    NPI domain "Aberrant Motor Behaviors" will be observed to test that lithium will significantly reduce repetitive behaviors as compared to placebo, by examining whether participants taking lithium show a greater reduction in their "Aberrant Motor Behaviors" NPI domain score.

  2. Presence of adverse events as measured by the Treatment Emergent Symptoms Scale (TESS) [ Time Frame: 12 weeks ]
    The tolerability of low-dose lithium by assessing emergent side effects over the course of the 12-week trial will be assessed. The side effects will be captured with TESS in which 30 symptoms are rated either "Absent," "Mild," "Moderate," or "Severe." The change in TESS score from baseline to week 12 will be observed.

  3. The relationship between changes in brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) serum levels and changes in NPI "Agitation/Aggression" score and "Aberrant Motor Behavior" score [ Time Frame: 12 weeks ]
    The baseline serum BDNF levels as a potential baseline predictor of lithium treatment response and an increase from pre to post-treatment BDNF levels as a potential biomarker correlate of improvement in symptoms (as measured by the NPI) will be explored.

Information from the National Library of Medicine

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Ages Eligible for Study:   40 Years to 85 Years   (Adult, Older Adult)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   No

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Age 40-85
  • A diagnosis of behavioral variant FTD (bv-FTD) or semantic variant Primary Progressive Aphasia (sv-PPA, which is generally accompanied by a behavioral syndrome), or agrammatic/non-fluent Primary Progressive Aphasia (nfv-PPA) with behavioral symptoms
  • Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI) agitation/aggression subscale score ≥4 or disinhibition subscale score ≥ 4 or repetitive behavior subscale ≥ 4 or total score ≥ 6. On each subscale, a score higher than 4 represents moderate to severe symptoms
  • Folstein Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) score 5-26/30
  • An study partner (usually a family member) is required to provide information during interviews about the patient
  • Capacity to consent. Subjects without capacity to consent must have capacity to appoint a surrogate
  • Structural MRI or CT scan after symptom onset

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Medical contraindication or history of intolerability to lithium, falls in the last month, current abnormal thyroid functions (T3, T4 or thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH); treated hypothyroidism with normal thyroid function tests will not lead to exclusion), creatinine level > 1.5 mg/100 ml or glomerular filtration rate < 44 ml/min/1.73m2 will also lead to exclusion
  • The diagnosis of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder
  • Alcohol or substance use disorder in the prior 6 months
  • Current diagnosis of other major neurological disorder, e.g., Alzheimer's Disease (AD), stroke with residual clinical deficits, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease. Subjects with MRI or CT evidence of cerebrovascular disease but without clinical signs of stroke will be included
  • Sitting blood pressure > 150/90 mm Hg, unstable cardiac disease, severe or unstable medical illness
  • Use of medications, including diuretics, known to have adverse effects when combined with lithium. Use of antipsychotic medications will be permitted
  • Current major depression or suicidality or dangerous behavior with risk of harm to self and others
  • Corrected QT interval (QTc) interval > 460 ms at the time of baseline electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • Woman of child-bearing potential

Information from the National Library of Medicine

To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contact information provided by the sponsor.

Please refer to this study by its ClinicalTrials.gov identifier (NCT number): NCT02862210

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Contact: Colin Stein 212-304-7943 cs4125@cumc.columbia.edu
Contact: Edward D. Huey, MD 212-305-1134 edh2126@columbia.edu

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United States, New York
Columbia University Irving Medical Center Recruiting
New York, New York, United States, 10032
Contact: Colin Stein    212-304-7943    cs4125@cumc.columbia.edu   
Principal Investigator: Edward Huey, MD         
Sponsors and Collaborators
Columbia University
Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation
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Principal Investigator: Edward Huey, MD Columbia University
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Responsible Party: Columbia University
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02862210    
Other Study ID Numbers: NYSPI 7310
First Posted: August 10, 2016    Key Record Dates
Last Update Posted: November 8, 2022
Last Verified: November 2022
Individual Participant Data (IPD) Sharing Statement:
Plan to Share IPD: No

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Studies a U.S. FDA-regulated Drug Product: Yes
Studies a U.S. FDA-regulated Device Product: No
Product Manufactured in and Exported from the U.S.: No
Keywords provided by Columbia University:
Lithium Carbonate
Additional relevant MeSH terms:
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Frontotemporal Dementia
Aphasia, Primary Progressive
Pick Disease of the Brain
Behavioral Symptoms
Brain Diseases
Central Nervous System Diseases
Nervous System Diseases
Neurocognitive Disorders
Mental Disorders
Neurodegenerative Diseases
Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration
TDP-43 Proteinopathies
Proteostasis Deficiencies
Metabolic Diseases
Speech Disorders
Language Disorders
Communication Disorders
Neurobehavioral Manifestations
Neurologic Manifestations
Lithium Carbonate
Antidepressive Agents
Psychotropic Drugs
Enzyme Inhibitors
Molecular Mechanisms of Pharmacological Action
Antimanic Agents
Tranquilizing Agents
Central Nervous System Depressants
Physiological Effects of Drugs