Riociguat in patients with sickle cell disease and hypertension or proteinuria (STERIO-SCD): a randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled, phase 1–2 trial

Mark T. Gladwin, Victor R. Gordeuk, Payal C. Desai, Caterina Minniti, Enrico M. Novelli, Claudia R. Morris, Kenneth I. Ataga, Laura De Castro, Susanna A. Curtis, Fuad El Rassi, Hubert James Ford, Thomas Harrington, Elizabeth S. Klings, Sophie Lanzkron, Darla Liles, Jane Little, Alecia Nero, Wally Smith, James G. Taylor, Ayanna BaptisteWard Hagar, Julie Kanter, Amy Kinzie, Temeia Martin, Amina Rafique, Marilyn J. Telen, Christina M. Lalama, Gregory J. Kato, Kaleab Z. Abebe

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Background: Although nitric oxide based therapeutics have been shown in preclinical models to reduce vaso-occlusive events and improve cardiovascular function, a clinical trial of a phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitor increased rates of admission to hospital for pain. We aimed to examine if riociguat, a direct stimulator of the nitric oxide receptor soluble guanylate cyclase, causes similar increases in vaso-occlusive events. Methods: This was a phase 1–2, randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled trial. Eligible patients were 18 years or older, had confirmed sickle cell disease documented by haemoglobin electrophoresis or HPLC fractionation (haemoglobin SS, SC, Sβ-thalassemia, SD, or SO-Arab), and stage 1 hypertension or proteinuria. Participants were randomly assigned 1:1 to receive either riociguat or matching placebo via a web-based system to maintain allocation concealment. Both treatments were administered orally starting at 1·0 mg three times a day up to 2·5 mg three times a day (highest tolerated dose) for 12 weeks. Dose escalation by 0·5 mg was considered every 2 weeks if systolic blood pressure was greater than 95 mm Hg and the participant had no signs of hypotension; otherwise, the last dose was maintained. The primary outcome was the proportion of participants who had at least one adjudicated treatment-emergent serious adverse event. The analysis was performed by the intention-to-treat. This trial is registered with (NCT02633397) and was completed. Findings: Between April 11, 2017, and Dec 31, 2021, 165 participants were screened and consented to be enrolled into the study. Of these, 130 participants were randomly assigned to either riociguat (n=66) or placebo (n=64). The proportion of participants with at least one treatment-emergent serious adverse event was 22·7% (n=15) in the riociguat group and 31·3% (n=20) in the placebo group (difference –8·5% [90% CI –21·4 to 4·5]; p=0·19). A similar pattern emerged in other key safety outcomes, sickle cell related vaso-occlusive events (16·7 [n=11] vs 21·9% [n=14]; difference –5·2% [–17·2 to 6·5]; p=0·42), mean pain severity (3·18 vs 3·32; adjusted mean difference –0·14 [–0·70 to 0·42]; p=0·69), and pain interference (3·15 vs 3·12; 0·04 [–0·62 to 0·69]; p=0·93) at 12 weeks were similar between groups. Regarding the key clinical efficacy endpoints, participants taking riociguat had a blood pressure of –8·20 mm Hg (–10·48 to –5·91) compared with –1·24 (–3·58 to 1·10) in those taking placebo (–6·96 mm Hg (90% CI –10·22 to –3·69; p<0·001). Interpretation: Riociguat was safe and had a significant haemodynamic effect on systemic blood pressure. The results of this study provide measures of effect and variability that will inform power calculations for future trials. Funding: Bayer Pharmaceuticals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e345-e357
JournalThe Lancet Haematology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2024


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