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Rationale and design of a mechanistic clinical trial of JAK inhibition to prevent ventilator-induced diaphragm dysfunction.

Shrager JB, Wang Y, Lee M, Nesbit S, Trope W, Konsker H, Fatodu E, Berry MS, Poulstides G, Norton J, Burdon T, Backhus L, Cooke R, Tang H. Rationale and design of a mechanistic clinical trial of JAK inhibition to prevent ventilator-induced diaphragm dysfunction. Respiratory medicine. 2021 Nov 1; 189:106620.

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INTRODUCTION: Ventilator-induced diaphragm dysfunction (VIDD) is an important phenomenon that has been repeatedly demonstrated in experimental and clinical models of mechanical ventilation. Even a few hours of MV initiates signaling cascades that result in, first, reduced specific force, and later, atrophy of diaphragm muscle fibers. This severe, progressive weakness of the critical ventilatory muscle results in increased duration of MV and thus increased MV-associated complications/deaths. A drug that could prevent VIDD would likely have a major positive impact on intensive care unit outcomes. We identified the JAK/STAT pathway as important in VIDD and then demonstrated that JAK inhibition prevents VIDD in rats. We subsequently developed a clinical model of VIDD demonstrating reduced contractile force of isolated diaphragm fibers harvested after 7 vs 1 h of MV during a thoracic surgical procedure. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The NIH-funded clinical trial that has been initiated is a prospective, placebo controlled trial: subjects undergoing esophagectomy are randomized to receive 6 preoperative doses of the FDA-approved JAK inhibitor Tofacitinib (commonly used for rheumatoid arthritis) vs. placebo. The primary outcome variable will be the difference in the reduction that occurs in force generation of diaphragm single muscle fibers (normalized to their cross-sectional area), in the Tofacitinib vs. placebo subjects, over 6 h of MV. DISCUSSION: This trial represents a first-in-human, mechanistic clinical trial of a drug to prevent VIDD. It will provide proof-of-concept in human subjects whether JAK inhibition prevents clinical VIDD, and if successful, will support an ICU-based clinical trial that would determine whether JAK inhibition impacts clinical outcome variables such as duration of MV and mortality.

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