Ototoxicity

A Clinical Trial for a New Drug to Protect Hearing

By Yishane Lee

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a novel drug to protect against ototoxicity (harmfulness to hearing) due to the use of aminoglycoside antibiotics to treat severe infections. The FDA approval paves the way for a Phase I clinical trial to test whether the drug, found to be significantly protective in animals, is safe for humans.

Mature lateral line hair cells from larval zebrafish (shown with the neuromast sensory organ enlarged) serve as a platform for studying drugs and genes that modulate hair cell susceptibility to ototoxic agents.

Mature lateral line hair cells from larval zebrafish (shown with the neuromast sensory organ enlarged) serve as a platform for studying drugs and genes that modulate hair cell susceptibility to ototoxic agents.

The drug, ORC-13661, was developed by University of Washington professors Edwin Rubel, Ph.D., and David Raible, Ph.D., who are members of Hearing Health Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board and Hearing Restoration Project, respectively, and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center scientist Julian Simons, Ph.D. “While this program was not directly funded by HHF, both David and I have definitely been supported by HHF for a long time,” Rubel says. “This is a drug to prevent hearing loss that we've developed over the past 15-plus years.”

Rubel points out the drug’s two main features: “It is a brand new drug with a composition of matter patent, not one that is used for other medical purposes and being repurposed; and it is the first drug that was developed, from the get-go, to protect hair cells from ototoxic injury.”

After screening libraries of potential chemicals to see which stopped hair cell death in zebrafish lateral line system, Rubel, Raible, and team identified the best candidate and then boosted its effectiveness by tweaking its chemical structure; results were published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry in January 2018.

Rubel adds, “Toxicity studies in zebrafish, rats, and dogs required by the FDA show superior safety and nearly 100 percent hearing protection at all frequencies.” If the Phase I trial shows the drug is safe for humans, the next step is to test its efficacy among patients using aminoglycosides.

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Moving Toward a Future Free of Drug-Induced Hearing Loss

By Erik Robinson

A new special publication orchestrated by five of the nation’s leading hearing experts compiles the latest research into hearing loss caused by drugs and solvents—how it occurs, how to treat it, and how to prevent it.

HHF Council of Scientific Trustees member Peter Steyger, Ph.D., and colleagues produced a special  Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience  publication on the topic of ototoxicity.

HHF Council of Scientific Trustees member Peter Steyger, Ph.D., and colleagues produced a special Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience publication on the topic of ototoxicity.

The compilation was published online as a special research topic by the journal Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience on March 5, 2018. It includes both original research and focused reviews. The Pharmaceutical Interventions for Hearing Loss Working Group organized the effort at the behest of the Department of Defense (DoD) Hearing Center of Excellence.

“We’re trying to elevate ways for the human population to avoid losing this important sensation for experiencing and communicating with the world around us,” says coauthor Peter Steyger, Ph.D., a professor of otolaryngology/head and neck surgery in the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) School of Medicine, and a member of Hearing Health Foundation’s Council of Scientific Trustees.

“Ototoxicity is a threat to hearing at any age and hearing loss remains a significant side effect of chemotherapy. This review highlights how far we’ve come in understanding that threat and provides us with a roadmap for developing more effective ways to recognize and address the problem,” adds coauthor Jian Zuo, Ph.D., of the department of developmental neurobiology at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

In people, hearing cells don’t regenerate so the loss is irreversible. That’s why it is crucial to understand the mechanisms that affect hearing and how to prevent loss of hearing, Steyger says. The introductory editorial, “Moving Toward a Future Free of Ototoxicity,” highlights the latest scientific research exploring how certain pharmaceuticals damage the inner ear while others can protect it. It also highlights the need for better monitoring and detection of hearing loss over time, especially among patients being treated with antibiotics.

Steyger, who lost hearing as a child after being treated with antibiotics for meningitis when 14 months old, noted that hearing loss affects a surprisingly large proportion of the population—rising from an estimated 1 in 500 newborns to as many as half of all people age 75 or older. The research encapsulated in the new e-book includes 23 scientific articles from 93 authors and represents the state of the science in both prevention and treatment of ototoxicity hearing loss. (The e-book is available to all, free of charge.)

“This compilation will help to propel our knowledge forward and underscore the need to better understand the dangers of ototoxicity. The DoD Hearing Center of Excellence is honored to host and mobilize this important effort,” says coauthor Carlos Esquivel, M.D., a neurotologist and chief medical officer in the Clinical Care, Rehabilitation, and Restoration Branch of the DoD Hearing Center of Excellence at Joint Base San Antonio in Texas.

In addition to Steyger, Zuo, and Esquivel, the publication’s editors include Lisa Cunningham, Ph.D., of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, and Kelly Watts, Au.D., of the DoD Hearing Center of Excellence.

This originally appeared in OHSU News and was republished with permission. 

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