Secukinumab Provides Clinical Benefit in Phase 3 Juvenile Arthritis Trial

Ted Bosworth

June 16, 2021

Secukinumab (Cosentyx), an interleukin-17A inhibitor, is effective and reasonably well tolerated for treatment of enthesitis-related arthritis (ERA) and juvenile psoriatic arthritis (JPsA) in children and adolescents, according to a phase 3 trial presented at a late breaking abstracts session of the annual European Congress of Rheumatology.

On the primary outcome of time to flare, the curves for secukinumab and placebo separated almost immediately, with fewer than half the number of flares occurring in the experimental arm over the course of the study, according to Nicolino Ruperto, MD, senior research scientist at IRCCS Istituto Giannina Gaslini in Genoa, Italy.

The trial, called JUNIPERA, was conducted over 2 years and included an open-label treatment period (TP1) and then a randomized, placebo-controlled comparison (TP2). In TP1, 86 children were initiated on open-label secukinumab administered subcutaneously on weeks 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, and 12. The dose was 75 mg for children less than 50 kg and 150 kg for those heavier.

Average Patient Age Was 13.1 Years


Of these 86 children, 52 had ERA and 34 had JPsA. Disease duration of at least 6 months was required for entry. Patients up to the age of 18 years were permitted to enroll. The average age was 13.1 years. Most patients, two-thirds of whom were male, had received an immunomodulator prior to study entry.


At the end of TP1, 69.9% of patients had achieved 70% improvement in the Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis American College of Rheumatology joint score (JIA ACR70). The 90.4% of patients who achieved JIA ACR30 were invited to enroll in TP2. A total of 75 patients did so.

At the end of TP2, response rates strongly favored secukinumab over placebo for JIA ACR30 (89.2% vs. 64.9%; P = .014) and JIA ACR70 (67.7% vs. 43.2%; P = .042). Higher but not statistically significant differences in response rates were seen for secukinumab over placebo for JIA ACR50 (78.4% vs. 62.2%; P = .152), JIA ACR90 (51.4% vs. 40.5%; P = .431) and JIA ACR100 (43.2% vs. 37.8%; P = .755).

During TP2, there were 10 flares in the group randomized to secukinumab versus 21 flares in the placebo group, translating by hazard ratio (HR) into a 72% risk reduction (HR, 0.28; P < .001).

Side Effects Similar to Those in Adults

The types and rates of serious adverse events were similar to those reported previously in adult patients, according to Ruperto. Although the rate of serious adverse events (14.6% vs. 10.6%) was only moderately higher in the experimental arm, more patients randomized to secukinumab than placebo discontinued therapy (13.2% vs. 6.3%) before the end of follow-up.

The side effects that occurred more commonly on secukinumab included gastrointestinal complaints, such as diarrhea (22.9% vs. 15.8%). Other adverse events occurring in more than 10% of patients included headache and nasopharyngitis, but most side effects were mild and resolved.

Although the proportion of patients with flare increased over time in both groups, Ruperto reported that protection against flares and relative improvement in clinical markers of disease activity relative to placebo "were sustained out to 2 years of follow-up."

The submission of these data to regulatory agencies is anticipated. If secukinumab is given an indication for these forms of arthritis, it will join an indication for plaque psoriasis in children that was granted just a few days before these data were presented. The psoriasis indication is the only current use approved for children in the United States.

More Biologics Needed for JPsA

Additional biologics will be helpful for children with arthritis who are poorly controlled on available treatments, according to Natasha M. Ruth, MD, director of the division of pediatric rheumatology at the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston. Ruth was senior author of a case study published 2 years ago in which secukinumab was used to control psoriatic arthritis and nail manifestations of psoriasis.

"It was a girl who had already failed to improve adequately to TNF inhibitors," reported Ruth, who had said the child and her parent were very concerned about the nail appearance.

"The nail involvement completely resolved, so it was a very good result in a difficult situation," Ruth explained. She said that the decision to try secukinumab was made collaboratively in a clinic in which dermatologists and rheumatologists at her institution work together on difficult cases.

"There is a need for more biologics with different mechanisms of action," Ruth said. Based on her experience, secukinumab could be an important addition to treatment options.

Ruperto reported having financial relationships with more than 20 pharmaceutical companies, including Novartis, which provided financial support for this trial. Many coauthors had financial relationships with multiple companies, including Novartis, and some were employees of the company. Ruth reported having no potential conflicts of interest.

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