The Florey Institute examines common drug as new stroke treatment in the first large-scale trial of its kind

The Florey Institute is investigating if a commonly used drug could provide a new approach for stroke treatment in which therapeutic options are currently limited. The large-scale clinical trial, a world first, aims to build clinical evidence into the safety and effectiveness of etanercept in improving quality of life for people who have experienced stroke, and assess whether etanercept should be investigated further as a treatment candidate for stroke.

One in four people globally will have a stroke in their lifetime yet few treatment options are available to people who experience serious, lifelong effects from this neurological condition. While current medications exist to prevent the occurrence of a further stroke, they do not target ongoing impairments that often result from a stroke event.

Neurologist and clinical researcher Professor Vincent Thijs, Co-Head of the Stroke Research Theme at The Florey and Head of Stroke at Austin Health, is leading a trial known as PESTO that takes a novel approach towards stroke treatment by repurposing and evaluating a commonly used drug. The study is running at multiple hospitals across Australia and New Zealand with additional international hospitals hoped to come on board soon.

Professor Vincent Thijs

Etanercept is currently approved in Australia to treat a joint condition called rheumatoid arthritis and skin conditions such as psoriasis. The drug has been used to treat stroke in observational studies and in a small-scale clinical trial in Australia, however reliable and robust clinical evidence into its effectiveness in stroke is lacking. The PESTO trial seeks to address this.

“Like the best scientific investigations, we are conducting this trial with an open mind. Regardless of the result, we want to learn more and share insights gained through this trial with the scientific community to continue striving for improved treatment options and hope for people who’ve experienced stroke,” said Prof Thijs.

The study follows a randomised, controlled and double-blinded design to determine the effect of etanercept on quality of life for stroke survivors. During the trial, the drug will be administered to people who have had a stroke within the last 15 years and have ongoing disability and impairments as a result of their stroke.

PESTO is funded by a grant from the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund administered via the Stroke Foundation.

The trial is ongoing and currently recruiting. More information about the trial and eligibility is available here.

Stroke support and resources are available through the Stroke Foundation. Visit their website or call StrokeLine on 1800 787 653.