Lars Olson, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden

Carrying Imatinib treatment to clinical trials in spinal cord injury

Funded in: 2013, 2014, 2015

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Problem: There is currently no effective pharmacologic treatment for spinal cord injury

Target: Imatinib showed robust effects in animal experiments

Goal: Implementation of a clinical trial for acute and eventually chronic applications


Traumatic injury to the spinal cord results in irreversible locomotor, sensory, and autonomic dysfunctions for which there is currently no effective pharmacologic treatment.  Prof. Lars Olson’s team has demonstrated in recently published experiments that treatment with Imantinib (Glivec, Novartis) will improve significantly several different outcome measures in rats with spinal cord injury. These improvements were associated with enhanced vascular integrity and reduced inflammation followed by increased tissue preservation.

Imatinib showed robust effects and is an already clinical used drug (certain forms of cancer) that can be delivered orally, making Imatinib a candidate drug for a clinical trial in spinal cord injury.

This study with additional animal experiments is planned to investigate the following questions important for the design of a clinical study. The aims are:

  • to determine whether Imatinib treatment can be initiated at post-injury time points compatible with acute clinical use (24 hours delayed treatment)
  • to determine the duration of the treatment (5 days versus 15 days)
  • to determine functionally whether Imantinib normalizes the integrity of the blood-spinal cordbarrier by fMRI studies
  • to determine whether Imatinib is efficacious in chronic spinal cord injury

The results may provide crucial information for the implementation of a clinical trial.

(Mathew B. Abrams, Ingrid Nilsson, Sebastian A. Lewandowski, Jacob Kjell, Simone Codeluppi, Lars Olson, Ulf Eriksson. Imatinib Enhances Functional Outcome after Spinal Cord Injury.  PLOS one, June 2012 | Volume 7 | Issue 6 ).