A randomized controlled clinical trial of growth hormone in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: Clinical, neuroimaging, and hormonal results

Francesco Saccà, Mario Quarantelli, Carlo Rinaldi, Tecla Tucci, Raffaele Piro, Gaetano Perrotta, Barbara Carotenuto, Angela Marsili, Vincenzo Palma, Giuseppe De Michele, Arturo Brunetti, Vincenzo Brescia Morra, Alessandro Filla, Marco Salvatore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurological disease with motor neuron degeneration. Riluzole is the only available treatment. Two-thirds of ALS patients present with growth hormone (GH) deficiency. The aim of this study is to determine if add-on of GH to riluzole, with an individually regulated dose based on Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-I) production, was able to reduce neuronal loss in the motor cortex, reduce mortality, and improve motor function of ALS patients. Patients with definite/probable ALS, in treatment with riluzole, aged 40-85 years, and with disease duration ≥3 years were enrolled. The study was randomized, placebo controlled, and double blind. Before treatment, patients were tested with a GH releasing hormone (GHRH) + arginine test. The initial dose of GH was 2 IU s.c. every other day, and was progressively increased to a maximum of 8 IU. Primary endpoint was N-acetylaspartate/(creatine + choline) (NAA/Cre + Cho) ratio in motor cortex assessed by magnetic resonance spectroscopy performed at months 0, 6, and 12. Secondary endpoints were mortality and ALS functional rating scale revised (ALSFRS-R). The NAA/(Cre + Cho) ratio decreased in all patients who completed the trial. No significant difference was noted between treated and placebo group. At baseline, although IGF-I levels were within the normal range, 73% of patients had GH deficiency, being severe in half of them. Compared with bulbar onset, spinal-onset patients showed more depressed GH response to the GHRH + arginine stimulation test (10.4 ± 7.0 versus 15.5 ± 8.1 ng/mL; p <0.05). Insulin resistance [homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR)] increased from 2.1 ± 1.0 at baseline to 4.6 ± 1.9 at 12 months (p <0.001). Insulin-like growth factor (IGF) binding protein 3 (IGFBP-3) decreased from 8,435 ± 4,477 ng/mL at baseline to 3,250 ± 1,780 ng/mL at 12 months (p <0.001). The results show that GH exerted no effect on cerebral NAA or clinical progression assessed by ALSFRS-R. Two-thirds of ALS patients had GH deficit, with higher levels in the bulbar-onset group. During follow-up, patients showed progressive increase in HOMA-IR and decrease in IGFBP-3 levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-138
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neurology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012


  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Growth hormone
  • IGF-I
  • IGFBP-3
  • Insulin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology


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