VX-166: A novel potent small molecule caspase inhibitor as a potential therapy for sepsis

Peter Weber, Ping Wang, Stephane Maddens, Paul S.H. Wang, Rongqian Wu, Michael Miksa, Weifeng Dong, Michael Mortimore, Julian M.C. Golec, Peter Charlton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Introduction: Prevention of lymphocyte apoptosis by caspase inhibition has been proposed as a novel treatment approach in sepsis. However, it has not been clearly demonstrated that caspase inhibitors improve survival in sepsis models when dosed post-insult. Also, there are concerns that caspase inhibitors might suppress the immune response. Here we characterize VX-166, a broad caspase inhibitor, as a novel potential treatment for sepsis.Methods: VX-166 was studied in a number of enzymatic and cellular assays. The compound was then tested in a murine model of endotoxic shock (lipopolysaccharide (LPS), 20 mg/kg IV) and a 10 d rat model of polymicrobial sepsis by caecal ligation and puncture (CLP).Results: VX-166 showed potent anti-apoptotic activity in vitro and inhibited the release of interleukin (IL)-1beta and IL-18. In the LPS model, VX-166 administered 0, 4, 8 and 12 h post-LPS significantly improved survival in a dose-dependent fashion (P < 0.0028). In the CLP model, VX-166 continuously administered by mini-osmotic pump significantly improved survival when dosed 3 h after insult, (40% to 92%, P = 0.009). When dosed 8 h post-CLP, VX-166 improved survival from 40% to 66% (P = 0.19). Mode of action studies in the CLP model confirmed that VX-166 significantly inhibited thymic atrophy and lymphocyte apoptosis as determined by flow cytometry (P < 0.01). VX-166 reduced plasma endotoxin levels (P < 0.05), suggesting an improved clearance of bacteria from the bloodstream. Release of IL-1beta in vivo or T-cell activation in vitro were moderately affected.Conclusions: Our studies enhance the case for the use of caspase inhibitors in sepsis. VX-166 itself has promise as a therapy for the treatment of sepsis in man.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberR146
JournalCritical Care
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 9 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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