Migraine is a highly prevalent headache disease that typically affects patients during their most productive years. Despite significant progress in understanding the underlying pathophysiology of this disorder, its treatment so far continues to depend on drugs that, in their majority, were not specifically designed for this purpose. The neuropeptide calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) has been indicated as playing a critical role in the central and peripheral pathways leading to a migraine attack.
This article highlights the evidence behind the role of CGRP in migraine and the state of CGRP-based mechanism treatment development. We present a summary of the evidence base behind CGRP in migraine pathophysiology and the novel CGRP mechanism drugs and their potential future contribution to migraine management in our clinical practice.
Recently developed calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) receptor antagonistic molecules have shown promising results in clinical trials for acute treatment of migraine attacks. Drugs from the gepant class of CGRP receptor antagonists are effective and do not cause vasoconstriction, one of the major limitations in the use of triptans. However their use had to be discontinued because of risk of liver toxicity after continuous exposure. As an alternative approach to block CGRP transmission, fully humanized monoclonal antibodies towards CGRP and the CGRP receptor have been developed for treatment of chronic migraine (attacks >15 days/month). Initial results from phase I and II clinical trials have revealed promising results with minimal side effects and significant relief from chronic migraine as compared with placebo.
Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) is a 37-amino-acid neuropeptide whose involvement in migraine pathophysiology is well established. Originally migraine was believed to be a disease of the vasculature, but research has highlighted this to be a disease of the brain with CGRP playing an important role. While targeting CGRP using small molecule antagonists against the receptor has been effective, long-term use of these agents has not been possible due to safety concerns and/or formulation challenges.
In The Lancet Neurology, David Dodick and colleagues1 report an important study of treatment in migraine prophylaxis: parenteral administration of LY2951742, a monoclonal antibody to calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). Mean decrease from baseline in migraine days in 4 weeks was higher in patients given LY2951742 (4·2) than in those given placebo (3·0; p=0·003).1 Results of other trials that use antibodies against CGRP will probably be published soon.
Migraine is a neurological disorder that manifests as a debilitating headache associated with altered sensory perception. The neuropeptide calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) is now firmly established as a key player in migraine. Clinical trials carried out during the past decade have proved that CGRP receptor antagonists are effective for treating migraine, and antibodies to the receptor and CGRP are currently under investigation. Despite this progress in the clinical arena, the mechanisms by which CGRP triggers migraine remain uncertain.