From the AGA Journals

No clear-cut evidence of vedolizumab effect in retrospective study of primary sclerosing cholangitis



While initial case reports and series provided preliminarily encouraging results, a larger retrospective study has provided no clear-cut evidence of biochemical response to vedolizumab in patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) and inflammatory bowel disease, investigators report.

A subset of patients in the retrospective analysis did experience a substantial drop in alkaline phosphatase (ALP), according to investigators with the International Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis Study Group.

Overall, however, levels of that cholestasis marker rose by a small but statistically significant amount in this study, which included more than 100 patients with PSC and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Responses were more likely in patients with cirrhosis and in those with elevated ALP at baseline, both of which are indicators of more aggressive disease, according to investigator Kate D. Lynch, MD, PhD, of the University of Oxford (England) and her coauthors.

The rate of liver outcomes was in line with the natural history of the disease, according to Dr. Lynch and coinvestigators, who added that most patients had an endoscopic IBD response, as might be expected based on studies of IBD-only patients treated with vedolizumab.

“Despite the disappointment with lack of a uniform response, further evaluation of vedolizumab as a beneficial treatment in PSC may be warranted in a subset of patients via a stratified randomized clinical trial,” Dr. Lynch and coauthors said in their report, which was published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

Vedolizumab, a monoclonal antibody against integrin alpha4beta7, is effective in Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, according to investigators, who added that the “gut-homing pathway” it targets has also been implicated in the pathophysiology of PSC.

“It is possible that vedolizumab may play a role in reducing lymphocyte infiltration into the liver in patients with PSC and thereby in reducing hepatic and biliary inflammation, authors of the retrospective analysis said.

Their analysis included 102 patients with PSC and IBD at 20 centers in Europe and North America. All patients had received at least three doses of vedolizumab for their IBD, given according to the usual dosing schedule. Most of the patients were male (64 patients, or 62.8%) and about 90% had classical large-duct PSC. About one-fifth had cirrhosis, and the majority (about 65%) had ulcerative colitis. Patients were followed until death, liver transplant, or 56 days after the last vedolizumab dose.

The median ALP increased from 1.53 times the upper limit of normal at baseline to 1.64 times the upper limit of normal by the last follow-up, an increase that was statistically significant (P = .018) but not clinically significant, according to investigators. Likewise, they said, statistically significant increases were seen overall in median alanine transaminase and aspartate aminotransferase levels.

However, 21 patients (20.6%) had a drop in ALP of at least 20% from baseline to last follow-up, and another 39 patients (38.2%) had stable ALP over that period, data show, while the remaining 42 (41.2%) had an increase of 20% or more.

Cirrhosis was associated with a near fivefold odds of a 20% or greater ALP drop from baseline to follow-up (odds ratio, 4.70, 95% confidence interval, 1.61-13.76), according to results of univariate analysis, which investigators said were “reproduced” in multivariate analysis.

While no other variables were so clearly linked to a 20% or greater drop in ALP, Dr. Lynch and colleagues said there was a “trend toward an association” in patients with ALP raised at baseline, and in those who had Crohn’s disease or IBD-unspecified instead of ulcerative colitis.

Endoscopic IBD responses were seen in 42 out of 74 patients (56.8%) for whom those data were available, investigators added.

A total of 22 patients (20.9%) had a liver-related outcome over median follow-up of 561 days; however, that outcome may be “slightly overrepresented” by an incidence of cholangitis in 8.8%, which in and of itself is not necessarily an indicator of advanced liver disease, said Dr. Lynch and coauthors in their report.

“This proportion of liver-related outcomes is consistent with the natural history of PSC and does not by itself indicate that vedolizumab treatment is harmful in PSC,” they said, adding that the findings were similar to a study of simtuzumab, a monoclonal antibody directed against lysyl oxidase-like 2, in patients with PSC, of whom 20.1% had a PSC-related event and the incidence of cholangitis was 13.2%.

The retrospective study was supported by the Birmingham National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre in the United Kingdom. Authors of the report provided disclosures related to Takeda, AbbVie, Dr. Falk Pharma, Intercept, MSD, Janssen, Vifor, Gilead, and Novartis, among others.

SOURCE: Lynch KD et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2019 May 14. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2019.05.013.

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