BOSTON – Children who have recurrence of primary sclerosing cholangitis after liver transplant tend to be younger and have more rapidly progressive disease, based on an international retrospective analysis.
Within 5 years of transplant, the probability of primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) recurrence in pediatric patients is 26%, reported lead author, of Columbia University, New York, and colleagues.
“The aim of our study was to identify risk factors for primary sclerosing cholangitis recurrence following transplant,” Dr. Martinez said during a presentation at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. This may be the largest pediatric study evaluating recurrent PSC to date, she added.
The investigators drew data from 35 centers around the world via the Pediatric PSC Consortium database. Recurrence was defined by cholestatic biochemistry with nonanastomotic biliary strictures and beading of bile ducts on cholangiography. Recurrences caused by hepatic artery thrombosis or chronic rejection were excluded, as were any cases that recurred within 6 months of transplant.
The final analysis included 149 patients with a median age at diagnosis and liver transplant of 12 years and 15.4 years, respectively. Of these, 31 patients had recurrence after a median of 3.3 years. A closer look at the data showed that recurrence was linked with younger median age at time of transplant (13.2 vs. 16.2 years). In cases of recurrence, PSC was generally more aggressive prior to transplant, with a shorter interval between diagnosis and transplant (1.6 vs. 4.1 years), higher total bilirubin (7.8 vs. 3.8 mg/dL), and higher ALT (118 vs. 62 U/L). Furthermore, almost half of the patients (45%) who had recurrence also had pretransplant autoimmune hepatitis overlap, compared with approximately one-quarter of the patients (27%) who did not have recurrence, although this trend was not statistically significant (P = .06).
Recurrent PSC was also associated with poorer outcomes; almost half of those with recurrence (48%) were relisted for liver transplant, developed portal hypertension, or died within 2 years of diagnosis. Mean rejection rates were higher in recurrent versus nonrecurrent cases (3 vs. 1); recurrent cases also had shorter time until rejection (3 vs. 6 months) and greater prevalence of rejection that was refractory to steroids (23% vs. 12%). Moreover, a significantly greater proportion of patients with recurrence had Epstein-Barr viremia (41% vs. 21%).
Dr. Martinez noted that ongoing therapy involving mammalian target of rapamycin inhibition was associated with lower rates of recurrence and suggested that this deserves further investigation; however, owing to small population size, she urged a cautious interpretation of this finding.
“We have to do prospective research,” Dr. Martinez said, emphasizing that tissue immunophenotyping was needed, as a better understanding of underlying immune processes and disease subtypes may open doors to more effective therapies.
The investigators disclosed relationships with Gilead, Merck, Novartis, and others.
SOURCE: Martinez M et al. The Liver Meeting 2019, .