norUrsodeoxycholic acid improves cholestasis in primary sclerosing cholangitis.
Fickert P., Hirschfield GM., Denk G., Marschall H-U., Altorjay I., Färkkilä M., Schramm C., Spengler U., Chapman R., Bergquist A., Schrumpf E., Nevens F., Trivedi P., Reiter FP., Tornai I., Halilbasic E., Greinwald R., Pröls M., Manns MP., Trauner M., European PSC norUDCA Study Group None.
Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) represents a devastating bile duct disease, currently lacking effective medical therapy. 24-norursodeoxycholic acid (norUDCA) is a side chain-shortened C23 homologue of UDCA and has shown potent anti-cholestatic, anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic properties in a preclinical PSC mouse model. A randomized controlled trial, including 38 centers from 12 European countries, evaluated the safety and efficacy of three doses of oral norUDCA (500mg/d, 1,000mg/d or 1,500mg/d) compared with placebo in patients with PSC.One hundred sixty-one PSC patients without concomitant UDCA therapy and with elevated serum alkaline phosphatase (ALP) levels were randomized for a 12-week treatment followed by a 4-week follow-up. The primary efficacy endpoint was the mean relative change in ALP levels between baseline and end of treatment visit.norUDCA reduced ALP levels by -12.3%, -17.3%, and -26.0% in the 500, 1,000, and 1,500mg/d groups (p=0.029, p=0.003, and p<0.0001 when compared to placebo), respectively, while a +1.2% increase was observed in the placebo group. Similar dose-dependent results were found for secondary endpoints, such as ALT, AST, γ-GT, or the rate of patients achieving ALP levels <1.5× ULN. Serious adverse events occurred in seven patients in the 500mg/d, five patients in the 1,000mg/d, two patients in the 1500mg/d group, and three in the placebo group. There was no difference in reported pruritus between treatment and placebo groups.norUDCA significantly reduced ALP values dose-dependently in all treatment arms. The safety profile of norUDCA was excellent and comparable to placebo. Consequently, these results justify a phase III trial of norUDCA in PSC patients. Lay summary: Effective medical therapy for primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) is urgently needed. In this phase II clinical study in PSC patients, a side chain-shortened derivative of ursodeoxycholic acid, norursodeoxycholic acid (norUDCA), significantly reduced serum alkaline phosphatase levels in a dose-dependent manner during a 12-week treatment. Importantly, norUDCA showed a favorable safety profile, which was similar to placebo. The use of norUDCA in PSC patients is promising and will be further evaluated in a phase III clinical study. ClinicalTrials.gov number: NCT01755507.