1Pinnacle Clinical Research, San Antonio, TX, United States.
2Ruane Clinical Research Group Inc., Los Angeles, CA, United States.
3Kansas City Research Institute, Kansas City, MO, United States.
4Covenant Metabolic Specialists, LLC, Sarasota, FL, United States.
5South Texas Research Institute, Edinburg, TX, United States.
6University of California San Diego, CA, United States.
7MedPace, INC, Cincinnati, OH, United States.
8Akero Therapeutics, South San Francisco, CA, United States.
Background & aims: Efruxifermin has shown clinical efficacy in patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and F1-F3 fibrosis. The primary objective of the BALANCED Cohort C was to assess the safety and tolerability of efruxifermin in patients with compensated NASH cirrhosis.
Methods: Patients with NASH and stage 4 fibrosis (n = 30) were randomized 2:1 to receive efruxifermin 50 mg (n = 20) or placebo (n = 10) once-weekly for 16 weeks. The primary endpoint was safety and tolerability of efruxifermin. Secondary and exploratory endpoints included evaluation of non-invasive markers of liver injury and fibrosis, glucose and lipid metabolism, and changes in histology in a subset of patients who consented to end-of-study liver biopsy.
Results: Efruxifermin was safe and well-tolerated; most adverse events (AEs) were grade 1 (n = 7, 23.3%) or grade 2 (n = 19, 63.3%). The most frequent AEs were gastrointestinal, including transient, mild to moderate diarrhea, and/or nausea. Significant improvements were noted in key markers of liver injury (alanine aminotransferase) and glucose and lipid metabolism. Sixteen-week treatment with efruxifermin was associated with significant reductions in non-invasive markers of fibrosis including Pro-C3 (least squares mean change from baseline [LSMCFB] -9 μg/L efruxifermin vs. -3.4 μg/L placebo; p = 0.0130) and ELF score (-0.4 efruxifermin vs. +0.4 placebo; p = 0.0036), with a trend towards reduced liver stiffness (LSMCFB -5.7 kPa efruxifermin vs. -1.1 kPa placebo; n.s.). Of 12 efruxifermin-treated patients with liver biopsy after 16 weeks, 4 (33%) achieved fibrosis improvement of at least one stage without worsening of NASH, while an additional 3 (25%) achieved resolution of NASH, compared to 0 of 5 placebo-treated patients.
Conclusions: Efruxifermin appeared safe and well-tolerated with encouraging improvements in markers of liver injury, fibrosis, and glucose and lipid metabolism following 16 weeks of treatment, warranting confirmation in larger and longer term studies.
Lay summary: Cirrhosis resulting from non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), the progressive form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, represents a major unmet medical need. Currently there are no approved drugs for the treatment of NASH. This proof-of-concept randomized, double-blind clinical trial demonstrated the potential therapeutic benefit of efruxifermin treatment compared to placebo in patients with cirrhosis due to NASH.