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1.  A Novel Fibrosis Index Comprising a Non-Cholesterol Sterol Accurately Predicts HCV-Related Liver Cirrhosis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93601.
Diagnosis of liver cirrhosis is essential in the management of chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Liver biopsy is invasive and thus entails a risk of complications as well as a potential risk of sampling error. Therefore, non-invasive diagnostic tools are preferential. The aim of the present study was to create a model for accurate prediction of liver cirrhosis based on patient characteristics and biomarkers of liver fibrosis, including a panel of non-cholesterol sterols reflecting cholesterol synthesis and absorption and secretion. We evaluated variables with potential predictive significance for liver fibrosis in 278 patients originally included in a multicenter phase III treatment trial for chronic HCV infection. A stepwise multivariate logistic model selection was performed with liver cirrhosis, defined as Ishak fibrosis stage 5–6, as the outcome variable. A new index, referred to as Nordic Liver Index (NoLI) in the paper, was based on the model: Log-odds (predicting cirrhosis) = −12.17+ (age×0.11) + (BMI (kg/m2)×0.23) + (D7-lathosterol (μg/100 mg cholesterol)×(−0.013)) + (Platelet count (x109/L)×(−0.018)) + (Prothrombin-INR×3.69). The area under the ROC curve (AUROC) for prediction of cirrhosis was 0.91 (95% CI 0.86–0.96). The index was validated in a separate cohort of 83 patients and the AUROC for this cohort was similar (0.90; 95% CI: 0.82–0.98). In conclusion, the new index may complement other methods in diagnosing cirrhosis in patients with chronic HCV infection.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0093601
PMCID: PMC3974766  PMID: 24699777
2.  Impact of IL28B-Related Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms on Liver Transient Elastography in Chronic Hepatitis C Infection 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80172.
Background and Aims
Recently, several genome-wide association studies have revealed that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in proximity to IL28B predict spontaneous clearance of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection as well as outcome following pegylated interferon and ribavirin therapy among genotype 1 infected patients. Additionally the presence of the otherwise favorable IL28B genetic variants in the context of HCV genotype 3 infection reportedly entail more pronounced liver fibrosis and steatosis. The present study aimed to evaluate the impact of IL28B SNP variability on liver stiffness as accessed by transient elastography.
Methods
Seven hundred and seventy-one Swedish HCV infected patients sequentially undergoing liver stiffness measurement by means of Fibroscan® in the context of a real-life trial had samples available for IL28B genotyping (rs12979860) and HCV genotyping.
Results
CCrs12979860 was more common among HCV genotype 2 or 3 infected treatment-naïve patients than among those infected with genotype 1 (P<0.0001). Additionally CCrs12979860 among HCV genotype 3 infected patients was associated with higher liver stiffness values (P = 0.004), and higher AST to platelet ratio index (APRI; p = 0.02) as compared to carriers of the T allele. Among HCV genotype 1 infected patients, CCrs12979860 was significantly associated with higher viral load (P = 0.001), with a similar non-significant trend noted among HCV genotype 3 infected patients.
Conclusion
This study confirms previous reports that the CCrs12979860 SNP is associated with more pronounced liver pathology in patients chronically infected with HCV genotype 3 as compared to genotype 1, suggesting that IL28B genetic variants differently regulates the course of HCV infection across HCV genotypes.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0080172
PMCID: PMC3828208  PMID: 24244641
3.  Impact of Soluble CD26 on Treatment Outcome and Hepatitis C Virus-Specific T Cells in Chronic Hepatitis C Virus Genotype 1 Infection 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56991.
Background
Interferon and ribavirin therapy for chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection yields sustained virological response (SVR) rates of 50–80%. Several factors such as non-1 genotype, beneficial IL28B genetic variants, low baseline IP-10, and the functionality of HCV-specific T cells predict SVR. With the pending introduction of new therapies for HCV entailing very rapid clearance of plasma HCV RNA, the importance of baseline biomarkers likely will increase in order to tailor therapy. CD26 (DPPIV) truncates the chemokine IP-10 into a shorter antagonistic form, and this truncation of IP-10 has been suggested to influence treatment outcome in patients with chronic HCV infection patients. In addition, previous reports have shown CD26 to be a co-stimulator for T cells. The aim of the present study was to assess the utility of CD26 as a biomarker for treatment outcome in chronic hepatitis C and to define its association with HCV-specific T cells.
Methods
Baseline plasma from 153 genotype 1 and 58 genotype 2/3 infected patients enrolled in an international multicenter phase III trial (DITTO-HCV) and 36 genotype 1 infected patients participating in a Swedish trial (TTG1) were evaluated regarding baseline soluble CD26 (sCD26) and the functionality of HCV-specific CD8+ T cells.
Results
Genotype 1 infected patients achieving SVR in the DITTO (P = 0.002) and the TTG1 (P = 0.02) studies had lower pretreatment sCD26 concentrations compared with non-SVR patients. Sixty-five percent of patients with sCD26 concentrations below 600 ng/mL achieved SVR compared with 39% of the patients with sCD26 exceeding 600 ng/mL (P = 0.01). Patients with sCD26 concentrations below 600 ng/mL had significantly higher frequencies of HCV-specific CD8+ T cells (P = 0.02).
Conclusions
Low baseline systemic concentrations of sCD26 predict favorable treatment outcome in chronic HCV infection and may be associated with higher blood counts of HCV-specific CD8+ T cells.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056991
PMCID: PMC3577643  PMID: 23437290
4.  PNPLA 3 I148M genetic variant associates with insulin resistance and baseline viral load in HCV genotype 2 but not in genotype 3 infection 
BMC Medical Genetics  2012;13:82.
Background
Hepatic steatosis in HCV patients has been postulated as a risk factor associated with a higher frequency of fibrosis and cirrhosis. A single genetic variant, PNPLA3 I148M, has been widely associated with increased hepatic steatosis. Previous studies of the PNPLA3 I148M sequence variant in HCV infected individuals have reported an association between this variant and prevalence of steatosis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis. To evaluate the impact of PNPLA3 I148M variant on metabolic traits and treatment response in HCV genotype 2 and 3 infected patients.
Methods
Three hundred and eighty-two treatment naïve HCV genotype 2 or 3 infected patients were included in a phase III, open label, randomized, multicenter, investigator-initiated trial (the NORDynamIC study), in which pretreatment liver biopsies were mandatory. PNPLA3I148M genotyping was performed in a total of 359 Caucasian patients.
Results
In HCV genotype 2 infected patients carrying the PNPLA3 148M allele, there was significantly increased insulin resistance (P = 0.023) and lower viral load (P = 0.005) at baseline as well as the first seven days of antiviral treatment. These results were not observed in HCV genotype 3 infected patients.
Conclusions
Our results suggest a possible association between the PNPLA3 148M allele and insulin resistance as well as baseline viral load in HCV genotype 2, but not in genotype 3.
doi:10.1186/1471-2350-13-82
PMCID: PMC3495049  PMID: 22978414
Hepatitis C; PNPLA 3; Insulin resistance; Viral load
5.  Impact of Obesity on the Bioavailability of Peginterferon-α2a and Ribavirin and Treatment Outcome for Chronic Hepatitis C Genotype 2 or 3 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37521.
Background and Aims
Having a body mass index above or equal to 30 kg/m2 in conjunction with chronic hepatitis C virus infection is associated with non-responsiveness to treatment with interferon and ribavirin, but details regarding the mechanisms whereby obesity reduces the efficacy of therapy remain unclear.
Methods
This study evaluated impact of obesity on outcome as well as interferon and ribavirin concentrations following standard-of-care fixed dosing with peginterferon-α2a 180 µg once weekly and ribavirin 800 mg daily among 303 HCV genotype 2/3-infected patients enrolled in the per-protocol analysis of a recently completed phase III trial (NORDynamIC).
Results
Patients with BMI ≥30 kg/m2 showed poorer outcome following 24 weeks of therapy (SVR 62% vs. 89% for BMI ≥30 vs. <30; P = 0.006) along with significantly higher steatosis grade (P = 0.002), HOMA-IR (P<0.0001), triglyceride levels (P = 0.0002), and baseline viral load (P = 0.028). Obesity was also significantly associated with lower plasma interferon concentrations on days 3, 7, and 29 (P = 0.02, P = 0.0017, and P<0.0001, respectively) and lower plasma ribavirin concentrations day 29 (P = 0.025), and lower concentration of interferon in turn was associated with a poorer first phase reduction in HCV RNA (P<0.0001). In multivariate analysis, ribavirin concentrations week 12, interferon concentrations day 29, and baseline HCV RNA levels were independent predictors of achieving SVR among patients treated for 24 weeks (n = 140).
Conclusions
Reduced bioavailability of interferon and ribavirin along with higher baseline viral load are dominant risk factors for treatment failure in obese patients with chronic hepatitis C.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0037521
PMCID: PMC3360051  PMID: 22655053
6.  Long-term effects of treatment and response in patients with chronic hepatitis C on quality of life. An international, multicenter, randomized, controlled study 
BMC Gastroenterology  2012;12:11.
Background
Hepatitis C decreases health related quality of life (HRQL) which is further diminished by antiviral therapy. HRQL improves after successful treatment. This trial explores the course of and factors associated with HRQL in patients given individualized or standard treatment based on early treatment response (Ditto-study).
Methods
The Short Form (SF)-36 Health Survey was administered at baseline (n = 192) and 24 weeks after the end of therapy (n = 128).
Results
At baseline HRQL was influenced by age, participating center, severity of liver disease and income. Exploring the course of HRQL (scores at follow up minus baseline), only the dimension general health increased. In this dimension patients with a relapse or sustained response differed from non-responders. Men and women differed in the dimension bodily pain. Treatment schedule did not influence the course of HRQL.
Conclusions
Main determinants of HRQL were severity of liver disease, age, gender, participating center and response to treatment. Our results do not exclude a more profound negative impact of individualized treatment compared to standard, possibly caused by higher doses and extended treatment duration in the individualized group. Antiviral therapy might have a more intense and more prolonged negative impact on females.
doi:10.1186/1471-230X-12-11
PMCID: PMC3293759  PMID: 22292521
health related quality of life; hepatitis C; peginterferon
7.  Impact of IL28B-Related Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms on Liver Histopathology in Chronic Hepatitis C Genotype 2 and 3 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e29370.
Background and Aims
Recently, several genome-wide association studies have revealed that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in proximity to IL28B predict spontaneous clearance of HCV infection as well as outcome following peginterferon and ribavirin therapy among HCV genotype 1 infected patients. The present study aimed to evaluate the impact of IL28B SNP variability on liver histology in the context of a phase III treatment trial (NORDynamIC) for treatment-naïve patients with chronic HCV genotype 2 or 3 infection, where pretreatment liver biopsies were mandatory.
Methods
Three hundred and thirty-nine Caucasian patients had samples available for IL28B genotyping (rs12979860) of whom 314 had pretreatment liver biopsies that were evaluated using the Ishak protocol, allowing for detailed grading and staging of liver histopathology.
Results
IL28B CCrs12979860 genotype in HCV genotype 3 infected patients was associated with higher ALT levels (p<0.0001), higher AST to platelet ratio index (APRI; p = 0.001), and higher baseline viral load (p<0.0001) as compared to patients with the CT or TT genotypes. Additionally the CCrs12979860 genotype entailed more pronounced portal inflammation (p = 0.02) and steatosis (p = 0.03). None of these associations were noted among HCV genotype 2 infected patients.
Conclusion
This study shows that the CCrs12979860 SNP is associated with more pronounced liver histopathology in patients chronically infected with HCV genotype 3, which may be secondary to higher viral load. The finding that IL28B variability did not impact on liver pathology or viral load among genotype 2 infected patients implies that IL28B may differentially regulate the course of genotype 2 and 3 infection.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029370
PMCID: PMC3258245  PMID: 22253715
8.  Core mutations, IL28B polymorphisms and response to peginterferon/ribavirin treatment in Swedish patients with hepatitis C virus genotype 1 infection 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2011;11:124.
Background
Patients infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype 1 respond poorly to standard treatment with 50% or less achieving sustained virologic response. Predicting outcome is essential and could help avoid unnecessary treatment and reduce health cost. Recently, an association of amino acid substitutions in the core region and treatment outcome was observed in Japanese patients. In the present study, the impact of these mutations on response kinetics and treatment outcome was explored in Caucasian patients.
Methods
The core region of HCV pre-treatment samples obtained from 50 patients treated with peginterferon/ribavirin in a previous Swedish clinical trial with genotype 1 infection were sequenced. The alleles at rs12979860, a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), were assessed in order to identify any co-association with this strong response predictor.
Results
No association between treatment response and substitutions of core residue 91 was found. In contrast, substitutions of core residue 70 were observed in 6/21 (29%) non-responders, but only in one of 29 responders (p = 0.03), and were more common in subgenotype 1b (R70Q in 6 of 13 strains) than in 1a (R70P in 1 of 37 strains, p = 0.004). The rs12979860 SNP upstream of the IL28B gene was overall the strongest response predictor (p = 0.0001). Core 70 substitutions were associated with poorer response kinetics in patients carrying the CT genotype at rs12979860.
Conclusions
The results indicate that substitutions of core residue 70 are related to treatment response in Caucasian patients with HCV-1b infection, but are of less importance than IL28B polymorphism.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-11-124
PMCID: PMC3112098  PMID: 21569441
9.  Response Prediction in Chronic Hepatitis C by Assessment of IP-10 and IL28B-Related Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e17232.
Background
High baseline levels of IP-10 predict a slower first phase decline in HCV RNA and a poor outcome following interferon/ribavirin therapy in patients with chronic hepatitis C. Several recent studies report that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) adjacent to IL28B predict spontaneous resolution of HCV infection and outcome of treatment among HCV genotype 1 infected patients.
Methods and Findings
In the present study, we correlated the occurrence of variants at three such SNPs (rs12979860, rs12980275, and rs8099917) with pretreatment plasma IP-10 and HCV RNA throughout therapy within a phase III treatment trial (HCV-DITTO) involving 253 Caucasian patients. The favorable SNP variants (CC, AA, and TT, respectively) were associated with lower baseline IP-10 (P = 0.02, P = 0.01, P = 0.04) and were less common among HCV genotype 1 infected patients than genotype 2/3 (P<0.0001, P<0.0001, and P = 0.01). Patients carrying favorable SNP genotypes had higher baseline viral load than those carrying unfavorable variants (P = 0.0013, P = 0.029, P = 0.0004 respectively). Among HCV genotype 1 infected carriers of the favorable C, A, or T alleles, IP-10 below 150 pg/mL significantly predicted a more pronounced reduction of HCV RNA from day 0 to 4 (first phase decline), which translated into increased rates of RVR (62%, 53%, and 39%) and SVR (85%, 76%, and 75% respectively) among homozygous carriers with baseline IP-10 below 150 pg/mL. In multivariate analyses of genotype 1-infected patients, baseline IP-10 and C genotype at rs12979860 independently predicted the first phase viral decline and RVR, which in turn independently predicted SVR.
Conclusions
Concomitant assessment of pretreatment IP-10 and IL28B-related SNPs augments the prediction of the first phase decline in HCV RNA, RVR, and final therapeutic outcome.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017232
PMCID: PMC3044738  PMID: 21390311
10.  Response Prediction and Treatment Tailoring for Chronic Hepatitis C Virus Genotype 1 Infection▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2007;45(8):2439-2445.
We monitored early viral response during the treatment of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection with the aim of identifying predictors of treatment outcome. We studied 53 patients with genotype 1 infection who received 180 μg/week pegylated interferon alfa-2a and 1,000 or 1,200 mg/day ribavirin depending on body weight and serially assessed HCV RNA in serum, using the Cobas TaqMan assay. Thirty-one patients (58%) achieved sustained viral response (SVR). SVR was obtained in 100% (10/10) of patients with pretreatment viremia concentrations below 400,000 IU/ml, in 100% (14/14) of patients with more than 1.5 log reduction of HCV RNA after 4 days of treatment, and in 95% (22/23) of patients with a rate of decline in viremia higher than 0.70 log units/week during the second phase. Non-SVR was seen in all patients with a second-phase decline rate lower than 0.35 log units/week. Patients with slopes between 0.50 and 0.80 log units/week achieved SVR (4/4) unless the treatment dose was modified (3/3). We conclude that the second-phase slope appears to be an accurate and useful predictor of treatment response. On the basis of these findings, we propose a model of tailored treatment which takes into account the second-phase slope and the amount of HCV RNA after 21 days of treatment.
doi:10.1128/JCM.00577-07
PMCID: PMC1951238  PMID: 17581934

Results 1-10 (10)