Liver biopsy is the reference standard for the detection of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) within nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The aim of this study was to identify a biomarker of NASH in patients without significant fibrosis. In all, 172 patients from two centers with biopsy-proven NAFLD were included in this study. Eighty-four patients from a single center were included as a derivation cohort and 88 patients from a second center were included as a validation cohort. Serum samples were tested for candidate markers of fibrosis and inflammation alongside hematological and biochemical markers. Among patients without advanced fibrosis, terminal peptide of procollagen III (PIIINP) was the only marker found to be associated with a histological diagnosis of NASH in both cohorts. PIIINP also correlated with the total NAFLD activity score (NAS) and its constituent components (P < 0.001). Area under receiver operating characteristic curve (AUROC) for PIIINP in discriminating between NASH and simple steatosis (SS) was 0.77-0.82 in patients with F0-2 fibrosis and 0.82-0.84 in patients with F0-3 fibrosis. PIIINP was elevated in patients with advanced fibrosis, the overwhelming majority of whom had NASH. When incorporating patients with all degrees of fibrosis from both cohorts, PIIINP was able to discriminate between patients with SS and those with NASH or advanced fibrosis with AUROC 0.85-0.87.
Conclusion: PIIINP discriminates between SS and NASH or advanced fibrosis. The use of a single biomarker in this context will be of clinical utility in detecting the minority of patients with NAFLD who have NASH or advanced fibrosis related to NASH.
Copyright © 2012 American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.