Background & aims: Direct-acting antiviral agents suppress hepatitis B virus (HBV) load, but they require life-long use. Stimulation of the innate immune system could increase its ability to control the virus and have long-lasting effects after a finite regimen. We investigated the effects of immune activation with GS-9620--a potent and selective orally active small molecule agonist of Toll-like receptor 7--in chimpanzees with chronic HBV infection.
Methods: GS-9620 was administered to chimpanzees every other day (3 times each week) for 4 weeks at 1 mg/kg and, after a 1-week rest, for 4 weeks at 2 mg/kg. We measured viral load in plasma and liver samples, the pharmacokinetics of GS-9620, and the following pharmacodynamics parameters: interferon-stimulated gene expression, cytokine and chemokine levels, lymphocyte and natural killer cell activation, and viral antigen expression. Clinical pathology parameters were monitored to determine the safety and tolerability of GS-9620.
Results: Short-term oral administration of GS-9620 provided long-term suppression of serum and liver HBV DNA. The mean maximum reduction of viral DNA was 2.2 logs, which occurred within 1 week of the end of GS-9620 administration; reductions of >1 log persisted for months. Serum levels of HBV surface antigen and HBV e antigen, and numbers of HBV antigen-positive hepatocytes, were reduced as hepatocyte apoptosis increased. GS-9620 administration induced production of interferon-α and other cytokines and chemokines, and activated interferon-stimulated genes, natural killer cells, and lymphocyte subsets.
Conclusions: The small molecule GS-9620 activates Toll-like receptor 7 signaling in immune cells of chimpanzees to induce clearance of HBV-infected cells. This reagent might be developed for treatment of patients with chronic HBV infection.
Copyright © 2013 AGA Institute. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.