Background: Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis is a chronic liver disease characterised by the presence of hepatic steatosis, inflammation, and hepatocellular injury, for which no Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved treatment exists. FGF19 is a hormone that regulates bile acid synthesis and glucose homoeostasis. We aimed to assess the safety and efficacy of NGM282, an engineered FGF19 analogue, for the treatment of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.
Methods: In this randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 2 study, we recruited patients aged 18-75 years with biopsy-confirmed non-alcoholic steatohepatitis as defined by the non-alcoholic steatohepatitis clinical research network histological scoring system, from hospitals and gastroenterology and liver clinics in Australia and the USA. Key eligibility criteria included a non-alcoholic fatty liver disease activity score of 4 or higher, stage 1-3 fibrosis, and at least 8% liver fat content. Patients were randomly assigned (1:1:1) via a web-based system and stratified by diabetic status to receive either 3 mg or 6 mg subcutaneous NGM282 or placebo. The primary endpoint was the absolute change from baseline to week 12 in liver fat content. Responders were patients who achieved a 5% or larger reduction in absolute liver fat content as measured by MRI-proton density fat fraction. Efficacy analysis was by intention to treat. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT02443116.
Findings: Between July 14, 2015, and Aug 30, 2016, 166 patients were screened across 18 sites in Australia and the USA. 82 patients were randomly assigned to receive 3 mg NGM282 (n=27), 6 mg NGM282 (n=28), or placebo (n=27). At 12 weeks, 20 (74%) patients in the 3 mg dose group and 22 (79%) in the 6 mg dose group achieved at least a 5% reduction in absolute liver fat content from baseline (relative risk 10·0 [95% CI 2·6-38·7] vs 11·4 [3·0-43·8], respectively; p<0·0001 for both comparisons) versus two (7%) in the placebo group. Overall, 76 (93%) of 82 patients experienced at least one adverse event, most of which were grade 1 (55 [67%]), and only five (6%) were grade 3 or worse. The most commonly (≥10%) reported adverse events were injection site reactions (28 [34%]), diarrhoea (27 [33%]), abdominal pain (15 [18%]), and nausea (14 [17%]). These adverse events were reported more frequently in the NGM282 groups compared with the placebo group. No life-threatening events or patient deaths occurred during the study.
Interpretation: NGM282 produced rapid and significant reductions in liver fat content with an acceptable safety profile in patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. Further study of NGM282 is warranted in this patient population.
Funding: NGM Biopharmaceuticals.
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