Background and aims: ARC-520, the first an RNA interference (RNAi) therapeutic, was designed to reduce all RNA transcripts derived from covalently closed circular DNA, leading to a reduction in viral antigens and hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA.
Approach and results: We aimed to evaluate the depth of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) decline in response to multiple doses of ARC-520 compared to placebo (PBO) in two randomized, multicenter studies in nucleoside/nucleotide analogue reverse-transcriptase inhibitor (NUC)-experienced patients with hepatitis B early antigen (HBeAg)-negative (E-neg) or HBeAg-positive (E-pos) disease. A total of 58 E-neg and 32 E-pos patients were enrolled and received four monthly doses of PBO (n = 20 E-neg, 11 E-pos), 1 mg/kg ARC-520 (n = 17 E-neg, 10 E-pos), or 2 mg/kg ARC-520 (n = 21 E-neg, 11 E-pos) concomitantly with NUC. HBsAg change from baseline to 30 days after the last ARC-520 dose were compared to PBO. Both E-neg and E-pos high-dose groups significantly reduced HBsAg compared to PBO, with mean reductions of 0.38 and 0.54 log IU/mL, respectively. HBsAg reductions persisted for approximately 85 days and >85 days after the last dose in E-neg and E-pos patients, respectively. The low-dose groups did not reach statistical significance in either study. E-pos patients showed a dose-dependent reduction in HBeAg from baseline. Mean maximum reduction was 0.23 and 0.69 log Paul Ehrlich IUs/mL in the low-dose and high dose ARC-520 groups respectively. ARC-520 was well tolerated, with only two serious adverse events of pyrexia possibly related to study drug observed.
Conclusions: ARC-520 was active in both E-neg and E-pos, NUC-experienced HBV patients; but absolute HBsAg reductions were moderate, possibly due to expression of HBsAg from integrated HBV DNA, indicating the need for RNAi therapeutics that can target viral transcripts regardless of origin.
© 2019 The Authors. Hepatology published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc., on behalf of American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.