In nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), the extent of hepatocyte apoptosis correlates with disease severity. Reducing hepatocyte apoptosis with the selective caspase inhibitor GS-9450 has a potential for altering the course of the liver disease. In this phase 2, double-blind study, 124 subjects with biopsy-proven NASH were randomized to once-daily placebo or 1, 5, 10, or 40 mg GS-9450 for 4 weeks. Absolute and percent changes from baseline in ALT levels, AST levels, and caspase-3-cleaved cytokeratin (CK)-18 fragments at week 4 were assessed by an analysis of covariance model with adjustment for baseline values. In the 40-mg group, mean (SD) ALT decreased by 47 (43) U/L from baseline to week 4 (P < 0.0001 versus placebo), and the proportion of subjects with normal ALT increased from 0% to 35% at week 4. In the 40-mg group, mean AST decreased by 13 U/L from baseline (not significant), and the proportion with normal AST increased from 20% at baseline to 48% at week 4. By week 4, mean CK-18 fragment levels had decreased to 393 (723) U/L in the GS-9450 10-mg group and 125 (212) U/L in the 40-mg group, but these reductions were not statistically significant. No serious adverse events were reported during treatment, and the percentage of subjects with at least one treatment-emergent grade 3 or 4 laboratory abnormality ranged from 11.5% to 17% across the GS-9450 treatment groups versus 35% in the placebo group. Conclusion: GS-9450 treatment induced significant reductions in ALT levels in NASH patients. Reductions in CK-18 fragment levels also occurred, although they were not statistically significant. At appropriate therapeutic indices, selective caspase inhibitors may be a promising treatment option in patients with NASH.
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