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Emerging therapies in primary sclerosing cholangitis: pathophysiological basis and clinical opportunities

Authors
  • Vesterhus, Mette1, 2
  • Karlsen, Tom Hemming1, 3, 4
  • 1 Oslo University Hospital Rikshospitalet,
  • 2 Haraldsplass Deaconess Hospital,
  • 3 University of Oslo,
  • 4 Oslo University Hospital,
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of Gastroenterology
Publisher
Springer Singapore
Publication Date
Mar 28, 2020
Volume
55
Issue
6
Pages
588–614
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s00535-020-01681-z
PMID: 32222826
PMCID: PMC7242240
Source
PubMed Central
Keywords
License
Unknown

Abstract

Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) is a progressive liver disease, histologically characterized by inflammation and fibrosis of the bile ducts, and clinically leading to multi-focal biliary strictures and with time cirrhosis and liver failure. Patients bear a significant risk of cholangiocarcinoma and colorectal cancer, and frequently have concomitant inflammatory bowel disease and autoimmune disease manifestations. To date, no medical therapy has proven significant impact on clinical outcomes and most patients ultimately need liver transplantation. Several treatment strategies have failed in the past and whilst prescription of ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) prevails, controversy regarding benefits remains. Lack of statistical power, slow and variable disease progression, lack of surrogate biomarkers for disease severity and other challenges in trial design serve as critical obstacles in the development of effective therapy. Advances in our understanding of PSC pathogenesis and biliary physiology over recent years has however led to a surge of clinical trials targeting various mechanistic compartments and currently raising hopes for imminent changes in patient management. Here, in light of pathophysiology, we outline and critically evaluate emerging treatment strategies in PSC, as tested in recent or ongoing phase II and III trials, stratified per a triad of targets of nuclear and membrane receptors regulating bile acid metabolism, immune modulators, and effects on the gut microbiome. Furthermore, we revisit the UDCA trials of the past and critically discuss relevant aspects of clinical trial design, including how the choice of endpoints, alkaline phosphatase in particular, may affect the future path to novel, effective PSC therapeutics.

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