BackgroundThere is an obvious need to identify biomarkers that could predict patient response to an osteoarthritis (OA) treatment. This post hoc study explored in a 2-year randomized controlled trial in patients with knee OA, the likelihood of some serum biomarkers to be associated with a better response to chondroitin sulfate in reducing cartilage volume loss.MethodsEight biomarkers were studied: hyaluronic acid (HA), C reactive protein (CRP), adipsin, leptin, N-terminal propeptide of collagen IIα (PIIANP), C-terminal crosslinked telopeptide of type I collagen (CTX-1), matrix metalloproteinase-1 (MMP-1), and MMP-3. Patients were treated with chondroitin sulfate (1200 mg/day; n = 57) or celecoxib (200 mg/day; n = 62). Serum biomarkers were measured at baseline. The cartilage volume at baseline and its loss at 2 years were assessed by quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Statistical analysis included analysis of covariance.ResultsAs data from the original MOSAIC trial showed no differences in cartilage volume and loss in the lateral compartment of the knee joint between the two treatment groups in any comparison, only the medial compartment and its subregions were studied. Stratification according to the median biomarker levels was used to discriminate treatment effect. In patients with levels of biomarkers of inflammation (HA, leptin and adipsin) lower than the median, those treated with chondroitin sulfate demonstrated less cartilage volume loss in the medial compartment, condyle, and plateau (p ≤ 0.047). In contrast, patients treated with chondroitin sulfate with higher levels of MMP-1 and MMP-3, biomarkers of cartilage catabolism, had less cartilage volume loss in the medial compartment, condyle, and plateau (p ≤ 0.050). Patients with higher levels of PIIANP and CTX-1, biomarkers related to collagen anabolism and bone catabolism, respectively, had reduced cartilage volume loss in the medial condyle (p ≤ 0.026) in the chondroitin sulfate group.ConclusionThis study is suggestive of a potentially greater response to chondroitin sulfate treatment on cartilage volume loss in patients with knee OA with low level of inflammation and/or greater level of cartilage catabolism.Trial registrationThis is a post hoc study. Original trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT01354145. Registered on 13 May 2011.