To perform an exploratory pilot study of all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) combined with ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) in patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC).Background:
PSC is a progressive disorder for which there is no accepted therapy. Studies in human hepatocyte cultures and in animal models of cholestasis indicate that ATRA might have beneficial effects in cholestatic disorders.Study:
ATRA (45 mg/m2/d, divided and given twice daily) was combined with moderate-dose UDCA in patients with PSC who had incomplete response to UDCA monotherapy. The combination was administered for 12 weeks, followed by a 12-week washout in which patients returned to UDCA monotherapy. We measured alkaline phosphatase (ALP), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), bilirubin, cholesterol, bile acids, and the bile acid intermediate 7α-hydroxy-4-cholesten-3-one (C4) at baseline, week 12, and after washout.Results:
Fifteen patients completed 12 weeks of therapy. The addition of ATRA to UDCA reduced the median serum ALP levels (277±211 to 243±225 U/L, P=0.09) although this, the primary endpoint, did not reach significance. In contrast, median serum ALT (76±55 to 46±32 U/L, P=0.001) and C4 (9.8±19 to 7.9±11 ng/mL, P=0.03) levels significantly decreased. After washout, ALP and C4 levels nonsignificantly increased, whereas ALT levels significantly increased (46±32 to 74±74, P=0.0006), returning to baseline.Conclusions:
In this human pilot study, the combination of ATRA and UDCA did not achieve the primary endpoint (ALP); however, it significantly reduced ALT and the bile acid intermediate C4. ATRA appears to inhibit bile acid synthesis and reduce markers of inflammation, making it a potential candidate for further study in PSC (NCT 01456468).